Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Perfect "Proper" Greyhound

Proper Greyhounds

We have a favorite new cocktail in this house, and I think it might be time to think about a grapefruit tree for the potager. This all came about a few weeks ago, when James ordered one at the Hungry Cat in Los Angeles. On their menu, it's called a "Proper Greyhound." I'd kind of forgotten about them since we'd first tried them at their Santa Barbara restaurant a couple of years ago, but one sip and it all came flooding back. The tang of the grapefruit juice and the zip of the Plymouth gin are a match made in heaven - and with just a little sweetening, they go down easier than one might think.  I found some ruby red grapefruits at Sage Mountain Farms, and made a trip to BevMo where I picked up the gin. (That 5 cent wine sale is dangerous!) I had some simple syrup in the fridge and with that we were in business.
Proper Greyhounds

This is so not a fussy drink that it hardly even needs a recipe, but here is an approximate formula for one cocktail. Multiply it as you see fit and of course feel free to modify it to your taste. Perfection is subjective, after all!

A Perfect Proper Greyhound
inspired by The Hungry Cat

The juice from two-three large-ish ruby red grapefruits  (to make about 6 oz. of juice)
2 ounces of Plymouth Gin
1-2 teaspoons of simple syrup*

Fill two rocks glasses with ice cubes. Pour the gin over the ice, and top the glasses up with the juice. Add a teaspoon of simple syrup - taste, then add a little more syrup if needed. Isn't it a lovely color?

*to make simple syrup just combine equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar, remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in the fridge.

Bonus - if make the candied grapefruit peel using this method, which just requires simmering the halves in water then candying them in a sugar syrup. They make a lovely garnish, but by no means are they necessary to fully enjoy the intoxicating effects of this beverage.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My Favorite Chocolate Cake (No Foolin'!)

Robertson Family BBQ Desserts

I've tried a lot of chocolate cakes in my time, and baked a few myself, but I knew, the instant I tasted it at Starlite one evening last fall, that this one was The One. It was dark, dense, moist, not too sweet, and absolutely huge - with nice thick layers about one and a half inches tall. I liked it so much that I asked our server for the recipe and wrote my email address on a slip of paper for him to give to the chef. I'd almost forgotten about it when lo and behold - about two months later the recipe appeared in my inbox.

This is pretty rare for me, settling on one recipe I could use for the rest of my life. Aside from my go-to roast chicken I seldom make anything the same way twice. This cake just really does it for me though. Not only is it perfect in terms of its flavor, moistness and size - it's one of the simplest recipes I've seen and very nearly foolproof. It also stores well (I froze mine for a week) and it's so moist that I can't imagine it would ever dry out.
Starlite Chocolate Cake

The only caveat is that the recipe makes a LOT of batter. So much, that at first I didn't believe it would fit into the two cake pans. When it came time to mix the wet and dry ingredients together, I discovered I actually didn't have a big enough bowl, and had to retrieve an enormous one I found at an estate sale, that I had planned to sell in my Etsy store. That bowl is now in my kitchen cabinet, which is where it will stay now that I know I will need it every time I make this cake. If you don't have an enormous bowl, you might try adding half of each of the wet and dry ingredients (by weight) to a third bowl in two batches.

This cake bakes up so tall that you could probably get away with halving the recipe and baking one layer for most occasions. It is nice to know though, that when one of those occasions comes along when nothing but a big, honkin' chocolate cake with thick, fudgy frosting will do - this one's your man.
Starlite Chocolate Cake

Starlite Devils Food Cake
adapted from Sharon La Bate - Pastry Chef at Starlite, and graciously shared by Marguerite Grifka.

Dry Ingredients:
3 cups sugar
2 ¼ cups All Purpose Flour
2 ½ cups cocoa (I used Valrhona)
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
3 yolks
1 ½ cups coffee
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
6 oz. melted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line two nine inch cake pans with parchment and grease well (grease the pan before putting the parchment in so it doesn't slip, then grease the paper too.)

Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk all of the wet ingredients together well in a separate bowl.

In a very large bowl (a six quart or larger Kitchen Aid should also work) gently fold the dry into the wet ingredients, and whisk gently, just to get rid of any lumps. (If you don't have an enormous bowl but you do have a kitchen scale, you can also weigh out half of each and blend them together in a third bowl, then just pour each batch directly in the cake pans.)

Evenly divide the batter between the two pans, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean (a few moist crumbs are ok) Allow the cakes to cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes, then turn out of the pans, peel the parchment off, and allow to cool completely before storing.

This batter would also make great cupcakes - just fill your papers about 3/4 full, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until dry and springy to the touch. Take the cupcakes out of the pan as soon as they are cool enough to handle, so that the steam doesn't cause the papers to come off.

Thick Fudgy Frosting
1 pound of powdered sugar
3 sticks of butter, softened
8 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 Tablesoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash salt

Whisk cocoa powder and salt into warm melted chocolate until dissolved set aside to cool to warm. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on high speed, beat butter until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and gradually beat in powdered sugar, then sour cream and vanilla, scraping the bowl down as needed.

With the mixer running on low speed, add melted chocolate to mixture and blend, scraping the bowl well to make sure it's all incorporated. Frost the cake immediately. If the mixture gets too thick, you can thin it with a little milk or cream.