Tag Archive: vanilla


Red WineWow, that’s a mouthful! It’s been far too long since my last post and for that I apologize, but I do have something extra special to share this time. I’m not really a “dessert person” (let me rephrase that: I love dessert – just not making it myself) and furthermore baking has never been my strong suite, although I’ll admit my recent successes in making biscuits, popovers, & cupcakes has certainly helped my confidence a little 😛

This recipe is really a conglomerate – let’s call it a “combination” of two different flavors that I wanted to pair together: (1) cracked peppercorns (my all-time favorite ingredient ever); and (2) red wine. Now for baking, I’m talking cheap red wine, but dry – I suggest a Malbec, Grenache, or Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’ve realized that there are oodles of excellent cooks out there who make their own versions of chocolate cake, and quite regularly, but not me I’m afraid. In fact, I have never made a double-decker cake before (it just sounds cool, doesn’t it?!) and at 27 years old, this was an astonishing revelation. Needless to say, I found several reasons to make the particular recipe for this special cake because it seemed so wonderfully full of chocolate…and honestly, how can you mess up chocolate? My dear friend made the frosting in advance so it turned out to be a masterpiece of processes that got off to a helluva great start. I revamped the Mixed Peppercornsfrosting recipe here to reflect a lower-maintenance version that uses light cream cheese. I loved how the cake turned out and next time I will add more red wine 😉

My secret ingredient? Admittedly, the cracked pepper. I know I’ve said it before. No matter what these weirdly spicy little seed pods are crushed over, they always compliment the dish wonderfully and in this case, carried it. I’ve always thought cracked pepper was a taste with some pizazz and depth to it and when paired with frosting, pepper does not disappoint. Does it sound strange? It’s not, really. My friend used a blend of 5 different peppercorns, which also lent a lot of color to the otherwise white frosting 🙂 I encourage you to give this recipe a try, you might be surprised…

Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Cracked Peppercorn Frosting

IngredientsChocolate Cake

(for the cake)

6 Tbs. (85 grams) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (145 grams) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white sugar
1 large egg & 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, dry
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup (133 grams) flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup (41 grams) cocoa powderfrosting
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

(for the frosting)

8 Tbs. (115 grams) butter, softened
8 Tbs. (115 grams) low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups (475 grams) powdered sugar
3 Tbs. (15 grams) cream
cracked pepper, to taste
2 round cake pans

1. Preheat the oven to 165 degrees Celsius (325° Fahrenheit). Use butter or nonstick spray to grease the bottom (especially) and sides of two cake pans. 2. To make the cake, mix the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth & creamy, 3 minutes. 3. One at a time, mix in the egg & egg yolk, red wine, and vanilla and continue mixing another 3 minutes until a loose batter forms. 4. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together over the bowl of wet ingredients. Use the mixer until it is 3/4 combined, and then fold the rest together with a spatula. 5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and put on the same rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean. 6. Let the cake cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then flip out and continue cooling on a wire rack for 45 minutes more, loosely covered. 7.  To make the frosting, bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature first to soften. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Next beat in the 3 tablespoons of cream. At the end, add cracked pepper as desired, folding in with a spatula. Chill the frosting until ready to use. 8. Once the cake has cooled completely, place one piece on a large round plate acakend spread with the prepared frosting. Place the second piece on top and use the remainder of the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake until frosted  🙂 You can store the cake at room temperature or in the fridge covered for up to 1 week.

Serves 8 – 10

I wish I had more reasons (do I need a reason?!) to make cake, especially when it calls for chocolate AND red wine. -I’m just happy it wasn’t a disaster 😉

Now that the weather has gotten a chill to it, I think I’ll have to bake some other not-so-sugary things, like onion rolls and (yes, cracked pepper) biscuits. Oh, the choices…

My question: What was the best cake you ever remember eating? 

9.30.2014

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Homemade Barbecued Pork Ribs

The last meal I made with my family over the holidays was barbecued pork ribs 😀 Personally, I may have missed the spicy-sugary taste of barbecue sauce but I was definitely missing the whole eat-off-the-bone experience. With ribs it seems, the more time you put into them, the more taste you get out of them (I made that up myself..) and can prove to be an all-intensive process. I reduced marinade, let the ribs soak in it overnight, grilled and basted them over slow heat, and made my own barbecue sauce. I’m thinking I may have gone a bit overboard on the whole DIY concept but hey, you don’t get to make ribs from scratch every day! (At least I couldn’t;-)

The rib recipe I refer to here is from December’s Food & Wine and originally involved Root Beer. After perusing through a couple of cooking magazines with my brother, we quickly established that any meat you serve marinated in and covered with sauces made from Coca-Cola will be tasty, at the very least 🙂 The spiciness in this barbecue comes from ground black peppercorns, a simple combination since there’s so many different and more colorful chilies and spices to choose from out there but black pepper pairs wonderfully with vanilla bean (and just when you thought vanilla couldn’t get any better!) My advice to spice enthusiasts, add 1/2-1 Tablespoon extra ground black pepper to your barbecue sauce if you want it really spicy.

Perhaps needless to say at this point, the star ingredient in the ribs recipe is Coca-Cola. And why not?! I initially thought that the taste might be overshadowed by some of the other flavorful ingredients but that wasn’t the case. Apparently boiling something down over time only contributes to the flavor :] This is making me think that you could probably boil any soda down to its sauce form, like Dr. Pepper steak sauce or chicken cutlets with Fanta reduction. I should start considering soda an ingredient (is it that bad? Doesn’t cooking making it any better? I hope so…)

Slightly inspired by the whole farewell ‘grilling theme’, I made another recipe, this one from last June’s Food & Wine, which is a salad with grilled oyster mushrooms and green grapes, chilled celery and butter lettuce. Salad and barbecue just sound like the perfect combination.. I have included both recipes in this post, let’s call it le grill menu. The two go awfully well together and the ribs were so delicious I was eating them with my fingers a quarter of the way through, probably covered with a little barbecue sauce too. I was not the only one though 🙂

Grilled Pork Ribs with Coca-Cola Lime Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

(for the marinade)

2 cans of Coca-Cola

3 shallots, sliced

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 head of garlic, peeled & crushed

1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup cold water

2 racks of pork ribs (about 5 lbs. or 2.3 kilos)

(for barbecue sauce)

3 cans of Coca-Cola

1/4 cup lime juice

1 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 ts. salt

2 vanilla beans, split & scraped for seeds (or 2 Tbs. vanilla extract)

cooking/grilling spray

(1) To make the marinade, boil Coca-Cola, fish sauce, garlic, black peppercorns, shallots, and vinegar for 1 minute over high heat. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes; uncover and let cool. Add the olive oil and cold water, stir, and transfer to a ziploc bag or large dish before adding the pork ribs. Cover/seal and marinate meat overnight in the fridge. (2) While cleaning and preheating the grill (on medium), let ribs come to room temperature, uncovered 20-45 minutes. (3) In a medium saucepan, mix the vanilla bean, black pepper, and 3 cans of coke. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally, 25-35 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt, simmering over low heat for 2 minutes. Strain and discard the vanilla bean and remove pan from heat. (4) When cooled, stir in the garlic and chili powder, seasoning barbecue sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (5) Once grill has preheated, drain the marinade from ribs, reserving about 1 cup for basting. Spray ribs with cooking spray and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, to sear each side, about 10 minutes total. (6) Put heat to low and continue grilling the ribs, turning often, and basting every 5-7 minutes until cooked (edges of the meat will begin to pull away from the bone), about 35-45 minutes. Remove ribs from the grill, slather in barbecue sauce, and cover with foil, letting rest for 10 minutes. (7) Before eating, cut between each rib with a sharp knife. Serve pork ribs with lime wedges and a side of barbecue sauce.

Serves 4

Grilled Grape & Mushroom Butter Leaf Salad with Mustard-Celery Seed Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. walnut oil

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbs. celery seeds

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

3 green onions, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. white wine

salt & cracked pepper

(for the salad)

1 head of butter lettuce, stemmed & torn

1 cup fresh sprouts

1 cup green grapes

1/2 cup fresh celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup celery leaves

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms

1/4 cup roasted & salted whole almonds

(1) To make vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients, walnut oil through white wine above, in a medium bowl and season to taste with salt & pepper (adding more champagne vinegar, if needed:-) Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) Wash and dry salad greens, combining the celery leaves, parsley leaves, butter lettuce, and sprouts in a salad bowl. Refrigerate. (3) Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and clean racks with lemon halves. When hot, grill the oyster mushrooms, turning once, until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Also grill the green grapes on a strip of foil until slightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Remove both from grill and let cool about 2 minutes. (4) Next, add sliced celery and roasted almonds to the salad greens. When ready to serve, toss salad with grilled mushrooms and grapes and 5 Tbs. of the salad vinaigrette. Serve immediately 🙂

Serves 4

So, at last my desire for grilled food has been satisfied }:-) for now…I will see what new inspirations come with visiting wonderfully flavorful Espania! I already miss cooking with my family, but at least I’ll be coming up with some more meaty meals since my little brother will be here and cooking with me by the end of the week, in my uber tiny European kitchen too 😀

My question: What is your favorite style of barbecue sauce?

It seems like every city has one. There’s Memphis (sweet and salty), Kansas City (tomato-based), and St. Lious (tangy) barbecue and the list goes on and on..

1.13.12