Ultimate Grilled Cheese Contest Skunkworks

Recently, I found out about a contest where the top prize for an original grilled cheese sandwich recipe is $15,000. Motivated by the money, I decided to do some experimentation with bread, cheese, and the lubricant with which to fry them. Having read an e-newsletter article which recommended frying the bread for grilled cheese sandwiches in mayonnaise instead of butter, I thought, given the trendiness of avocado toast, this avocado oil mayo recently ordered from Thrive Market might be ideal for the purpose. When I suggested the idea to my family, my sister joked that the resulting creation should be called “That ’70s sandwich” and that it would come out to be the shade of avocado green that was popular back then. Well, upon frying in the cast-iron skillet, the sandwiches looked normal, but it was our faces which turned that shade of green, because the flavor …wasn’t what I’d hoped. To be more specific, it was reminiscent of vomit. That’s one ingredient/variation/cooking technique crossed off the list…now to go shopping for Wisconsin cheese.

Add comment April 17th, 2016 Laura

No, I’m not making any money from this blog

(Unless you, the reader, click on an ad…please!) Changing societal and economic forces have affected the climate for food writers…see the following link for a much more articulate explanation than I could give:
Food 52′s advice for future food writers

Add comment December 8th, 2013 Laura

Black frosting experiment, take 1

Recently, my sister got a whim to produce black frosting. She loves everything chocolate, and as she has grown to adulthood and developed more sophisticated tastes, dark chocolate has become her chocolate of choice. To that end, she ordered a container of Black Onyx Cocoa powder. She already requested one recipe, Triple Chocolate Oatmeal cookies, which came out deliciously with the new darker-than-standard cocoa powder. (It also must be the secret behind Milk & Cookies‘ dark chocolate cupcakes).
Having seen accounts and instructions for making black frosting/icing which involved artificial food coloring which conferred a tart or bitter flavor upon the icing they were in, she sought a natural way to achieve a sufficiently black color with which to ice Disney mouse ears, black Halloween cats, and more. Admittedly, this is a difficult assignment, but in the spirit of experimentation, I tried the first of what are three planned black frosting experiments: a cocoa-based chocolate frosting recipe with reduced blackberry puree in lieu of water. The experiment was a partial success: it is probably not pipe-able (but this is frosting not icing, I put in perhaps a little much concentrated blackberry puree and perhaps too little coca powder/powdered sugar). In Michelle’s view, it came out edible but not optimal. It was a success in the sense that it was quite dark in color (a dark brown-black just a shade under true black) and it tasted chocolate-y with just a little trace of blackberry. A great improvement over the artificial taste of using artificial colors. So, now I just have to experiment with proportions. the following is the recipe we used:
Creamy Cocoa icing
2 and two-thirds cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
one-third cup cocoa (I used the Black Onyx dark chocolate Cocoa)
one-third cup soft butter
3 to 4 tbsp. milk (I used the blackberry puree, previously strained for seeds-thanks, mom- and reduced in a small sauce pan on a burner on the stove)
Sift sugar & cocoa together. Add butter and milk. Stir until well-blended. Makes frosting for two 8″ or 9″ layers or 13 x 9″ oblong. I used to to frost a dozen chocolate muffins, serving in the office of cupcakes.

Add comment August 5th, 2013 Laura

Extreme Lemon Cake Pudding, or in this case, transparent super lemony sauce!

Lemon Cake Pudding (as the 1964 Betty Crocker Cookbook calls it) is a big favorite in my house. An old yellowed recipe card, with the writing in my great-grandmother’s cursive with fountain-pen, gives the exact same recipe with the same instructions and ingredients as “Lemon Puff”.
This recipe is similar to it, though the 1964 one and my great-grandmother’s do not call for butter.
The present-day Betty Crocker website provides instructions for something that’s not quite the same thing and doesn’t require beaten egg whites to raise the thing or fresh-squeezed lemon juice: but calls this excuse for pre-packaged brand-family ingredients Lemon Pudding Cake.
Anyway, I went on a baking binge today: having prepared a full dinner, I also made more than one dessert, and did the prep work (mixed the dough and put the wax-paper wrapped rolls of dough in the fridge) for Lemon Rosemary Slices. One of the desserts I made was a double batch of lemon cake pudding. It is useless to make a single batch in my household, because it is not long before it is all gone, and folks are clamoring for more. It got so that at one point, I ended up doing the math to quadruple the recipe. In order to effectively make 4 times the amount in one go, I ended up using the largest bowl in the house in order to mix up the final combination before putting it in the oven: it was a giant glass bowl (holding several gallons at least) which came with the Oster food processor set which my mother bought in the early 1980s. Even so, the bowl often overflowed its banks. Alas, my days of making enormous quantities (which only qualified as adequate in this house) came to an end a couple of years ago, when in a freak accident, the bowl broke after tumbling from a precarious position in our overcrowded kitchen. So much for tempered glass!
Somehow I don’t think I’ll be having this problem with this batch. After I had gotten the dinner underway and the Lemon Cake Pudding (in two vintage 1960s/1970s style covered casserole dishes, thank yew very much…) out of the oven, my mother asked me how much milk was left. “Well, I only put a cup and a half in the batter for the apple fritters…” and then I realized I had forgotten to add the milk to the lemon cake pudding…after having gotten everything mixed together and congratulating myself on how well it was going to turn out, because I had beaten the egg whites to a heretofore impossible condition of stiffness and fluffiness with my mother’s new KitchenAid mixer. I now put two and two together…no wonder they came out of the oven much darker than usual-but had not fallen. How did they taste? Well, the egg white seems to have completely separated from the lemon sauce, and the lemon sauce is transparent and bright, clear yellow. And the taste: shockingly sour and sweet, amped-up lemon and sugar. No, not inedible (if you like sourballs and acid drops), but hold on to your tastebuds, it was hardly the intended result!

Add comment August 5th, 2013 Laura

Peach pie with speculoos crust-the tasting verdict!

Alas, when rolled and baked as a pie crust, the dough for what are normally spiced refrigerator cookies doesn’t retain its spicy kick and smooth, hard texture. Due, perhaps, to the unquantifiable amount of flour it absorbs from the rolling and kneading process, it has assumed a much more grainy texture, and while the spices are still apparent, they are muted in influence. The crust was the worst of both worlds: it did not get flaky with increased “working” as conventional pastry crusts do (or are supposed to). Perhaps another attempt will be with a more conventional recipe for pastry with the right spices simply added.
It turns out that it wasn’t overkill to blind-bake the bottom crust to the extent that I did, to ensure that it was cooked on the inside, before putting the peaches in (perhaps I should have even given it more time alone in the oven) as peaches, when baked, tend to exude a lot of liquid. And no, it didn’t help matters that the pie in question came into the world on a humid July night, and is currently sitting on a kitchen counter through a humid July day.
Though I was lucky enough to avoid having baked a pie with raw dough within, the inside (and that pesky top crust, which will likely be replaced with a crumb topping the next time I try to bake such a pie) has gotten very soggy and so there are some small masses of dissolved dough when you cut the pie.

Add comment August 5th, 2013 Laura

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