Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bourbon Brownies

Katelyn, budding superstar chef, here! Behold- another post worthy of every ounce of your attention.

Sometimes life gives you lemons. And you know, I like lemons. They are useful, they are pretty, they are delicious, and in some art classes they are the shape you learn to base your drawings of eyes after. I especially like the word "lemon." It sounds so good. Just say it! "Lemon." It just begs to be said over and over. I try to make the repetition of the word "lemon" a regular part of my life.

Other times, life gives you bourbon. This is is perhaps less enticing to say but nearly as good. It's got that invigorating within-the-word-alliteration effect to it. But anyhow, life gave me about a 1/4 cup of bourbon the other day, and I wondered what to do with it.

Just drink it? Boring. Then I couldn't write an obnoxious blog entry about it.

LUCKILY I have friends. A dear friend of mine, Andy, made a soul-shattering suggestion-- bourbon brownies. Really, I didn't even think about it. I was all "yes" from the get-go and I praise Jesus because these were DELICIOUS.

Andy and another inspiring friend, Caroline, helped me concoct these mamas!! Those are Andy's hands chopping the chocolate. My hands aren't quite so man-like.

Offering the beauty of bourbon brownies to the world.

They were so good, in fact, that we felt this sudden urge to adorn them with flowers picked from nearby trees.

Framed by some crepe myrtles.

Framed by Andy.


So here's where I stole the recipe from and where you can find real directions: http://www.redramekin.com/2008/07/celebrownie.html

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. bourbon
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
2/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

I also made this fancy pecan topping just for kicks! Basically melt butter (1/2 stick?) in a pot with some sugar (1-2c?) and let it caramelize and then throw some vanilla, any leftover bourbon, and a bunch(1-2c?) of freshly-chopped pecans. I poured in on top of the brownies after they had been in the oven for 10 minutes or so.

:) Thanks to Lara for inspiring me to jump on this again. You are waaaay too modest. Dry ice for frozen yogurt?? I didn't even know that was edible! Way to be awesome AND make a recipe that calls for solid CO2. Next up-- liquid nitrogen??

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fro-Yo, Fo Sho

Alright. There are some things you people need to know about how this food blog and my culinary career works. (I won't speak for my colleague, Katelyn. She really is a budding superstar chef.)

First of all, I am a college student. A mere college student. I have college student skills and a college student budget. I study International Relations and Ancient History, so the only cooking skills I may have gleaned from such intellectual pursuits might be bargaining for boxes of space food to be dropped into my backyard during a time of crisis, or rotating crops along the Nile. Basically, not so much on that front.

Secondly, I enjoy pretending to be this master of the deliciousness arts. So most people my age or in my spheres of influence aren't especially thrilled at the thought of ingredients like jasmine water or lemon rosemary butter. (I just got chills writing that, haha.) I don't know if it's more that I want to paint myself as this kind of obnoxious person, or if I really and truly thrive on the exotic. Either way, if you see me walking down the street with a bag of tamarind pods, don't be too surprised.

In short, I just want you all to know that I realize that the things I create do not taste like Ina Garten creations, despite my inability to shop at Trader Joe's. Just let me continue in my delusions!

HOWEVER: t0day is a different day.

A brand new day in the life of Lara.

Today, something happened that exceeded my paltry expectations.

I am madly in love with those rather new Japanese frozen yogurt shops that are popping up all over Florida. The ones where you pump fro-yo into little cups, smother it with fruit and candy, and weight it? They con me into paying exorbitant amounts of money in order to meet my basic yogurt needs. They do it by making it seem like there's no way to make it yourself, as if little wizards are in their back rooms concocting the magically creamy stuff. And that purple taro flavor? It's so mysterious to this American that I am willing to sell my kidney for whatever the heck it is, because it tastes so good.

However, the college student budget really makes it hard to indulge in this desire too often, which is probably for the best. But my inner cheapskate couldn't help but wonder, how might one recreate the tangy, soft wonder that is Mochi frozen yogurt?

I let this recipe be the jumping off point for the journey (Pinkberry and Mochi are pretty much the same thing), with some tweaking, and a suggestion from my dad that was too fun to resist. I think he partially thought of it because he left our ice cream maker in his classroom, but also because of the cheap and easy factor: dry ice! Sure enough, when I googled the concept, you can crush dry ice into little chunks and mix it into your ice cream/frozen yogurt base and voila! Cold in a matter of minutes! And so the great experiment began...

My inner eight year old enjoyed the crazy fog that happened during this process.

Does that not look like a lovely cloud that angels sleep and play the harp on?

Mmmmm. Dreamy and beautiful.

I decided to make three flavors with what I had. I saved some of the plain because it tastes so stinking good by itself. (You know what? I hate the idea of calling it plain. That makes it sound so boring and unappetizing. Let's say it's the "classic" flavor.) I also mixed in some fresh cherries in some of it, because that stuff is in season right now at Publix and they are so pretty!

As if that weren't enough, I bought something the other day that I had spent forever fantasizing about owning for myself, and made that a part of the fro-yo journey. You see, every time I go to a Boba house, or Mochi for that matter, I head straight for the taro flavor. I don't think anyone else likes it as much as I do. I think I may have a clinical issue because I love the taste so much. I wanted to know how to infuse everything I eat at home with taro. Luckily, my dad pulled through for me again, when he invited me to tag along to his favorite Asian grocery megastore on Colonial Drive. First of all, if you live in Orlando, you need to go there -- I don't the name of it but it is around Colonial and Bumby. The prices are good, the people are nice, and there is so much stuff there that it will blow your mind! And, as if you didn't need any more persuading... they had my Kryptonite, taro boba drink powder. $10 for a whole bag of it beats the horrific thought of $5 smoothies every time I need a fix.

And the result was... oh. my. stars. It was SO GOOD. Usually I am okay with making stuff at home for cheap and sacrificing some of the taste, but that is absolutely not the case here. It is perfect. The texture is right, the flavor is amazing, and there is nothing second-rate about this stuff. You wish you were eating that right now.

The good thing is, you totally can!

Dry Ice Classic Frozen Yogurt (adapted from David Lebovitz's masterpiece of a cookbook, The Perfect Scoop)

- 4 cups 2% plain Greek yogurt (there is this much in a 2 lb. tub)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- a block of dry ice (the amount I got cost only $1.50 and it was plenty)

1. Carefully place the dry ice in a plastic bag and seal, and crush with a hammer or rolling pin, until in much smaller crystals. (The size of peas is about the biggest the chunks can get away with being, or else you run the risk of biting into some raw dry ice and getting frostbite. Ow!)
2. In a bowl, mix the yogurt and sugar with a whisk until well-mixed and the sugar is dissolved and spread through the entire batch.
3. A little at a time, whisk in the little chunks of dry ice. (A standup mixer would be best for this part.) Continue adding and mixing, especially taking care to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, until you have the desired consistency. At this point, you can have an awesome soft-serve and just leave it at that. You can also pop it in the freezer for later!

This would be awesome with some vanilla/coconut/lemon/anything extract mixed it, fresh fruit, chocolate chips, candy, flavor powder, chai, coffee... anything you want. Go wild with your imagination!

So, if you're not familiar with this kind of tangy frozen yogurt, you really need to give it a whirl. If you're an afficionado as I am, this is an awesome way to make it yourself without too much trouble or paying a ton of your hard-earned money. If you're looking to stay healthy when you have dessert, this beats ice cream by a long shot. It's about 180 calories per half cup, using lowfat Greek yogurt with those live cultures that are so good for you. (Because this recipe doesn't heat up and kill the cultures in the yogurt before freezing, they are preserved and brought back to life when it melts in your mouth. Yay!) You can even cut the sugar some if you really like it on the tangy side, or maybe try artificial sweeteners or honey sometime. The sky is the limit!

Treat yourself to a nice summer-y cone of frozen yogurt!