14 April 2010

Candied Bacon Ice Cream

That's right, you read it correctly...candied bacon ice cream. A slightly bacon obsessed friend of mine just had a birthday and as a gift I made her candied bacon ice cream. I knew she would enjoy it because this was the same person who introduced me to candied bacon and took third place in our office's Iron Chef competition with chocolate covered bacon. Since I'm not the first person to have thought of this concoction, I decided to follow David Lebovitz's recipe.

Pretty simple really with a fairly standard custard-based ice cream. I was a little dubious about adding the rum because a) I don't like dark rum (or dark liquors as a rule really) and b) I was worried that the addition of the rum would make the ice cream not set up very well. Nevertheless, I made the custard according to the recipe and chilled it overnight in a stainless steel bowl. I find that it helps to have the mix as cold as possible before putting it through the ice cream maker.

Next I proceeded to candy the bacon. I tried this once before for our Saint Nicholas party but didn't let it cool properly. Candying bacon is actually fairly simple. Cover a cookie sheet or shallow pan with tin foil (shiny side down) and lay out your bacon. The sprinkle each slice with light brown sugar.

Bake in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes (adjust for your oven and the thickness of the bacon). After 10 minutes, flip the slices over dragging the unsugared side through the greasy, sugary goo in the pan.

Hugely important-when you put the bacon back in the over...don't set the timer for another 10 minutes because then this happens:

And despite the wide open balcony door and hastily turned on kitchen fan, my smoke alarm started screaming at me. Granted we have the world's most sensitive smoke alarm and it goes off if we set the toaster more than half dark. So I had to drag the step ladder across the kitchen and try to climb it and turn off the alarm while at the same time covering both my ears from the shrieking reminder of my bacon candying failure. That done...I tried again and this time left the bacon in only 3 minutes after the drag through goo flip phase. Much better.

Now Mr. Lebovitz says to cool the bacon on a wire rack. I don't have a wire rack so I got a little creative.

And yes those are bamboo skewers resting on two boxes of Fiber One bars. But you know what? It worked.

Fast forward to the next day and it's time to run the custard through the ice cream maker. I love my ice cream maker. It took much longer than usual for it to really start freezing and I don't know if it was the rum, or if it was because I had the ice cream bowl in the freezer for only about a day (I used to keep it in there permanently before we started running out of freezer space).

When I saw that the ice cream was starting to form I broke up all the bacon and let it mix around a little before taking the ice cream out of the mixer and freezing it.

The birthday girl was kind enough to share the ice cream with a couple of us and it was a lot better than I thought it would be. I was skeptical. But even with the rum it was pretty great. You got some of the rum up front followed by the brown sugar/cinnamon creaminess and then finished of with the sweet bacon. Really it was good.

No really.

13 April 2010

The Liar

There is usually at least one play in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s season that I enjoy and this season it seems I had to wait until almost the very end of the season to see it. Pierre Corneille’s The Liar, adapted for STC by David Ives, was brilliance and roll in the aisle funny. A cast of STC favorites including Christian Conn as Dorante, Aubrey Deeker as Philiste, David Sabin as Geronte, Colleen Delany as Isabell/Sabine, Mirian Silverman as Lucrece and Tony Roach as Alcippe are on hand to send audiences howling. They are joined for this performance by STC newcomers Adam Green who was wonderful as Cliton and Erin Partin as Clarice.

The play chronicles 26 hilarious hours of master fabricator Dorante. Upon his arrival in Paris he hires witty sidekick Cliton then proceeds to cut a swath through Parisian high society, wreak havoc with his father’s plans for his [Dorante’s] marriage, woo any number of high-born young ladies, fight a magnificent duel, and get the girl! But which girl…?

Don’t let the fact that everyone speaks in pentameter verse turn you away-David Ives’s translation and adaptation made this a completely approachable comedy. I once translated a book of Pablo Neruda’s poems from the Spanish into German and that (relatively) simple exercise was more than enough for me to know that I wasn’t going to be doing that kind of work professionally. My hat way off to him and other translators of his level for being able to not only translate the play, but keep the meter, the rhyme, and throw in a lot of references to past STC productions!

I found this to be both charmingly and exceptionally acted. And wondered not just once how the actors manage to keep such straight faces when delivering these lines and when the audience is roaring with laughter. There was not one person who was not fully engaged in his role and I, as ever, especially enjoyed Aubrey’s performance. We (meaning me, Lauren, KMac, and a few other friends) always enjoy when he’s in something at STC. The return of Christian Conn (of Beaux’ Stratagem and Love’s Labours Lost fame) was magnificent and Colleen Delany (Way of the World, Titus, Beaux’ Stratagem, Love’s Labours Lost etc etc) could not have played her two roles better. Who doesn’t, after all, love a closet dominatrix? I will also single out Adam Green. His incapable of lying Cliton was the perfect foil to Dorante who apparently could not tell the truth to save his life.

The one warning you will get about this-bring your wool sweaters and ladies don’t bother wearing skirts. It’s bloody freezing in the theatre were it maintains a crisp 68-72 degrees. The actors are all in period costumes (which were beautiful) and giving their energetic performances under hot stage lights so they try to keep it a little cooler to help ensure they don't pass out and deprive the audience of their wonderful performance. There are also lap blankets available in coat check if you forget the sweater! And when you walk in the theatre and get your program, don’t forget to grab a copy of the Asides and read what the always brilliant Akiva Fox, the STC dramaturge (isn’t that just the best word?!) has to tell us in both.

For some crazy reason STC has already released a limited number of discounted tickets for this through Goldstar so snap them up there or directly through the theatre quickly! This one will have full audiences until the end of its run for sure. I guess they really do save the best for (almost) last!

11 April 2010

Chillin' with my Peeps

A few weeks before Easter, Andrea and I made took a trip down to the National Harbor for a night out. It seemed to be a comedy of errors at first, because each plan we made fell apart as we tried to do it. First, it was a concert, but it was sold out when we tried to get tickets. Then, we thought we’d grab dinner at a piano bar at the Harbor, only to find out that you had to have a reservation in order to get a table. Then, as we tried nearly every other restaurant, the wait was so long it was hardly worth it.

We wandered around for a while looking for somewhere to go, or to eat. We passed by the statue called, The Awakening, and I remembered how many fun days I spent studying next to it when it was located at Hains Point in DC. They’ve since moved it to the National Harbor, and as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t look nearly as good there. It was too dark for my pictures to come out, so you’ll have to follow the link to see that I’m right.

After we saw the statue there, we turned and saw a shining beacon of springtime happiness dropped right behind us. It was, of course, THE PEEPS STORE!!!!

This store is ALL about the springtime joy that is Peeps, and inside there were all sorts of peep-orobilia. Even the door handles were even Peeps.

Once inside, we were greeted with a GIANT Peep that stands in the middle of the store, with, dare I say it, Peeps “art” lining the walls.

Anything that you could think of wanting, there was a Peeps version of it: Golf Club covers, tshirts, hats, toys, cookbooks (ew), backpacks, pillows. The list goes on and on. And of course they also had Peeps you could eat. They had them in every color and shape, and even had 'chocolate covered ones.' I say this only lightly because I bought one, and it was definitely not at Peep. It was more or less your standard Easter marshmallow candy covered in chocolate. Just because it's shaped like a rabbit head and has a bright yellow inside does not make it a Peep. I would rather buy chocolate covered Peeps from the Amish market in Laurel, MD.

In addition to Peeps, there were other candies that were non-Peep. You could by paraphernalia for mike&Ike's as well as hot tamales candies. Both of them came in various flavors. Well...the hot tamales also came in flavors, but they were regular cinnamon, smokin’, sizzlin’, fiery, and blaze your face off. I don't really like hot tamales, so I wasn't terribly interested in trying any of them. I did think that some of the t-shirts they had were cute, though.

I know that at Easter, temporary Peeps stores will occasionally pop up in random places. I don't think that this was a temporary store, and from the looks of it, I think it will be around for a while. To bring in some more business, and to add on to the 'artwork' that they display, they should consider bringing in the exhibition of the awesome Washington Post Peeps-tacularartworks that people in DC create during Easter.

09 April 2010

Red Velvet Cake and Brownie Balls

With birthday season upon me I prepared for the last easy one before the summer rush. I get to knock out three birthdays at once in April with two colleagues who share the 8th and another whose birthday is the 10th. A few months ago a request for red velvet cake came up so that's what we had this time.

Originally I intended to make it the old-fashioned way...with beets. A friend who had a share in the triplicate birthday expressed her doubts that I would be able to make a cake made out of beets not taste like beets. And since I think that beets both taste and smell like dirt I was not too disappointed to do it the easy way and use red food coloring. A lot of food color as it happened.

I used the red velvet recipe from The Joy of Cooking. Pretty basic, cream butter and sugar and eggs then do the alternate adding of flour mixture (flour, baking soda and powder, salt and unsweetened cocoa) and red dyed buttermilk.

Technically you're supposed to use two 9 inch pans then cut each one in half. I never manage to make a clean cut in half and usually end up with a half and crumbles. So I cheated. I used four 9 inch pans :).

After baking I covered each layer with a cream cheese frosting (two 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, one stick on butter and powdered sugar until I thought it tasted right). Then post frosting and chilling I tried a decorating technique that I had attempted previously and which had turned out to less than my satisfaction. I covered the cake with chocolate decorated by a chocolate transfer sheet. It seems pretty simple when you talk through it: cut the transfer sheet into the size and shape you want, cover with melted chocolate, let it set a little, put on your cake, then when completely set peel off the plastic.

Reality of course, is always slightly different. My round piece was too small and my side pieces too tall. Despite that, it didn't look too terrible when it was finished.

Sure it could have looked better but it also could have looked a lot worse. So I declare a semi victory. Yay. Other than getting your measuring straight, the trick with this is to make sure to let the chocolate set on the transfer enough so that when you're handling it all the chocolate stays put and doesn't slide off. But make sure that it doesn't set up so much that it's no longer pliable. I used these at Christmas too but for a much simpler project. After dipping truffles in ganache I dropped them on the sheets instead of on just plan wax paper. Those turned out pretty well.

After the cake (which did not turn out nearly as red as I'd hoped despite the almost entire bottle of red food coloring) I made brownie balls. What's a brownie ball? you ask. Well...first you bake yourself a pan of brownies according to the mix instructions. When they're cool, dump them in a bowl and mix with the frosting of your choice. I used coconut pecan to make German chocolate brownies.

When you've got it all mixed roll into balls and either let them sit in your fridge for a few hours or in the freezer if you're in a time crunch. For the dipping I followed a recipe I found on All Recipes. Mix a 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon each of vanilla and butter and 8 ounces of chocolate chips. Then dip the balls, knock of the excess, set on wax paper and put them back in the fridge to set up.

Now for the lessons learned part. Make sure that you completely bake the brownies. I always under bake mine because I like them a little gooey, but when you mix a gooey brownie with frosting, especially one like the coconut pecan, gooey becomes gooshy and it's kind of a mess. Lesson number two...the sweetened condensed milk recipe was a bad idea all around. Don't do that. I went for that instead of a ganache because I happened to have a can of sweetened condensed milk at home and didn't want to buy the heavy whipping cream I would need for the ganache. Go for the ganache. The recipe I followed was thick and gloopy, was very difficult to work with, and never really set up.

That was after sitting in the refrigerator all night. They did not want to be separated from the wax paper. Despite the mistakes, they tasted fabulous and in fact, my coworkers were ready to nominate me for godhood (ok so maybe that was my suggestion).

04 April 2010

I'm Famous!

My hair and I made a local blogger's site. Check out Roz Writes.