Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lemon Meringue Cake: or, The egg whites were sitting in the freezer anyway

Do you refuse to throw away perfectly good ingredients even if you have no idea what you'd use them for? Do you have nearly full sauce bottles lurking in your cabinets because you made a recipe that called for one tablespoon of something you haven't used since? Are there frozen scraps of this or that carefully wrapped in your freezer because you might find a use for them someday?
If so, we at A Book of Cookrye are no better than you. More than anything, we have a lot of egg whites in the freezer from making a lot of recipes that called for yolks. Of course, one can more easily find recipes for egg whites than one might find one that uses, say, asafoetida or those last meat scraps that you bagged up instead of throwing out.Today, our friends at the Dormeyer electric mixer factory have a super nifty idea for us:
All Electric-Mix Recipes Prepared Specially for your Dormeyer Mixer, 1946

Lemon Meringue Cake
Lemon cake from the recipe of your choice*
2 egg whites
Dash of salt
½ c sugar
¼ tsp lemon extract

Bake the lemon cake in a 9x13 pan.
After removing it from the oven, beat the egg whites and salt until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating constantly, until it stands in stiff peaks. Add the lemon extract.
Spread over the cake and bake 10 minutes.

*The original recipe is the Mix-Easy Two-Egg Cake with 2 tsp lemon rind added to the butter or shortening. For the record, I used this recipe instead because it calls not for 2 eggs but 5 egg whites, and I have an embarrassing number of egg whites in the refrigerator.

All Electric-Mix Recipes Prepared Specially for your Dormeyer Mixer, 1946

Does a lemon meringue cake seem like a desperate reach for novelty to anyone else?  I guess there are only so many cake recipes you can come up with before you reach the end of cake. This is especially true of an advertising pamphlet, which (unlike a more serious cookbook) tends to avoid what one may call the more adventurous recipes. Having said that, our friends at the Dormeyer company decided to run some 50-odd cake recipes in their advertising pamphlet. When the you barely allow any flavors in your cake chapter that one wouldn't find in the shake machine at a drive-thru, some possibly misguided creativity will ensue.

I can just imagine the people in their desks under orders to come up with enough cake recipes to fill 20 small-print double-sided pages. Eventually someone decides to take the pie out from under a lemon meringue pie and put a cake in there instead. As a bonus, meringues are a great excuse to justify selling electric mixers because beating egg whites into shaving cream by hand sucks.
Note the deployment of foil to forestall washing.

I couldn't get over how weird it is to put meringue on a cake. In my limited cooking experience, meringue has only appeared two places: on top of pies, or made into cookies. Putting meringue on cake is utter madness. What topsy-turvy world is this?

The cake looked actually rather nice right out of the oven. It is a really enticing-looking big pan of meringue once you get over the fact that this clearly is not a pie.
However, as seems to often happen to meringues here at A Book of Cookrye, it sweated out little brown beads as it cooled.
Do you think they look enough like sprinkles that I could claim I did it on purpose?

Apparently whoever thought of a lemon meringue cake was afraid to really stick to the premise- that is a puny ration of meringue for a cake this size. If you look at any slice of lemon meringue pie, the meringue tends to be at least as tall as the lemon under it. But having followed the recipe instructions, this is how much meringue, er, crowned the finished creation.

That is a pathetic layer of icing, isn't it? If you ate a slice with your eyes closed, you couldn't even tell the meringue was there. I mean, it will help keep the cake from going stale the same way any icing does. So if you never really liked the taste of icing on cake but still think a bare cake looks kinda ugly, this idea is for you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Brownie canadensis: or, Importing recipes from the back of a chocolate chip bag

Guess what happened in the clearance rack!

Happy days have truly returned to A Book of Cookrye, because that is literally two pounds of chocolate, all of which is covered in markdown stickers!
Had it been but a single bag of chocolate chips, one might have just made a batch of delicious cookies. But two pounds of chocolate deserve something special. Something divine. A recipe that I've had on file for a while now...

That's right, this recipe for brownies uses three different kinds of chocolate! Truly, a recipe like this deserves to be shared with friends, which is why we're making this with Marcus!
You may notice two subtle hints that this recipe does not originate in the United States. It uses metric measurements,whereas America only uses kilograms and milliliters for science labs and selling illegal drugs. Also, they relisted the recipe in French. In case you skipped the title, this does indeed come from the Canada! I flew there on some friends' frequent flyer points last year, and in the course of doing some baking, I saw this recipe and thought it looked insanely good. Why I didn't make it on the spot I don't know, but let us wait no longer.

Double Chocolate Brownies
1¾ c flour (425 mL)
½ c cocoa powder (125 mL)
¼ tsp baking powder (1 mL)
1 pinch salt
1 c semisweet chocolate chips (or 6 oz chopped baking chocolate) (250 mL)
1 c butter (250 mL)
1⅓ c dark (50%) chocolate chips (or 8 oz or 325 mL)
2¼ c sugar (560 mL)
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (5 mL)

Heat oven to 350° (180°C). Grease an 8"x12" or 9"x13" (20x30cm or 23x33cm) pan. For brownies, a metal pan is better than a glass one because the glass will hold onto heat and keep baking them for a while after you take it out of the oven.
Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Melt together the butter and dark chocolate.
Beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar and beat until thick and custard-like. Add the chocolate-butter, mixing with a rubber spatula. Stir in the flour mixture. When all is mixed, stir in half the chocolate chips.
Spread in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Source: A bag of store-brand chocolate chips I bought in Ottawa

This recipe starts with chopping a lot of baking chocolate. I was prepared to get out the knife and delay further brownie production for at least 5 minutes, but Marcus had a better idea.
Never thought your broke friends on A Book of Cookrye would extravagantly put slabs of Ghirardelli in a food processor, did you?

I will say, this recipe involved a lot more bowls than I bargained for. But, for once that did not annoy me at all. You see, Marcus has a dishwasher! So you know what? Let's get out a plastic tub and shake the flour and cocoa until they're as mixed as they can be!

And we'll go ahead and measure out the sugar beforehand into another bowl that no one will wash by hand!

Then we'll get out not a bowl but a pot because the chocolate and butter have to melt in something. We were out of microwave-safe bowls, so we had to use the stove for this.
Finally, we get out yet another bowl (that's 4 bowls total that no one will handwash) in which all of this will eventually come together... and beat eggs into suds. I will admit that this part of the recipe is mere speculation on my part. The instructions just say "beaten eggs" which can mean anything from "just bash them around with a fork for 10-ish seconds" to "keep going until they look like beige whipped cream (as we have done in recipes like this)." A lot of the egg-heavy brownie recipes I've seen lean towards the latter, so that was the option we went with.

At this point, with all the many ingredients in their many bowls or tubs or pots, measured and ready to go, the brownies began to come gloriously together. First, we add the sugar and transform this bowl of eggs into what tasted like an unusually rich icing. You might not think a bowl of just eggs and sugar would be all that great, but this was oddly addictive.

Next, we dumped in the melted chocolate and butter, which if you can pour out a mixture like that and not taste at least a little, you have no soul. The chocolate promptly sank through the extremely whipped eggs and hid under them.

Here let me detour and sing the praises of Marcus' dishwasher. Speaking as someone who has not had a working dishwasher in the house since 2005, the dishwasher is truly a miraculous and glorious wonder. Were I making this at home, there would be a pile of dishes overtopping the sink, waiting for me to reluctantly scrub and rinse each of them, one at a time, until the all were clean. Instead, we did not have a single dish in the sink. It is so gloriously convenient to measure and prepare absolutely every ingredient you're going to use without having to hand-wash a small army of little bowls and spoons. I've rarely had the pleasure of making a recipe and having everything measured out and ready at hand. The reward for such advance planning and preparation, if you have no dishwasher, is at least half an hour of extra cleanup because having everything measured out in its own little vessel quickly builds up to a lot of dirty dishes.
We kept the dishwasher open as we proceeded through the recipe, and simply dropped every gloriously unrinsed bowl, pot, tub, spoon, fork, and knife right onto the racks. No growing heap of dirty dishes grimly awaited someone with a sponge. All we had to do is close the door on the dripping mess and press a button. If you've never experienced cooking in the presence of a dishwasher, take a bag of ingredients and go to the house of anyone you know with a who has one and try it at least once. Your entire outlook on cooking will change.

Since the chocolate sank to the bottom, it took a few seconds of stirring before the batter started to really change color. But once it did, it seemed like it would never stop darkening. With every circle  the spoon made, the batter got even browner. It seemed like stirring made the chocolate magically grow in the batter.

But, just in case the brownies did not have enough chocolate in them yet, we added even more chocolate with the flour!

Oh, all this chocolate is (not) too much. It really is. This almost made me happier than not having to hand-wash a single dish.

But maybe you're unimpressed with all the chocolate in this recipe so far. What would say if we stopped bothering with other ingredients and just dumped more chocolate right into the batter?

And so, having put an unprecedented amount of chocolate into one pan of brownies, it was time to actually bake these. And.... oh. I nearly died when I saw this gloriously thick and oozy chocolate pour into the pan.

You know what? Let's look at that just a little closer.

When your brownie batter looks like this before you smooth it over with a spoon, that is a sign of amazing things to come.

Because Marcus and I are not soulless robots, we did a deliberately terrible job of scraping the bowl. Want to know how the batter tasted?

He actually stayed like this long enough for my camera to crash, restart, and finally take the picture.

Anyone who knows how much I don't just like but believe in chocolate will be thoroughly unsurprised to know this is how much I liked it.

We were so overcome with chocolate that we forgot to do the last line of instruction in the recipe before leaving the brownies in the oven. That's right, the recipe says you're supposed to just dump even more chocolate over the brownies right before they bake.

As I took these out of the oven, I just had to wonder: if Canadians get recipes this good on their grocery labels, why is the United States the country with the obesity epidemic?

If you look past my poor spatula skills, you can see a tantalizingly dark brownie that looks utterly divine.

In a predictable twist for two friends in the kitchen at 3 in the morning waiting for a pan of brownies to cool off to the point where we don't burn ourselves trying to eat them, we passed the time by going to the nearest establishment that sold tacos 24 hours a day. One of the benefit of living in the south is the density of Mexican restaurants, many of which extend their hours all the way around the clock. The sublime joy of 3AM tacos almost makes up for the miserable traffic and awful heatwaves.
Why do I mention the late-night food jaunt? Because we ended up too full of tacos and cheese dip to eat any dessert when we got home!
But you can take my word for it that the next day, despite promising friends that they could share in the chocolate creation, all the brownies mysteriously disappeared before anyone else could eat any.