Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Daring Cooks: Cornmeal

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we'd never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

Now that the Olympics (and my MCAT) is done my life felt a bit empty- until I realized I have to get started on my med-school applications. Damn it. Talk about stressful! I want to just close my laptop and hope it sorts itself out. Can't you hire people to do this for you? I wish.

The best way to ease stress? Cooking. And this month's Daring Cook's challenge provided the best distraction. I love cornmeal- so many good things come from it, like cornbread, Jamaican patties, Jamaican festivals, Chicago pizza.... Etcetc. It's such an awesome ingredient- I was totally excited to use it in this month's Daring Cook's challenge.

At first I wanted to do a twist on cornbread, but then decided to do something more along the lines of Jamaican cuisine. At first I wanted to try making Jamaican festivals- deep fried fritter thing. Absolutely delicious. We had them last time I was in Jamaica and my friend and I became totally obsessed. However, when I tried to make them it didn't come out so well so I decided to try something a bit less tricky (for now).

So my mom and I settled on doing a corn fritter- stuffed full of jerk chicken. Hells. Yeah. Stupidly easy to make, tasty and filling- a great Sunday brunch with just enough spice. For something thrown together willy-nilly it came out pretty great, if I do say so myself.

Jerk Chicken Cornbread Fritters
Makes 6 fritters
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp jerk seasoning
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp salt & pepper
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup jerk chicken (I used this recipe)
1 bunch green onions
2 tbsp oil for frying

Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, jerk seasoning, pepper and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, butter, and buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the jerk chicken and green onions. Divide into 6 patties.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Fry each patty until golden brown- about 3-4 minutes a side. Drain on a paper towel. Serve hot with your favourite topping (I suggest mayo + hot sauce). Enjoy!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Graham Cracker Cake with Chocolate Covered Banana Chips

Hooooo-leeeee cow. What a couple of months it's been. July didn't even exist for me. It was just a blur of hot weather, humidity, studying and Supernatural. I had my MCAT last Friday, which was, honestly, the hardest exam I have ever taken in my life. Halfway through (it was a 4 hour exam) by eyes were blood shot. I got home and nearly collapsed on the couch. But! It's over and now I can finally relax and enjoy the summer fully! All there is left now is to wait for my mark and pray that it was enough!

So, I decided that, with the MCAT finally over, I deserved a cake. Hell, I deserved a cake and a whole lot of booze, but I figured I'd start out with the cake. I've had this recipe in my binder for a couple years now, but have never had the chance to try it until now. I absolutely love graham crackers- don't ask me why, I just do. Sometimes, when we make s'mores I just use it as an excuse to eat the graham crackers. Yes, I know, I'm weird, but I'm okay with it.

This cake is some sort of amazing. There's no flour in it- just the crushed graham crackers. How cool is that?? The original recipe, from Style at Home, had a whipped cream frosting- but you guys know me and my cream cheese frosting, so I had to use that instead. That, and I tweaked it one other way: I added chocolate covered banana chips. Holy crap, it was a stroke of genius, I tell you. The crunch from the banana gives the cake another layer of textural awesome, plus the hint of chocolate and banana is just addictive. I put the chips in the cake and in the cream cheese. Fantastic.

The cake is almost gone, but not because I ate it all alone (thankfully). Even my brother thought it was amazing, which is saying something since it has a minimal amount of chocolate in it! Though, we all agreed in saying the taste reminds us of a carrot cake for some reason, even though there's no carrot in it at all. I think it's from the molasses in the graham crackers plus the cream cheese frosting. Honestly though, I dunno why but it does taste like a carrot cake. Which means it tastes freaking delicious. All the awesome of graham crackers in a super mouthwatering, moist cake. Perfect for the summer. I challenge you not to finish in three days.

As a side note: for any equestrian watchers out there, is anyone else out there following the story about the Canadian jumping team and Tiffany Foster's disqualification? Absolutely heartbreaking and totally uncalled for. Seriously.

To help ease my anger I eat cake. So here's the recipe!

Graham Cracker Cake
Adapted from Style at Home
Makes one 8" two layer cake

• 25-30 graham crackers, crumbled (about 3 cups)
• 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 stick (1⁄2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 4 eggs, separated
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup milk
• 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 2/3 cup chocolate covered banana chips, chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting
• 8 ounces butter, at room temperature
• 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 2½ cups powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1/3 cup chocolate covered banana chips, crushed
• 1/2 tsp banana extract

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 8" circle cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In the food processor, pulse the graham cracker crumbs and coconut until very fine. Add the baking powder and pulse until combined. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

With the mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.Add the egg yolks, two at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. Beat until blended. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add 1 cup of the crumb mixture along with 1/3 cup of milk and mix to blend in. Repeat until all the crumb mixture and milk are blended in.

Set up the mixer with a clean, dry mixing bowl and whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cram of tartar and kick the mixer up to medium-high. Beat until the egg whites form soft peaks.

Fold half of the egg whites into the graham cracker batter, folding. Add the rest and fold until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, and smooth the surface with a spatula or wooden spoon. Top each with the chopped banana chips and bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the cake layers begin to come away from the sides of the pan and are spingy to the touch.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto the cake rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add in the powdered sugar until blended. Add the vanilla and banana chips and fold until mixed.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a plate. Spread half of the frosting on top, making sure it's level. Top with the other cake layer. Cover the whole cake with the cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!!