Gutsy Cooks Club Menu # Cassoulet and Roasted Beet and Feta Salad as well as Thai Noodle Stir Fry

First of all I wanted to say that last week was so hectic that I didn’t get a chance to post about the menus but I did do the Sweet and Sour Chicken, which was delicious.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of it to post, but we all loved it.  I decided to save the Thai Noodle Stir Fry for this week and we had it for dinner tonight.  It was superb and I think it will become a staple around my house.

On to the cassoulet, I have had cassoulet many times in France and I have always found it to be rather heavy and greasy because of all the duck fat and the usual duck confit.  I have to confess that we are not very big duck connoisseurs in my house and we usually leave duck for restaurant dining as it seems to always be better when ordering it out than when I make it at home.  I took some artistic license with this version and substituted chicken leg quarters for the duck legs and I also used some bratwurst I had on hand along with the Italian sausage.  I can’t begin to tell you about the incredible aroma that filled my house while this was cooking.  I also had several neighbors stop by to ask what I was making because the smell was permeating the neighborhood.  I invited several of my neighbors over to sample it as this recipe made a large quantity and I really didn’t want to be eating this all week.  It was a big hit with everyone.

The beet salad was also a big hit around my house.  The beets are just starting to show up at the farmers markets and I found some beautiful smaller ones to use for this salad.  I love the combination of the roasted beets, feta cheese and red onion on top of the peppery arugula.  Arugula sometimes can be too bitter when used alone in a salad and I often combine it with a variety of others greens to offset the bitterness but this combination seemed to tame it’s bitterness perfectly while still allowing it to shine through.  The dressing was also wonderfully fragrant and a perfect foil for the beets and cheese.  We had it for lunch this afternoon and it was just the perfect weekend lunch with some nice crusty Italian bread.

Thai Noodle Stir Fry

Orange-Glow Chiffon Layer Cake

As I get older I seem to be losing my taste for chocolate, but as that happens, my taste for citrus is growing.  Lemon, orange, lime, tangerine and grapefruit seem to be becoming staples in my cooking and most certainly in my baking.  I am always looking for new ways to use citrus these days and this Orange chiffon cake certainly takes center stage in that respect.  I also seem to have developed a new fondness for chiffon cake.  I remember a year of so ago relating the story of my aunts mazola oil cake, which was a chiffon cake.  She made it for all the family events and I had an extreme dislike for it.  It was heavy and leaden and always, at least to me, was greasy and tasted oily.  Not so, these new chiffon cakes that we have made from this book.  I have gone through my posts for all the chiffon cakes we have made and can’t seem to find one that I didn’t like.  This one is no exception and I dare say, is even my favorite of the chiffon cakes.  It is light and delicate, almost like an angel food cake, with a bright and lively flavor of orange.  It needs no adornment and can most definitely stand on its own.  While I like it as a snack cake and to pair with a cup of tea in the afternoon, it can certainly hold  up as a fine dessert when paired with the orange cream.  Most definitely a keeper and well worth making often.  I have to admit that I really was a bit baffled by the use of the rose nail in this cake.  Why not just bake it in a tube pan or fancy bundt pan?  None the less, I did give it a go and while I still, after baking it, didn’t see the need for it or the point of it, it certainly did no harm.  Let’s bake… 

The cake is simplicity itself and again, you will find that the mis en place is the most work you will expend putting this together.  

Separate the egg whites and yolks and set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the flour, all but a tablespoon of the sugar, the baking powder and salt.  Add the yolks, oil, vanilla, orange zest and orange juice and blend until the dry ingredients are moistened.  

Adding wet ingredients to dry

Raise the speed to medium high and mix for about a minute and a half, until the mixture is thick and fluffy.  Set aside. 

The completed yolk mixture

Whip the egg whites until foamy and with the mixer off, add the cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and whip until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. 

The whipped egg whites

 Fold the whipped egg whites into the yolk batter until combined.  

The finished batter

 Pour into the prepared spring form pan and insert a rose nail into the center of the cake until it rests on the bottom of the pan.   

Inserting the rose nail, who knows why!

Bake at 325 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes or until done.  When done, invert the cake on a rack which has been raised at least 4 inches about the work surface and allow to cool for an hour.  Unmold the cake and cool completely.  Serve with the orange whipped cream. 

Baked cake, not attractive but OH SO GOOD


To make the cream, heat the orange marmalade until melted, push through a sieve and set aside to cool.  Whip the chilled cream until beater marks form.  Add the orange zest and whip until soft peaks form.  Serve. 

Now, I have to say that this cake lasted about 20 minutes in my house and I was back in the kitchen making a second one.  It was that good.  It is by no means and attractive cake but as it seems to be an unadorned snack cake or the base for a decorated dessert, who cares.  It is delicious, like eating an orange cloud.  To be honest, and I hope you don’t mind Rose, I am renaming this cake right now.  I officially name it, “The absolute, best damned orange chiffon cake ever”.  It is truly that good.  When I baked my second cake, I did give in to my curiosity and baked it in a tube pan.  It baked up just fine and I found it to be a bit more attractive than the one baked in the springform pan.  No matter which way you go, it is spectacular eating.  Now, please someone, explain to me about this rose nail because I really can’t see any reason for using it at all and until I hear some logical explanation, I am chalking this part up as a pure gimmick.  No matter what, I will make this cake again and again, but I really would like to know the reason for the nail. 


Next Up:  Karmel Cake

She Loves Me Cake

For this weeks free choice I wanted a simple snack type cake to have on hand for lunches and afternoon snacking. This cake fit that bill to a tee.  At first I was going to just make it in a round pan, split it and fill it with the lemon curd and berries and serve it as a shortcake type cake but while reading through the recipe a second time I noticed that Rose also recommends using a tube pan for it and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to use my favorite tube pan again.  That is what I did. I just made it as a simple bundt cake and served it with curd and berries or just slice off a piece and eat it out of hand with a tall glass of cold milk.  Great for taking off the hunger pangs after work.  The cake is simple but redolent with butter and vanilla and it just doesn’t get any more basic or better than that.  It’s also a nice foil for a variety of fillings if you chose to go that route.  I can feel the old wheels turning and will definitely be making this simple cake in a variety of ways.  Let’s bake.

This is another one of Rose’s really simple cakes. The mis en place is actually the most work involved.  I gathered everything together the night before I wanted to bake and I was literally in and out of the kitchen in 15 minutes the next morning and free to go about my chores while the cake baked.  It just doesn’t get any easier than that.

In a small bowl, blend the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the milk and the vanilla and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix to combine thoroughly.  Add the butter and the rest of the milk and blend until moistened, then raise the speed to medium and blend for one and a half minutes. 

Butter and Milk incorporated

Adding the eggs

 With the mixer on low add the egg yolk mixer in two additions blending about 30 seconds between each addition.  Raise the speed to medium and blend for another 30 seconds.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. 

The finished batter

Ready to bake

 Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until done.

The baked cake

Cool on a rack for ten minutes and then unmold the cake onto a rack and cool completely.  That’s it.  Simple and very satisfying. 


Next Up:  Orange-Glow Chiffon Layer Cake

Gutsy Cooks Club: Irish Stew

I had my doubts about this recipe when I read that everything was just layered into a casserole and put in the oven to bake.  I have made oven stews before but I have always tossed the meat in some seasoned flour and browned it before it went into the casserole and into the oven.  I was leary about this but decided to follow the recipe as it was written.  Well, I should have listened to my instincts.  I layered all the ingredients into the casserole, added the seasonings and beef stock.  Covered the pan and put it into the 325 degree oven as stated in the recipe.  Well, after an hour when I went to check on it, the top layer of potatoes were hard as a rock and hardly even warm.  I knew this was going to be a problem. I took the cover off as stated in the recipe, and I increased the oven temperature to 350 degrees. After another hour I checked it again.  The potatoes were still rock hard and the meat, while starting to cook was a pasty gray color, hardly appetizing.  I also noticed that the stock was barely simmering and was still very thin.  I had hoped it would thicken a bit due to the potatoes.  After 2 hours and 30 minutes in the oven I finally took it out and put it on the stove to simmer for another hour to get the potatoes to cook and I had to thicken the gravy with some flour paste.  The meat was cooked but still an unappetizing greyish color. The meat definitely needed to be browned.  I was disappointed with this stew.  While it tasted fine, it was not very appealing to look at and really not all that great.  I won’t be making this one again.

Devil’s Food Cake with Midnight Ganache

Upon first glance at this recipe it seems like just your average run of the mill devil’s food cake.  If you stopped there you would be oh so wrong.  This is far more than your mothers weekly devils food cake.  The addition of the cognac cherries and golden syrup transform this simple cake from the ordinary to the sublime.  This is definitely an adult chocolate cake.  I have to admit that after last weeks rich and decadent cake I wasn’t much in the mood for more chocolate, but, after reading through the recipe, I was intrigued and boy am I glad that I made this.  Just as rich and delicious as last weeks extravaganza but not nearly as intense and perfect for everyday snacking as well as the end to a nice meal.  The hardest thing about making this cake I have to admit is all the wait time.  If you are not one of those people who reads through the entire recipe and assembles ingredients before you start in (and if your not you should be), you might get yourself into some serious trouble here.  There is a wait time of several hours for the cherries, cocoa mixture and of course the ganache has a 5 hour wait time.  Not something you want to do at the last minute.  Now, with all that being said, I will admit that this cake is not without it’s problems.  I don’t know what it is but I seem to have the worst time with Rose’s frostings.  This one was no exception.  Her frosting recipes seem simple enough.  This one was easy and I followed it down to the letter.  I used a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature while making the caramel.  I even went through the tedious food processor hoo haw and still ended up with a runny mess that rolls off the cake and pools on the bottom of the cake plate.  I made this frosting on Saturday morning and left it until Sunday morning before I put the cake together and it was still more of a chocolate sauce than a frosting. I finally whipped a bit and then chilled it for about 15 minutes and the stuff turned into total ambrosia. Not really any trouble to go through for something that tastes this incredible, still, since I always seem to have this problem with these frostings, I’d sure like to know what I am doing wrong.  Rose or Woody, if you are reading this, what am I doing wrong.    This has happened to me over and over again with the frosting recipes in this book.  Is it just me or is anyone else finding these frostings way too soft and runny?  Any ideas?  Still, the frosting was absolutely delicious and the addition of the cognac soaking liquid while on first taste did nothing, once it sat for a few hours really smoothed and mellowed the flavors.  Total heaven if you don’t mind a bit of trial and error to get the consistency right.  Do give it a try.  Okay, let’s bake.

While this cake has a few steps on the road to assembly, all are simple and as I have stated, should be done ahead.  For the cake, it is a typical formula that we have seen before.  Combine the chopped chocolate, cocoa and boiling water and whisk until smooth, cover and set aside to reach room temperature.  In a separate bowl combine the eggs, egg yolks,  creme fraiche and vanilla and whisk to lightly combine, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt and blend. 

Adding the butter

Add the butter and blend until the ingredients are crumbly, then raise the speed to medium and add the egg mixture and beat for about a minute and a half. 

Adding the eggs

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, lower the speed to low and add the chocolate mixture and combine.  Raise the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds to fully combine.

Adding the chocolate

 Pour the completed batter into two prepared 9 inch cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until done.  Cool the cakes on a rack for 10 minutes and then unmold onto a rack and cool completely.

Ready to bake

To make the cognac cherries, soak the cherries in the cognac for about an hour.  Drain the cognac and reserve for the ganache.  Stir the golden syrup into the drained cherries, cover and set aside until needed.

To make the ganache, combine the cocoa and boiling water and whisk to combine, cover and set aside.  In a food processor, finely grate the chocolate and then proceed to making the caramel.  Combine the sugar and water and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Boil the syrup without stirring until it turns a deep amber (370 degrees).  Remove it from the heat and carefully stir in the cream.  Return it to the heat and stir over low heat until the mixture is fully combined and uniform in color.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. 

Completed caramel

 With the food processor running, slowly add the hot caramel and process until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Finished ganache

  Add the cocoa mixture and process until evenly combined.  Scrape the ganache into a bowk and allow to stand for 1 hour.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 5 hours.

To assembly the cake, place one layer of a serving plate and add about 1 cup of the ganache, at this point you can also add the reserved cherries (and why would you want to leave them out?).  Place the second layer on top of the cherries and frost the top and sides and decorate as desired. 

Ganache and Cherries

You can certainly go all out for this but for some reason I chose to pay homage to my mothers devils food cakes and just frost it with billowy swirls of frosting, just the way she always did.  I think it was fitting.  On thinking about this cake, I think it would also be great to add a layer of lightly sweetened whipped cream along with the cherries inside or just reverse the whole thing and use the chocolate ganache and cherries as the filling and then just totally cover the whole cake in sweetened whipped cream.  No matter what you do, you can’t go wrong with this beauty.


Next Up:  Free Choice Week

Gutsy Cooks Club Menu #23: English Muffins and Eggs Benedict

It is funny because just this past week I was watching reruns of the French Chef and Julia was making English Muffins.  I found it interesting because I never think about making things like English Muffins.  They are always reserved for the buy at the store category.  Julia kept saying how once you made your own you would never want to eat store bought again.  I filed it away in the “I must try this file” and almost forgot about it until I read this weeks menu.  Here was my chance to try my hand at English muffins.  Well, as usual, Julia was right.  They are very easy to make and very very good to eat.  The dough goes together in a snap and can sit and wait for you until you are ready to cook the muffins.  I did it early in the morning Saturday and then was running all day doing shopping and errands and then I came home that evening, they were all ready for me to cook.  Just a few minutes in a frying pan on the stove and they were done and ready for breakfast the next morning.  You could easily make the dough before bed and leave it in the refrigerator to rise overnight and make them in the morning while the coffee brews.  No matter how you do them, they are easy and well worth the few minutes of effort.

As I have stated many times before, I absolutely hate eggs.  Luckily, Norman likes them so I was able to make Eggs Benedict as a special treat for him for breakfast and he really liked them.  His only negative comment was that the muffins were a bit chewy but that was the thing I liked most about them.  They had that nice chewiness that store bought muffins lacked.  At any rate, he was very pleased with his special breakfast and since I love hollandaise sauce, in spite of the eggs, I made myself a big plate of Eggless Benedict.  It was delicious and a real treat for me as well.

Moist Chocolate Raspberry Genoise

WARNING WARNING WARNING.  This is totally delicious, decadent, moist, chocolately and way over the top.  This is one of those miracle recipes which truly deserves the name heavenly.  I have really become a big fan of Rose’s genoise recipes.  As I said once before, that her recipe has replaced Julia’s in my go to repertoire.  This one is no exception.  Very moist, even without a syrup and totally chocolatey without being cloying.  A great base for any chocolate dessert.  I did notice after I was finished making it that Marie had noted a new mixing method.  It was too late for me to try it (although I didn’t have any problems following the original recipe) but I will check it out at another time.  I would definitely tell everyone to try this cake at least once, you will make it over and over again.  Even if all you do is the genoise base, you will never regret it.  Oh so very good.  I do have to warn you all again that if you go the whole nine yards and make this cake, it is very rich.  This is definitely not a recipe to serve after a big meal.  I think it is one of those extravagances where you brew a pot of wonderful rich coffee, get out the cordials, the best china and napery and invite several of your closest friends over for dessert.  This one will definitely show them how much you value their friendship.  It truly is heavenly.  Okay, let’s bake. 

This is one of those assembly type recipes.  Everything can be made a day or so ahead and then just assemble the cake the day you want to serve it so it easily fits into the busiest of schedules and none of the components takes very much time to put together.  First, the genoise base. 

Chop the chocolate finely and put it into a medium saucepan.  Pour on the boiling water and stir to combine and moisten the chocolate.  Cook the chocolate over low heat until it reaches a pudding like consistency.  Mine took several minutes longer than the stated 5 minutes but when dealing with chocolate and water I prefer to proceed very slowly to prevent the chocolate from seizing and everyone has a different idea of what low heat is so just proceed carefully and all will be well.  Cover the chocolate and set aside to reach room temperature. 

Chocolate cooked to pudding consistency

Beat the whole eggs and sugar until combined and then warm them, stirring constantly, over a pan of simmering water until they are luke warm.  Using a stand mixer, beat the egg mixture for at least 5 minutes until it triples in volume and is very fluffy.  

Eggs whipped to triple volume

 Sift the flour over the egg mixture in three additions and carefully fold the flour in between each addition.  Add the chocolate mixture and gently fold it into the eggs being careful not to deflate the mixture.  Divide the batter between two prepared cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes or until done.  

Ready to bake

Immediately unmold the cakes onto a rack and then reinvert the cakes onto a rack so the top side is up.  Cool completely. 

Meanwhile, make the cocoa syrup.  In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa.  Add a bit of the boiling water to moisten the ingredients, then add the rest of the water.  Bring the mixture to a roiling boil.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then stir in the Chambord. 

To make the raspberry sauce, thaw the raspberries in a sieve over a bowl to collect the juices.  You will need about 1/2 cup.  Set the raspberries aside and boil the juice down to about 2 tablespoons.  Puree the raspberries and strain to remove the seeds.  Stir the raspberry pulp into the reduced juice and add sugar.  Set aside. 

To make the ganache, chop the white and dark chocolate finely set aside.  Combine the raspberry sauce and the cream and heat to scalding.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolates.  Let stand a few minutes to melt.  Then whisk the mixture to combine and stir in the Chambord. 

To assemble, slice each layer in half to make four layers.  Set the base layer onto a cake plate and brush with the cocoa syrup, then spread about 1/2 cup of the ganache on top.  Repeat for the rest of the layers and then frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining ganache.  Decorate as desired.  

Brushing the layer with syrup

The completely frosted cake

As you can see, this one is decadent and definitely over the top.  Of course you could leave out the Chambord (but why would you want to?) and you can certainly just make the genoise and fill it with ordinary chocolate frosting or whipped cream and you would have a fine dessert, but when you want to pull out all the stops, this is the one to make.  You will be well rewarded. 





Next Up: Devil’s Food Cake with Midnight Ganache