Archive | May, 2014

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge: Epic Finale

31 May

 

Holy Crap.

This one made my knees buckle.

This was it.

This was the big mamma jamma, definitely worthy of being on The List. Definitely worthy of being on anyone’s list. It was an amazing cake. A take-off-your-shoes-and- dance-Footloose-like-Kevin-Bacon kind of cake.

Yeah … it was that good.

Moist. Crumbly. Decadent. Chocolatey. Sweet. Coconutty. It got to all my senses. Layers of  fluffy light chocolate cake embracing a rich coconut-pecan filling … I mean I could even hear the chocolate telling me it loved me for using it in such a spectacular way.

I mean I had to do something amazing. Something foot-stomping-woo-hoo worthy. Not only was it cake 12 of the 12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge, but my L.A. Kings were one game away from The Stanley Cup Finals … sadly they’re still one more game away. But that wasn’t the only celebration I was anticipating … it was the last day of kindergarten and I needed something to commemorate the occasion. It was a Sandbox-List-Hallmark kind of moment for my son and I needed a cake worthy of all of that awesomeness happening in the Guat Household.

I found it.

German Chocolate Cake.

But let me tell you … it was no Betty Crocker dump and pour kind of cake. I haven’t seen something so complicated since my first recipe the Double Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream. But despite all the measuring, mixing, stirring, chopping, and simmering in the kitchen I persevered. The chocoholic in me insisted and this time I had no chocolate failures. I was proud that my chocolate journey had ended with such an epic finale. No letdowns and no meltdowns, just success in all that tastiness. This one possessed the supernatural power to change your state in a Tony-Robbins instant.

I sat there in the quiet of the night tripping out on baking skills I did not know I even had and appreciating the patience it took to make 12 cakes from scratch. I survived the craziness of measuring cups, the disaster of powered chocolate and melted chocolate in the nooks and crannies of the tiles on the floor, and the frosting on the walls, mixers, and counter tops. I had made it. I was thankful for The Swiffer and OxyClean … they truly helped me survive the chocolate-a-thon. And at the end of all of this I didn’t burn the place down … the kitchen was still standing and I was perhaps two-to-five-to 1000 pounds heavier.  🙂

But it was all good because the evening ended with an awesome cake on the counter and my son giving me a high-five.

 

 

Recipe courtesy of Spoonful of Flavor.

 

For the cake:
  • 2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tbsp. water
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted
For the syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. dark rum
For the chocolate icing:
  • 8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the edges of two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. Melt the chopped chocolate with the water in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir until smooth, then set aside until it cools to room temperature.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate. Add the egg yolks, one at a time.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture beating on low speed until incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk and the vanilla until combined. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients.
  5. In a clean dry bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until the form soft, droopy peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining egg whites just until incorporated.
  6. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. In a medium saucepan combine the cream, sugar, and egg yolks. Put the butter, salt, toasted coconut and pecan pieces in a large bowl; set aside. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coat the back of the spoon (about 170-175 degrees F on an instant read thermometer). Pour the hot custard into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. It will thicken as it cools.
  8. To make the syrup, in a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.
  9. To make the icing, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and butter. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator until firm enough for icing the cake.
  10. To assemble the cake, cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrate bread knife. Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach the edges. Set another cake layer on top. Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top. Ice the sides with the chocolate icing. Pipe a decorative border of the chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.

 

 

 

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Don’t Worry About Making Mistakes … They Eventually Turn Into Something

28 May

 

:)

🙂

 

 

Beach Etiquette, Jackasses, and Karma

26 May

I didn’t think I’d have to explain it. I really didn’t … but apparently there are still jackasses that roam the beaches of my city.

Selfish jackasses.

 

Do you see them out there ... because there was a big one. A big one today.

Do you see them out there … because there was a big one. A big one today.

 

And apparently logical explanations are something that they don’t understand … well at least she didn’t.

 

This is her ... this is the jackass that almost ruined my day. The one that gave me that road rage kind of feeling and I wasn't even driving.

This is her … this is the jackass that almost ruined my day. The one that gave me that road-rage-I-want-to-choke-this-person-kind-of-feeling and I wasn’t even driving.

 

Every Memorial Day weekend masses of people hit my local beach spot. Masses and I’ve gotten used to the extra people hijacking my personal space because they are too lazy to walk 10 more feet and get their own personal space. But no matter how smooshed together we get, people always leave you a view. It may not be as large as it use to be, but it’s still an unobstructed view.  And it’s yours.

This is the etiquette. This is common sense if you’re not a jackass.

So when this jackass and her family decided to show up two hours after I arrived and plant this monstrosity right in front of me …. like … right in front of me …

 

Can you believe this? Life three feet in front of me when there was space on the left and right of me a couple yards away.

Can you believe this? Like three feet in front of me when there was space on the left and right of me a couple of yards away.

 

I turned into this …

 

Heisenberg came out.

Heisenberg came out.

 

I explained their inconsiderate behavior to them. I explained that even though it was massively crowded, that it was a controlled chaos. Everyone was staggered. Everyone. I explained that if they had a regular beach umbrella there really wouldn’t be an issue, but seeing how they brought a tent with them, that seemed to change things a bit. But apparently they said I didn’t have any claim to the beach and they could do whatever they wanted. I said I wasn’t claiming the beach, just the spot in front of me and that lazy people like them should have woken up earlier if they wanted a nice spot. I explained to her that everyone woke up today and decided not to be a jerk, everyone except her with her big blue umbrella. She didn’t seem to agree with me. She didn’t seem to think she was being an ass.

I wondered where the hell  karma was … she never seems to be around when you need her.

And then after a while … she showed up.

When we got a chance to experience the beach festival on the north side and she didn’t … I thought … Oh duuuuuuuuuuuuuude. Nice.

 

 

First we started off with bubbles. Nothing like bubbles to get you going ...

Nothing like bubbles to get you going …

 

Then my son decided to enter the hula-hoop contest and master the five-year old division.

After all that bubble magic, my son decided to enter the hula-hoop contest and master the five-year old division.

 

We headed off to the beach to practice some boogie boarding and ran into an awesome lady.

We headed off to the boardwalk to practice and ran into an awesome lady.

 

On our way there we noticed the artwork in the sky and decided that we needed to create our own Guat kites.

On our way there we noticed the artwork in the sky and decided that we needed to create our own  aerial artwork.

 

My daughter hard at work

So my daughter decided to let her inner Monet out.

 

As we took them out for a test drive I was worried they wouldn't fly right away. However, my son and daughter were firm believers and successful flyers. That definitely made my day.

As we took them out for a test drive I was worried they wouldn’t fly right away. However, my son and daughter were firm believers and successful flyers. That definitely made my day.

 

We ended the day with a tug of war ... something that's been on my son's Sandbox Bucket List.  :)

We ended the afternoon with a tug of war … something that’s been on my son’s Sandbox Bucket List. 🙂

 

 

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge: Frosting Rehabilitation

23 May

 

 

 

 

It was colossus and had something called mint chocolate ganache in it. Totally seemed appropriate for a Friday night. Well totally just seemed appropriate in general. Chocolate seems to go with just about everything … especially if it’s three layers.

Granted that this ganache thing got messed up on my first attempt, even though I followed the directions, there it was all mushy and lumpy, looking nothing like the picture. It was sad really, a chocoholic failing at chocolate. I almost turned in my chocolate lover’s membership card.

After all these years of chocolate eating, I should know the chemistry behind the cacao bean and the hormonal changes it suffers when put under duress. I should know about the emulsification process and the ability to fix soggy, lumpy, or watery frosting disaster. I should know.

But I didn’t.

Eventually I figured out how to make it nice and smooth again. And when I say that I figured it out, I mean that I looked up baking failures on the Internet and someone with baking genius knowledge provided the answer. You know … like someone with mad baking skills that got tired of answering failure questions and just posted the answers on a page so that baking failures like myself could feel like a success again in two hours.

I almost killed the cake, but was able to turn it around, which is probably why it took me like half a day to bake this one. Usually when failure hits my baking experiments, I just have to throw it out and give up, or start over if I have enough butter. Luckily I found a secret ingredient and was able to make the miracle of smooth chocolate filling happen. I was also able to bookmark a web page that helped rehabilitate frosting failures like myself.

And I’m so glad I did, because in truth I wanted it to be a knee-buckling awesome type of cake. Not just because it was a mint chocolate chip lover’s dream, but because it was my sister’s birthday this week and I wanted to do something spectacular in her honor. I thought three layers … yeah that seems pretty honorable. Granted she lives like seven states away and wouldn’t be able to taste it, but I could still wish her a happy birthday and let her know I’m celebrating her in spirit and in a big way. With a huge slice.

So for the 11th cake, I discovered The Grasshopper. Something that once again required a paddle attachment, a baking tool that I do not have so I tend to improvise, a process that tends to help sculpt and tone my forearms.

It’s a chocolate workout.

The Grasshopper also required Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies, something that was invading every block within a five-mile radius a few months ago. But something I could not find today. So once again I improvised. I used the famous Milano Mint Cookie. Something that my sister really enjoyed snacking on when we were younger.

But regardless of the number of substitutions, frosting failures, and strenuous amounts of manual labor, I eventually finished putting together this light and tasty three-layer chocolate goody. And even though it took me half a day, it was definitely worth it.

 

Recipe courtesy of Pass The Sushi.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art

21 May

 

A kindergartener's work of art.

My son’s self-portrait

 

It doesn’t look like much to many people, but to me … it’s a work of art.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge courtesy of the Daily Post.

 

 

 

The 12-Step Program

19 May

Every mom and wife on Earth knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say The 12-Step Program.

Other than the two steps you take to get out of bed, these are the 12 most important steps you’ll take in the day.

You’re stressed out. Upset. Frustrated. Angry. Irritated. Maybe even hostile. A series of unfortunate effects has led you to this current state of angst and normally getting your shirt caught on the door and tearing the pocket wouldn’t burn you out, but with everything building up, it just tips you over. It could be anything or anyone really that sets you off. Usually it’s one of three: kids, mother (mother-in-law), or dude. Anyone of these could put you on the verge of starring in your own episode of Oxygen’s Snapped!

You’re ready to burst, but you don’t have the time or privacy to take part in the emotional breakdown you need or deserve.

You’re at the CVS parking lot. You’re in front of the church. You’re on the streets of downtown putting some money in the meter.

Could happen anywhere.

So what do you do when there’s no chocolate in sight?

12-steps.

This is how long it takes me to walk from the passenger side of my truck to the driver’s side. 12-steps.

:)

🙂

I can’t tell you how awesome these 12 steps have been in my lifetime. I think they’ve helped me avoid numerous public breakdowns.

I was reminded of them this weekend as I saw a mom unloading her vehicle with party supplies at the park. It must have been her daughter’s birthday party because as she was packing everything in I could hear the whining and just as she closed the door a couple of balloons escaped and you heard the kids losing it and the mom hitting her breaking point. She looked like she needed to beat the crap out of that pinata.

She put her forehead up against the car … and I knew.

Yeah I knew that feeling I’ve had it plenty of times before.

12 steps. Take the 12 steps.  She stood there defeated. Maybe she didn’t know.

12 steps.

You exhale.

You breathe.

You probably pull out some of the most foul profanity in your vocabulary and then you breathe again.

You ask the universe to give you peace and just let you get through the rest of the day without killing someone.

You talk to yourself and try to be the best psychologist you can be.

You breathe some more because apparently oxygen helps calms you down.

You tell yourself you can do it, there are only a couple more hours left.

As you continue walking around your car you tell yourself that where you are now is not where you’re gonna be at the end of the day.

You keep breathing and finally making it to the driver’s side. You tell yourself things could be worse, you don’t know how, but they could. So you take another breath and try to forget about what just happened. You think of a time or place that’s made you feel like you were in that Pharrell Williams’s Happy video. For me it’s Australia. You close your eyes and see it. You take one last breath and then open the door.

These are the best 12 steps I take in my New Balance all day.

Although sometimes … sometimes you need to do it twice before you actually get in the car.

 

 

 

 

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge: Celebrating Ellen With Espresso

16 May

“I went in like Clark Kent and came out like Superman … ”

Yes.

That’s exactly how it went down.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean I knew I would have fun regardless, but didn’t realize crossing off these two items from my Bucket List would feel so amazingly good. Like chocolate good. Like espresso beans covered in chocolate good and I don’t even like coffee, but that’s some good stuff.

Yep.

Bucket List Items #7 and #8 …

 

:)

🙂

 

Go to the Ellen DeGeneres Show and dance in the aisles like the Dancer of the Day.

Yep.

That was me … The Guat … getting down to Michael Jackson’s Beat It … Something I don’t think I’ve heard in a while, but I remembered my junior high school moves. I had the excitement of Bucket List Accomplishment in me and the fact that I won a little something special … dude … it was cartwheel worthy for sure.

So how else could I honor this moment other than with chocolate.

The Chocolate Espresso Layer Cake … that was the one. I was debating between German Chocolate and the espresso, but seeing how I’ve had German Chocolate Cake before I thought I’d give something else a try.

Let me tell you … if you’re a coffee drinker this is definitely for you.

Me?

I loved the chocolate part and for some reason any time I add coffee, the chocolate seems to intensify. Something I never knew before I started this whole 12 x 12 Challenge. I’ve never had espresso before, but I was definitely tasting it in the cake. I feel awake. Wide awake. It’s not really a night-time snack kind of cake, more of a daylight hours treat for coffee drinkers. Ellen drinks coffee … she would have enjoyed it.

But note to self … I now know what bakers mean by over-mixing your batter. I never paid too much attention to this piece of advice. I saw it in almost every recipe so far, but didn’t realize how important it was to the whole chemistry of a cake.

Dude.

It matters.

Totally matters.

So if you want a nice, fluffy, chocolatey, cake with a crumbly crumb pay attention to the do not over-mix instructions. They actually know what they’re talking about. Those directions are there for a reason … the reason being making my cake even more fantabulous.

And the frosting?

Well according to the warning this is an advanced frosting, novices beware. Yeah she put out a beware sign in front of her recipe. Granted she was right, but there really wasn’t a need to underestimate me from the get-go. And even if my frosting didn’t quite look like the recipe’s picture, it still came out pretty tasty and my Bucket List Celebration continued, regardless of the toxicity surrounding my environment. It was a good night.

 

 

Recipe courtesy of SavorySimple.net

Recipe courtesy of SavorySimple.net

 

 

 

 

 

I Decided on Sanity and A Lot of Sunscreen

14 May

You ever notice that in life things don’t start to happen in slow motion until you hit the apex of a disaster? And then every single second of every minute seems to drag on and the frustration, anger, or pain seem to intensify during this process.

Well at least when you’re observing someone else’s disaster.

Yeah.

I felt pretty bad about it. But in retrospect they really should have known better. The wind is a powerful force of nature. Don’t mess with it, especially when you’re at the beach.

There we were … hanging out at our spot in sand this weekend celebrating the awesomeness of the Pacific Ocean with a Gidget-Caliber Beach Party and I saw it happen. A family’s dream of a nice, long, relaxing, fun day at the beach disappear.

Now normally pop-up beach tents are an awesome accessory when you’re hanging out. Great for the shade, awesome for protecting your kids from UV rays, helps keep you cool, and sometimes act as an awesome sand-free diaper changer. Great right?

But when the wind is blowing at 20-30 miles per hour you have to make a judgement call on whether shade or your sanity is worth it.

Me?

I decided on sanity, a lot of sunscreen and hats.

I don’t have a fancy pop-up, just a couple of giant umbrellas and considering the sand storms that morning, I decided it was best not to take them out of the truck.

As I set up my little station and weighed everything down with rocks and sand toys, they came trotting along with their frisbees, Transformer kites, sand toys, three kids and a tent. They began taking out their belongings and even though everyone else on the entire beach did not have their umbrellas and pop-tents setup, they felt the need to fight the good fight and provide a cozy shade for their family.

It looked like a sad game of Twister that Mother Nature was winning, them trying to hold the corners and polls of the tent on opposite sides and then the wind blowing down their efforts. Their youngest kid didn’t help much, screaming at full blast because she didn’t like wind. The mom abandoned her post to tend to her kid and the tent went flying. The dad tumbled backwards and the two older kids jumped in to help dad rescue the tent from the waves.

After this incident you would have thought they would have stopped. But no … they didn’t.

Dad did his best to raise up the polls and try to stabilize the tent, while his other kids tangled up kite strings and asked him for help, and mom hung out on the shore with the little one. He continued.

There he was struggling and the entire beach community just watched it happen … in slow motion. Nobody got up to help or even offered to help. I figured everyone was like me, trying to make sure their own stuff didn’t go flying into the ocean and pretty much figured common sense would strike and they would put the tent away, and bust out the sunscreen.

No. Mom gave the what-is-taking-you-so-long look? And the Dad just sighed as he kept trying to do a two-man job by himself. Eventually the screams of a two-year old were too much for a mom to bear, and she took her kid and walked back to the parking lot.

He dismantled his tent and packed up the rest of their belongings.

We all witnessed the downfall of a good dad as Mother Nature won.

The sad part was thirty minutes later, a family of three with the same kind of tent put it up in less than five minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

What To Say When You’re Close To The Edge … But Trying To Stay Zen

12 May

 

...

 

 

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge … Epic Failure

10 May

Shock. Anger. Sadness. Disgust. More anger. And then wrath.

This is what happened. These were the six-stages of my recovery when I ate a piece of chocolate cake that contained mayonnaise. I mean I was repulsed beyond belief and my stomach was pretty upset with me. It was so horrible that Sal de Uvas made a cameo that evening.

This happened a couple of years ago and I never forgot it. In fact neither did my awesome blogging buddies as it’s become one of my most popular posts: Sal de Uvas Saved Me From This Chocolate Cake.

Yes. After this experience I vowed to never commit such a crime against the awesomeness of chocolate.

I hadn’t heard of such of thing and tried to put it out of my mind, but this week the memories, the grossness of it all came rushing back as the recipe of the 12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge called for a cup of mayonnaise.

Never to be used with chocolate cake.

Never to be used with chocolate cake.

Dude.

This was not gonna happened.

It just wasn’t.

I don’t know who edits these lists or how they sort through hundreds of recipes and decide this is it. These are the 12 most amazing chocolate cakes and they will change your life.

I don’t know.

But let me tell you … anything containing a cup of mayonnaise should not be on anyone’s “Best” list. I mean after that whole Beet Bundt Cake experiment I knew, I knew. This recipe was not gonna happen. Just on principle alone, I wasn’t gonna do that to chocolate or the awesome Chocolatiers who create this amazing thing out of cacao beans.

So I boycotted this week’s challenge on account of foul play.

Mayonnaise.

Yeah … maybe on sandwiches for some people, but definitely not in cakes.

So I looked for another recipe and realized that the 12 x 12 didn’t have a cheese cake.  I found one courtesy of  Just Laine. And I don’t know whether I was thrown off by the chocolate mayonnaise cake boycott, or I was exhausted from this week’s life schedule and from perusing all those recipes and measurements. But for some reason I put only two packages of cream cheese instead of three.

I can’t explain it. I mean two and three don’t really look alike at all. And I didn’t realize anything was missing when I did the taste test with the spatulas. But as I was logging off the internet … I saw it.

3 pkg. (8 oz. each) Regular Cream Cheese, softened.

Not two!

Epic fail.

In addition to this debacle I have to wait anywhere from four to twenty-hours of refrigeration before I can dig in. I’ve never made a cheesecake before, had no idea that after baking in the oven you would have to let it hang out in the refrigerator at least four hours if not the whole night.

Fail. Epic fail.

I didn’t even get to taste it today.

But I’m sure that even without that extra pack of cream cheese we’ll be fine. Not change-your-life awesome-cake time. But maybe I’ll have some cream cheese frosting/whipped cream on top of my piece … you know … in order to make up for my mental lapse there.

I’ll keep you posted.