Monday, March 8, 2010

The Oscars are just another excuse to bake!

I don't normally pay much attention to the Oscars.  Sometimes I manage to have it on in the background, but actually paying attention to it?  I can't remember the last time that happened ... until this year.  This year, I decided it was the perfect excuse to have people over for dessert and managed to watch all of the Oscars!

We ended up with quite a spread ... cheese, more cheese, hummus:
See the thing that looks like orange juice?  That's a mango margarita.  Before Christmas, one of my friends suggested everyone bring back an alcoholic beverage from the holidays that is typical of their home.  We're a fairly diverse group, so it seemed like a great idea.  I thought about bringing back some Lone Star, but really when I think of Texas and alcohol, I think of frozen margaritas.  The international liquor party hasn't happened yet though and I'd gotten impatient to try the mango margarita recipe I found ... so I decided the timing was right for mango-y goodness.

After the cheese, came the chocolate.  One person made the chocolate souffle cupcakes again (and did a better job with the cream than me!).  Someone else brought some delicious chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes:

But what was I going to make?  I'd been on a lemon streak the week before and felt a little burnt out on citrus (it might've had something to do with making a batch of lemon curd, not being entirely happy with it, so not sharing it, and then finishing it all myself!).  I also wanted to make something that wasn't easily transportable, because isn't that one of the benefits of hosting a party?  I thought about the cappuccino fudge cheesecake that I've wanted to taste for the past three months, but it seemed a little too involved for a weekend where the weather is so perfect all you want to do is spend time outdoors!  Finally, I settled on mint lava cakes from a new blog that I think may soon become a favourite.  Success!

Chuy's Mango Margaritas (from Robb Walsh's The Tex-Mex Cookbook)
Note: This cookbook is amazing for giving some background on the glories of Tex-Mex cooking and the fact that this recipe is associated with one of my favourite Austin places for gigantic burritos and queso just makes me incredibly happy ... although Baby A's does have slightly better margaritas IMO!  This recipe makes 2 margaritas according to the notes ... scale up!

2 shots silver tequila
1 shot Cointreau
1/4 fresh mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
juice of 1/2 lime
1 cup crushed ice

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until slushy.

Note: The original recipe says it makes 36 cupcakes.  I cut it in half and used it to make 8 lava cakes in souffle dishes.  I probably would've been better off making 6 as the cakes were a little short!  For the peppermint ganache, I thought about scaling in half, but then decided I might as well use up the dark chocolate so ended up scaling to 3/4.  I had a little ganache leftover ... not necessarily a bad thing!  The original recipe is included below.

2 cup sugar
2 cup flour
1 cup cocoa
1 tspn salt
2 tspn baking powder
2 tspn baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup veggie oil
1 cup milk
1 cup boiling water (I substituted some freshly brewed espresso)
peppermint dark chocolate ganache (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a mixer bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Combine thoroughly.
3. In a separate bowl, beat eggs.  Add veggie oil and milk.  Mix to combine.
4. Add the eggs, oil, and milk to the dry ingredients, beating to combine thoroughly.
5. Add boiling water or coffee/espresso.  Combine thoroughly.
6. Fill the souffle dishes 1/2 full.  Place a tbsp or so of peppermint ganache in the middle of the batter.  Cover the ganache with a tiny bit more of batter.  Be careful not to overfill the molds, as they will overflow.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.  (The toothpick test probably doesn't work here, since the insides are filled with chocolate ganache.  Use your sense of smell, your intuition, and make sure the cakes aren't jiggly before you pull them out!)

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Ganache (the original calls for peppermint schnapps and candy canes ... I skipped these)
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbpsn butter
1 tbsp peppermint extract

1. Place chopped dark chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.  Set aside.
2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream and butter.  Stir and bring to just barely a boil.
3. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and pour over the prepared dark chocolate.  Allow to sit for two to three minutes, then stir until the chocolate melts into the cream.
4. Stir in the peppermint extract.
5. Allow the ganache to set in the fridge overnight before use.  (I was running behind and stuck it in the freezer for a while to harden.  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have cooled it to let it harden as it made it a little too difficult to scoop into the souffle dishes!).

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