Thursday, April 18, 2013

Whiskey Cake

My boss is a big lover of Jack Daniel's, so for his birthday this year, I decided that aside from just getting him a bottle of Gentleman Jack, what could be better than an cake made with Jack Daniel's?! I wasn't sure if I would really like it since I am not really a fan; however, this is quite delicious! The alcohol itself cooks out of the cake, but you are left with the whiskey's burn amid the chocolatey espresso goodness. Another benefit? This is one of the moistest cakes I've had the pleasure of bitting into.

Whiskey Cake
adapted from Field's of Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Jack Daniel's Whiskey
2 eggs

In a large electric mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk and beat until dry ingredients become moist. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add remaining wet ingredients. Mix until batter is smooth.

Pour into two 8" square baking tins lined with parchment paper.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool before frosting with Chocolate Espresso Buttercream.

Decorate as desired.

Eat up!

Chocolate Espresso Buttercream

Chocolate Espresso Buttercream
adapted from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen

3 ounces egg yolks [4-5 large egg yolks]
8 ounces water
2 ounces sugar
10 ounces unsalted butter
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3-4 tablespoons brewed strong coffee/espresso
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place egg yolks in mixing bowl and beat on high until the yolks are light yellow in color and thick. This will take a good long while to happen - like 10 minutes. When I say thick, I mean thick! The number one way that I've screwed this up this recipe in the past is by not getting this step right.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine the sugar and the water. Bring to to a boil, constantly whisking so that sugar does not burn. It is best to bring the mixture to a boil slowly so that all of the sugar crystals melt, otherwise you risk having gritty buttercream. Have a candy thermometer close at hand to measure temperature. Once the temperature reaches 240ยบ remove from the heat and pour into a glass Pyrex measuring cup. Very slowly pour the syrup into the egg yolks (I generally have a stream going down the side of the bowl to avoid hitting the whisk attachment). Continue to whisk on high until all the syrup is added and the mixture is completely cool. Again, getting this to cool takes a good bit of time. Go check your email or call your grandma and come back in 10 minutes.

A little at a time, beat in the butter. Be careful not to add the butter to quickly, otherwise the mixture won't absorb it.

Finally, melt the chocolate in a medium bowl and let cool slightly before adding the vanilla extract and the coffee. Let cool completely before mixing in one cup of the prepared buttercream. Thoroughly blend. Add remaining buttercream.

Eat up!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pulled Pork Barbecue

I just love pulled pork, particularly when it's soaked in vinegar-based sauce and then doused in a bit more Texas Pete. Pair that with tangy buttermilk coleslaw and some fresh-outta-the-fryer cornmeal hushpuppies and I am pretty much in hog heaven!

Unfortunately, until I happened upon this recipe for pulled pork, I'd never made it myself since most recipes require a smoker - an expense that I haven't yet found a good reason to incur. Instead, I mostly had to let my craving come and go unfulfilled. Happily, this recipe perfects pulled pork by first brining the meat and then slow-cooking it in the oven. Jason was a bit apprehensive (read: doubtful) when I told him I was going to make it, but he was pleasantly surprised when he finally sunk his teeth into the finished product.

I've made it twice now and both times it has turned out wonderfully.

Pulled Pork Barbecue
adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Serves 10-12 people

1 boneless pork butt (~5 pounds)

2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
12-14 cups cold water

Using a sharp knife, trim away excess fat from pork butt. Don't even try to cut away all of'll want it for flavor and lots of it will cook out anyway. Cut pork in half horizontally. Doing so permits the pork to cook faster and for there to be more surface area for your rub, greatly enhancing the flavor.

Combine salt, sugar, liquid smoke and warm water in a large container (I used a giant pot). Use wooden spoon to vigorously stir together so that the salt and sugar completely dissolve. Once they've done so, place the pork in the pot and cover completely with cold water. Set aside for 2 hours.

While the pork is brining, get everything else set up.

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

1/4 cub yellow mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke

Combine mustard and liquid smoke in a small bowl. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet (one with a lip to catch and hold the liquid that will cook off the pork) with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet. Tear off piece of parchment paper large enough to completely cover the pork when it's set on the wire rack. Tear off two or three large pieces of aluminum foil.

Once the pork is done brining, use paper towels to pat off excess liquid. Place pork on wire racks and use a basting brush to completely coat pork with the mustard mixture. With a heavy hand, sprinkle rub all over the pork.

Cover the pork with the parchment paper and then use aluminum foil sheets to cover the parchment paper. Tuck foil to create a seal, which will prevent moisture from escaping. Don't skip out on the parchment paper; the mustard is so acidic that it will eat through the aluminum foil is there is nothing serving as a barrier.

Place in middle rack of oven for 3 hours.

Remove from the oven and discard the parchment and aluminum foil. Transfer liquid that has accumulated on the bottom of the pan into a medium bowl and place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Skim off the fat that has come to the top of the liquid. Pour remaining liquid over the pulled pork.

Place the pork back into the oven and let cook an additional 1 1/2 hours. After removing pork from the oven, let it rest for 20-30 minutes before transferring to a large casserole dish. Use two forks to pull apart the meat.

I split the pulled pork into two smaller glass dishes and added the Sweet + Tangy Barbecue Sauce to one and the Lexington Barbecue Dip to the other.

I served the barbecues with this homemade coleslaw (I altered the recipe just a bit by doing the following: 1) I made only half the recipe; 2) I placed the carrots and coleslaw into the food processor and minced them; and 3) I substituted greek yogurt for the mayo to cut down on calories.)

Eat up!

Left: Sweet + Tangy Barbecue Sauce                                                                                                                              Right: Lexington Barbecue Dip

Sweet + Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Left: Sweet + Tangy Barbecue Sauce                                                                                                                              Right: Lexington Barbecue Dip

Sweet + Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Enough for ~2.5 pounds pulled pork.

3/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Texas Pete
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over pulled pork.

Eat up!

Lexington Barbecue Dip

Left: Sweet + Tangy Barbecue Sauce                                                                                                                              Right: Lexington Barbecue Dip

Lexington Barbecue Dip

Enough for ~2.5 pounds pulled pork

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Texas Pete
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
heavy pinch of red pepper flakes

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over pulled pork.

Eat up!