Friday, September 30, 2005

Good Ol' Fried Chicken


*The amounts given are only estimates. I can't remember all that I put into the batter, so adjust according to your taste and intelligence.

1 whole chicken, @ 3-4 pounds (or 2 two-pounders)
6 cups buttermilk (I used sham buttermilk; 6 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar and enough milk to make 6 cups. Let sit 5 minutes.)
2-3 tablespoons salt, separated
1/3 - 1/2 cup hot red-pepper sauce, optional
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon black pepper (more or less)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (more or less)
2 tablespoons baking powder
garlic powder (probably lots)
onion powder (probably lots)
a bit of paprika
maybe a sprinkle or two of ground thyme and sage (I can't remember)

Electric fryer or a deep pot
Enough oil or shortening to submerge a few chicken pieces at a time (Peanut oil is great b/c is has a higher smoking temp. than other frying oils, but we usually just use veg. oil.)

1. Separate whole chicken into 8 standard pieces (I usually cut breasts into smaller sections, too, otherwise they don't fully cook in the middle). Combine buttermilk, 1 tablespoon salt, and hot sauce, if desired, in a large airtight container. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

2. Combine flour and remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl and retain buttermilk mixture for dredging.

3. Heat oil in an electric fryer (to fill line) or a deep pot (enough to submerge chicken pieces completely). Heat oil to about 360-375 degrees. Also, line a baking sheet with a mattress of paper towels and heat oven to 200 degrees.

4. While oil heats, prepare the first batch of chicken pieces for frying. Prepare and fry only a few pieces at a time. Taking a piece out of the buttermilk mixture, dredge it in the dry mixture (coating well), then dip it into the buttermilk mixture a second time before again coating it with dry mixture. The more you repeat this process, the thicker the fried coating will be. (I usually dredge each piece about 2-3 times in wet and dry before frying.)

5. Fry chicken, a few pieces at a time. If too many pieces are added, the oil temp. drops too low. This is the tricky part that made our first few fried chicken dinners less than satisfying. If the oil's too cool, the coating soaks up too much oil and becomes mushy; if the oil is too hot, the coating browns too quickly and the center of the pieces are raw. Fry the larger pieces when the temperature is slightly lower (temperature will drop when pieces are added). Fry the smaller pieces when the temperature is higher, and they will be cooked more quickly. If you see that the coating is browning too quickly, turn down heat or unplug the fryer for a bit. Remove when chicken is golden brown and drain on paper towels. Place finished chicken in the oven to stay warm and crisp while you finish frying the rest

I highly recommend frying only a few pieces first and cutting them open to see if they are fully cooked before going on to the next batch. (Based on sorry personal performance in the past...) If the center of a piece is not cooked, I just pop it in the microwave for less than a minute to finish cooking, but the coating on the bottom of the chicken may turn a bit mushy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Moist Devil's Food Cake (Triple Layer)

This cake is moist and devilish, and it's three layers of decadent heaven.

1 1/2 cups butter
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups sifted cake flour* (I use regular flour; use one cup minus two tablespoons all-purpose flour for every cup of cake flour.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk

1 recipe Melt-in-your-Mouth Chocolate Frosting (found below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with 2 racks centered. Butter (or use vegetable shortening) 3 8"x2" round cake pans and dust with cocoa powder. Sift the 3/4 cup baking cocoa into a bowl, whisk in the boiling water, set aside, and let cool. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar while beating until mixture is fluffy. Beat in vanilla and then gradually drizzle in beaten eggs, beating after each addition until batter isn't slick. Sift flour, soda, and salt. Whisk milk into cooled cocoa mix. On low speed, add flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Divide into the 3 pans. Bake for about 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer pans to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes and then remove cakes from pans to cool, top-sides up.

Save best layer for top. Place one layer on platter, top with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and repeat with second layer. Top with third layer and cover outside of cake with remaining 3 cups frosting.

I also added a layer of wild raspberry jam under each layer of the chocolate ganache, and I embellished the top with semisweet chocolate curls and white chocolate cutouts.

To make chocolate curls, melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate with 1/2 tablespoon shortening and spread thinly on a cookie sheet. Let cool until firm but still somewhat yielding. Using a metal spatula, scrape the chocolate off in curls. (I can't explain this very well. Just google it or look in a cookbook...)

For white chocolate cutouts, simply melt one cup white chocolate, spread onto a cookie sheet, and let sit until firm but still somewhat yielding. Cut out desired shapes and let chocolate completely harden. Then, pluck your little shapes off the cookie sheet and press them on your cake, in whatever manner you'd like.

Melt-in-your-Mouth Chocolate Frosting (Chocolate Ganache)

This is the richest, yummiest frosting EVER. DON'T ARGUE WITH ME!!!! It just is, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Makes about 6 1/2 cups, enough to fill and frost a three-layer cake.

24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (*I sometimes add 1 extra cup chocolate chips to help the ganache firm up faster. Shameful, I know.)
1 quart heavy cream
1 teaspoon light corn syrup

Place chocolate and cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over med.-low heat until combined and thickened. Increase heat to medium and cook about 8 minutes more, stirring constantly and watching carefully to avoid scorching. Remove from heat, stir in extra chocolate chips, if desired, and whisk the mixture until smooth and melted. Transfer to a metal bowl and chill in refrigerator until mixture reaches spreading consistency (a few hours), stirring every 15 to 20 minutes so that it cools evenly.

Boston Cream Pie (Two-Layer Cake)


6 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cup cake flour* (I used all-purpose; just use one cup minus two tablespoons for every cup of cake flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk

1 recipe Cream Custard or Basic Cream Filling
1 recipe Chocolate Frosting (Found below. If this is more than you'd like on the cake, eat the extra plain.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter (I used veg. shortening b/c it doesn't burn) and lightly flour two 8 inch round cake pans. Cream the butter until softened and slowly add the sugar, beating until light. Add the egg yolks and vanilla until softened and beat to blend well.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternately blend the dry ingredients and the milk into the butter mixture in three stages. Beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Stir a third of the whites into the cake batter and gently fold in the remaining. Spoon the batter into the cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a straw (or toothpick) inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry.

Cool in pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto racks. Cool completely, and then spread first and second layers with Cream Custard and spoon frosting over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Keep cake refrigerated between munchings, unless it only takes one munch for it to disappear.

Cream Custard


1 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat the milk in a pan until very hot, then briskly stir in the granulated sugar, flour, and salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until very thick. Add the egg yolks and cook, continuing to stir, for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, and cool, stirring occasionally. Cover well and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chocolate Frosting (usually for cream puffs and eclairs)


6 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 tablespoons butter

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a heavy bottomed small pan over moderate heat, stirring constantly until smooth.* Spoon over filled cream puffs or eclairs and let drip down the sides.

I cheat and use the microwave. Don't melt the chips entirely, as they will completely melt if the mixture is stirred smooth after removing it from the microwave. Watch it carefully and stir a few times to avoid scorching the chocolate.
**Note: we have been living microwave-free from some time now. Melting chocolate easily is one of the few things I miss about this.

Oatmeal Bread


1 cup boiling water
1 cup old-fashioned oats + more for top
1 scant tablespoon yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
3- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl, combine boiling water and 1 cup oats; let stand until warm (110- 115 degrees). In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; add to oat mixture. Add honey, butter, salt, and 2 cups flour; mix until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a bowl lightly coated with oil, turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Shape into a loaf, and place in a greased 8x4x2 loaf pan. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional rolled oats. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: one loaf*

This only makes one loaf. We double it, but I know some will need to quadruple it or more! (This is best eaten fresh from the oven or, later, toasted and spread with sweet butter.)