The Gleeful Gourmand: The Gleeful Gourmand Ditches Recipes

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Gleeful Gourmand Ditches Recipes

A couple of months ago, one of my best friends, Kiki (formerly of I Still Hate Pickles, now currently writing over at KirstenOliphant.com), came into town with her baby, Cooper, for a visit. We had such a great time doing what we do best together: eating, drinking, watching awful movies and TV, and laughing our heads off.

On her last night here she suggested we do something we've never really done together: bake. We've made meals for each other and shared countless meals, but we've never really worked together in the kitchen. Kiki stopped at a grocery store and picked up a handful of random items and gave us a challenge to create something a la "Chopped" with absolutely no peeking online or in cookbooks to help us.

Gulp.

As most of you know, this is not at all how I cook. It has taken me decades to learn how to go off-grid, but only if I've tested an actual recipe about a dozen times. I have plenty of people in my life who throw out the books and recipe cards all the time (my friend Alison calls it cooking with "The Force" which I love), but me? It makes me uptight.

Kiki knows this about me, and I suspect that this little exercise was her way of showing me how fun just making up stuff as you go along is, and that I could do it. But first I was going to have to relax. Out came the wine.

Here's what we were working with:

Strawberries
Soft Ladyfingers
Hazlenuts
1 package of Chocolate Chunks
Heavy Whipping Cream


Breakin' it down - strawberries, that is. Thanks to Kirsten Oliphant for the great photos!

We brainstormed for a bit, and decided to make what we later called a "Triflemisu" - part Trifle, part Tiramisu. The first thing we decided to do was to macerate the strawberries in about 1 Tbsp. of sugar. While those were breaking down, we ate some dinner, and put all our kids to bed. Then, it was on like Donkey Kong. Out of my liquor cabinet came some Starbucks Coffee Liquor, Chambord (a raspberry liquor), and Godiva Chocolate Liquor to soak the Ladyfingers in.

Next, we whipped up the cream, and melted some of the chocolate chunks. We were going for a chocolate whipped cream. Well, I don't know where my head was, but it definitely wasn't in the game.



"Crap!" I screamed right before pouring the chocolate into the cream. "It's going to melt it!" Into the fridge it went to cool off. More wine was poured.

We added some to the whipped cream after it cooled off, and I mentally smacked my head again as I watched the whipped cream not become chocolatey, but rather sport flecks of chocolate. Fail. I know better than that, I thought. I could have easily used cocoa powder.

"That's okay!" Kiki said, "It looks like cookies n' cream."

Toasted hazelnuts mmmmm...

Lastly, as Kiki toasted the hazelnuts, I decided I would make a ganache for the top of our creation. I had just watched someone do this on TV, and although I had done it myself a few times, I couldn't remember how. I begged Kiki to let me look it up, but she refused. I thought it was something to do with melted chocolate and cream, so I melted the rest of the chocolate chunks, and while it was warm, I added some of the cream and whisked.

Ganache it did not. It turned into a grainy, lumpy mess. Which Kiki then ate with a spoon straight out of the bowl. That girl knows how to make the best out of every kitchen fail! Meanwhile, I looked in our cupboard, and got out a bar of dark chocolate which I chopped and melted. It wouldn't be ganache, but at least we could use it. Bourbon was poured over some ice as we came down the homestretch.

We assembled our creation with layers of Ladyfingers, strawberries, whipped cream, and topped it with the toasted hazelnuts and melted chocolate (which actually gave it a kind of Magic Shell effect). It was a delicious mess. Boozy, sweet, with a wonderful crunchy top. I wouldn't say it was the best thing I've ever made, but it was really good. Buck came home from a night out with the guys and declared it a success. We were pretty pleased with ourselves, and I honestly had fun failing, and turning those failures to our advantage. We also decided that there was no way we could ever be on the show "Chopped."

A beautiful, delicious mess. Behold, the "Triflemisu"

In a couple of weeks, I'm going to try it again - this time I'm going to research some different elements and see what happens when I follow parts of a recipe. Can I make it better? Will it still turn out a delicious mess? Tune in to see what happens!

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