Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gingerbread House

Happy Christmas to all!!! I hope you've had a lovely holiday; to celebrate, today we're going to jump ahead several food items so we can make something a bit more festive!

"Snow was falling thickly upon the castle and its grounds now. The pale blue Beauxbatons carriage looked like a large, chilly, frosted pumpkin next to the iced gingerbread house that was Hagrid's cabin, while the Durmstrang ship's portholes were glazed with ice, the rigging white with frost" (Goblet of Fire 404).

Until today, I had never made a real gingerbread house. The closest I came was sticking graham crackers to milk cartons in preschool and covering them with gumdrops. But since I'm a former Disney cast member, I had it it my head that my gingerbread house skills must be formidable. What did I learn? I learned that gravity works. And patience is a virtue which I do not possess.

Anyway, I found this gingerbread recipe at the Food Network. Their royal icing recipe is dreadful, so I recommend you find a different source for your icing cement/snow. Here we go!

You Will Need:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light molasses or dark corn syrup
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 Tbs ground ginger
1.5 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbs water
plus royal icing and candy decorations

To yield enough gingerbread to make Hagrid's house, I doubled the recipe.

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, and baking soda until smooth.

2. Blend in the flour and water until smooth, making a stiff dough. Chill a least 30 minutes or until firm.

3. While chilling, make a paper template of all the pieces you will need to build your gingerbread house.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. Roll out the gingerbread dough on a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place the paper patterns on the dough, and cut around them with a sharp, straight knife, but leave the pieces in place.

6. Bake for around 15 minutes, until firm (15 minutes was probably a little too long, the bread was a bit too brittle when finished).
7. Once baked, cut around the shapes again and allow them to cool completely. This is the time to make your royal icing. Again, don't use the recipe included with the gingerbread one we're using; it's wretched.

8. Once cool, use your royal icing to glue on any candy decorations (you can, of course, do this once the house is assembled, but gravity works after all, so sometimes it's better to embellish while the walls are still flat!). I used Necco wafers to imitate the stones on Hagrid's house... while still being gingerbread house-y.

9. Use the royal icing as cement, and glue your walls both to the "ground" (a piece of cardboard works well) and too each other. Allow the walls to set fully together before adding the roof or pressing on any additional decorations.

10. Once the walls are set, slather "snow" on your roof pieces and place them atop the walls. Hold them in place until the icing sets, or you'll have the same dilemma I did!

And now your gingerbread house is ready to display and/or eat! Unfortunately, I was not very timely with my construction, and had to rush at the end, as guests were arriving for Christmas, and as you can see.... well, my "iced gingerbread house that was Hagrid's cabin" looks rather more like Hagrid's cabin after Bellatrix blew it up at the end of The Half-Blood Prince. So give yourself LOTS of time! Regardless, it was fun to make! I will say that this gingerbread isn't quite spicy enough for my taste, but it is very strong and suitable for making houses! Happy Holidays to you all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chocolate Gateau

Our next food item is one of the many decadent desserts served in the Hogwarts Great Hall. And like our last item, it also appears at Hermione's first stand against the slavery of House Elves:

"Treacle tart, Hermione!" said Ron, deliberately wafting its smell toward her. "Spotted dick, look! Chocolate gateau!" (Goblet of Fire 183).

You may know that "gateau" is the French word for "cake." But according to Dinah Bucholz, gateau is quite different from a normal cake. Gateau is all about the filling. The cake part of gateau is simply a delivery method for the rich and delicious filling. And so, today we shall use Ms. Bucholz' recipe for "Creamy Dreamy Chocolate Gateau from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook.

For the Rich Chocolate Cake, You Will Need:
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 tsp instant coffee
1.25 cups flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1.5 tsp vanilla

For the Chocolate Whipped Cream, You Will Need:
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans, for topping (I didn't use them)

For the Chocolate Pastry Cream, You Will Need:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

For the Chocolate Glaze, You Will Need:
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9" round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. I used 3 pans so I wouldn't have to deal with slicing the cake into 3 pieces.
2. Whisk together the boiling water, cocoa powder, and instant coffee in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
4. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter (be sure it really is room temperature!), granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the eggs on at a time, beating after each until incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed.

6. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined (oops, I forgot the vanilla).
7. Add the hot cocoa mixture and beat until combined, scraping the sides as needed.

8. Add the flour mixture and stir on the lowest speed until combined. Finish by scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula and folding the batter together.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 45 minutes. I baked mine for 37 minutes, and it was almost too long. Maybe 45 is good if you have all the batter in one pan. When finished, let the cake cool for ten minutes in the pan, then invert onto a rack (or plates...) to cool completely.

10. To make the Chocolate Whipped Cream, combine the heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.

11. Whisk some of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate to lighten it, then fold the rest of the whipped cream into the chocolate. Refrigerate covered until you're ready to assemble the cake.

12. To make the chocolate pastry cream and the chocolate glaze, you should look at my Chocolate Eclairs entry, as they are the same and this is getting rather long!
13. To assemble the gateau, place your first layer of cake on your serving plate or cake round, and spread with half the chocolate whipped cream.
14. Spread half the chocolate pastry cream on top of the chocolate whipped cream (don't spread this quite to the edges, gravity will do it for you!).

15. Add the next cake layer and repeat steps 13 and 14. Add the final cake layer and pour the chocolate glaze on top. Pour it pretty much in the center, and spread toward the edges. It will drip artistically on its own.

Once the glaze is set, it's ready to eat! This is one that you need to keep in the fridge when you're not serving it, as it will melt. And let me tell you, you'll be serving it  A LOT! This is one decadent dessert, my friends! If you are a chocolate fan, you have just found your new favorite dessert. Super rich, positively sinful, you are going to need a tall glass of milk to go with each and every slice. House Elves or not, Hermione was crazy to pass up this one!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Spotted Dick

Our next new food item is one which definitely fits in the category of foods "decidedly British." It is also a food whose name may confuse non-British readers:

"'Treacle tart, Hermione!' said Ron, deliberately wafting its smell toward her. 'Spotted dick, look! Chocolate gateau!'" (Goblet of Fire, 183).

According to the notes which accompany Dinah Bucholz' recipe for spotted dick in The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, "dick" is a Victorian British term for "pudding." And as I've mentioned before, "pudding" is often a British term for "dessert." So today we shall be making "spotted dessert." And we shall use Ms. Bucholz' recipe.

You Will Need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups bread crumbs (fresh is preferable)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried currants or cranberries
3/4 cup whole milk

1. Fill a large pot with water and place a wire rack or overturned shallow bowl in the pot. Bring to a simmer. Grease a 2-quart heatproof bowl with a tight-fitting lid and set it aside. Note: I always make puddings in two batches, because I don't have a pudding vessel that is 2 quarts, nor do I have a pot that will fit a 2-quart pudding dish correctly.
2. Whisk together the flour, bread crumbs, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
3. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some larger pieces of butter remaining.

4. Toss in the raisins and currants or cranberries.

5. Pour in the milk and fold it in until the mixture is uniformly moistened. This is a much less-wet pudding than others we've made on "In the Kitchen with Harry Potter," so don't worry, you're not doing it wrong.

6. Turn the batter into the prepared dish(es) and press the top down with a spatula.

7. Cover the dish with the lid, making sure it is tightly sealed, and place it in the pot. The water should come halfway up the sides of the dish.

8. Steam for 3 hours. Add water to replenish as necessary.
9. Remove the pudding, remove the lid, and invert it onto a plate. Serve warm with custard.

This is one dense pudding! I really do recommend serving it with custard. I didn't have the things to make custard, so I poured a bit of milk over my chunk of pudding, which was a decent substitute. This is a lovely dessert to serve with tea. It's not too sweet, but quite delicious. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mashed Potatoes

It is surprising that our next new food has somehow not appeared before the fourth Harry Potter installment:

"'Aaah, 'at's be'er,' said Ron, with his mouth full of mashed potato" (Goblet of Fire 181).

Mashed potatoes is one of my favorite side dishes, and there are so many varieties of mashed potatoes out there! I've decided to try out a relatively simple (and versatile!) one from Rachael Ray

You Will Need:
1 head garlic
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs baby white potatoes (I used regular russet potatoes)
2 Tbs milk
2 Tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice 1/4" off the top of your garlic head, place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil, wrap it up with the tin foil, and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

2. Peel and dice your potatoes, placing the potato chunks in a pot of cold water as you work.
3. When the garlic is ready, bring the potatoes to boil and let them bubble until tender, about 15 minutes.
4. When the potatoes are cooked, drain well and return to the pot. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the potatoes. Add the milk and butter. And salt and pepper to taste, and Smash the potatoes!

These are a really versatile mashed potatoes. They have the extra garlicky flavor, but are still a neutral enough taste that they would go well with a variety of main dishes. I hope you enjoy! Though I do recommend that you stay away from talking with your mouth full, like Ron. Ick!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Our next new food item (sorry it's been so long awaited; professor-ing is bit more time-consuming than funemployment! I promise I shall cook up a storm over the holidays to make up for it!) is in fact just an adjective describing a food we made long ago:

"Mrs. Weasley took a piece of buttered toast from a stack on the kitchen table, put it into the fire tongs, and transferred it into Mr. Diggory's mouth" (Goblet of Fire 160).

I still remember shaking a jar of cream as a kid (in Brownies, in fact) and waiting for it to magically transform into butter. The process is even faster when you're a grown up with access to an electric mixer! I got this recipe at organicgardening.com, and it's SO simple!

You Will Need:
Heavy whipping cream (preferably with 35% fat content, but the highest I could find was 17%, and it worked fine)
An air-tight jar or container to store the butter in

1. Pour your cream into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium for about 10 minutes. It really does take ten minutes: the cream will turn to fluffy whipped cream, then stiff peaks, then curdle. And then (literally at 9 minutes 30 seconds for me!), the curds will begin to clump together and watery milk will pool in the bottom of the bowl. At this point, stop the mixer.

2. Carefully pour off as much milk as possible. You can save the "buttermilk" in the fridge if you plan to use it later.

3. Use a stiff spatula to press the butter into the sides of the bowl to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
4. Add about 1/2 cup ice water to the butter and use the spatula to press the water and butter against the side of the bowl. Pour out the cloudy water. This is called "washing" the butter, and it prevents it from spoiling. Repeat the process 2-3 times, until the water is less cloudy when poured off.

5. Transfer the butter into packages (Organic Gardening recommends wrapping it in plastic wrap or parchment first). It can be stored up to a week in the fridge, or 6 months in the freezer.

6. If you like, you can sprinkle some salt on top before using the butter. Or you can check out Organic Gardening's ideas for making compound butters of different flavors.

I definitely recommend trying the compound butter ideas (I may try them myself soon!), as this butter is a little tasteless as a spread, despite its lovely fresh buttery smell. I'm not normally a fan of plain butter as a condiment, so perhaps those of you who like buttered bread will enjoy this more than I did. Regardless, it was fun to make, and really interesting to watch the chemistry unfold... like magic!