I got kind of excited about food this weekend. Instead of one of our usual Sunday night dinners, we decided to have a Mardi Gras/New Orleans food theme for our Oscar party and cover both at once.
So Saturday I got busy. I decided that, for once, I wouldn’t be scrambling around on Sunday afternoon, hoping and praying that the food would be ready in time to take for dinner. (I felt very productive and proud of myself. Until about 5 pm, when it got frustrating, but that’s a whole different thing.)
First, I decided I would make Bacon Caramel Popcorn from this article about Oscar party food in the Huffington Post. (Yes, I know caramel popcorn has nothing to do with Mardi Gras. But…bacon. And caramel. Good enough for me!) It didn’t sound too difficult and I thought it would be good to pass around during the show.
It tasted pretty good. BUT (there’s always a ‘but’) it didn’t make very much at all. I was able to mostly fill one cookie tin. It was about as much popcorn as you get from a regular sized microwave popcorn bag. (Not the little dinky ‘single serving’ size. Yeah, right. Like THAT is a single serving. Pppfffttt.) I mean, I could have eaten just about all of it by myself during one show. Not great to take for a big crowd. So that’s one strike.
The second strike was that it was kind of a lot of trouble for no more return than I got. And I even used homemade caramel sauce that I already had in the fridge. AND real maple syrup instead of maple extract. I think it would have been just as effective to buy some caramel corn and throw some bacon bits in it.
Which is not necessarily a bad idea . . .
The second thing I decided to make was a fabulous dessert I found on Half-Baked Harvest — Beignet Tiramisu with Chocolate Ganache. Her photo looked in.cred.i.ble. Of course, she used lovely, tall parfait glasses. BUT (there’s that word again!) she also said it could be done in a 9×13 pan. That was definitely a better option for me, since I had to transport the dessert AND it would probably stretch into more servings. So I got busy.
Of course, I had to change some things around. I’m not a huge fan of marscapone cheese (I find it pretty bland and it feels weird in my mouth. Just a personal opinion. Feel free to eat it all you like.), so I decided to use ricotta instead. It is cheaper and has a little more flavor, IMO. So far, so good.
I didn’t have any Kahlua, and since I’m not a huge Kahlua drinker, I went in search of a good substitute for cooking. I found several sites that said coffee with a little cocoa powder worked well, so I did that. I figured since it was already going to have coffee in it, what was a little more?
I had some really awesome butterscotch toffee flavored coffee, so instead of using just plain coffee to soak the beignets, I wanted to use that. I thought it would give it a little extra oomph. That was also a good choice.
Finally, I decided that instead of sticking to just chocolate ganache, I would add a drizzle of butterscotch sauce, to complement the flavored coffee.
With my plans all made, I got busy. I made the beignets from scratch, instead of from a grocery store mix. That was a first, but it worked out fine. (I’ve always bought the Cafe du Monde mix at the store. It is a bit quicker, because you don’t have to wait for the dough to rise, but the dough is pretty basic ingredients which means no trip to the store! Laziness won.) I would recommend frying them in an electric skillet, instead of on the stove top, because you can control the temperature of the oil much easier. But if you don’t have an electric skillet, stove top is fine.
The only problem I had was in converting the recipe to a 9×13 dish. I used a glass dish, thinking you would be able to see the layers on the sides and it would be pretty. Not so much. I bet a trifle bowl would work well, though. (I just now thought of that. Oh, well.)
Cutting and layering the beignets wasn’t a problem.
Spreading the ricotta mixture without ending up with a big wad of beignet pieces at one end of the the dish was a minor problem. but not bad.
The ganache, however, was a bigger issue. The amount called for in the recipe may have been the right amount for parfaits, but when you are trying to cover a 9×13 dish, there was nowhere near enough. I tried to spread it around, which mostly just mixed it with the ricotta layer, which kind of screwed up the “layer” idea. I used all of the ganache on the first layer, so instead of a butterscotch drizzle, I opted to make a butterscotch layer on top, in place of the ganache.
I had never made homemade butterscotch sauce before — only caramel. They are similar and it turned out beautifully. I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen just as written. (I could have forgotten about the beignets and just eaten the sauce with a spoon. It was that good!)
I refrigerated the whole thing until Sunday evening and then cut it into squares to serve. Everyone seemed to like it, even with the changes. I wasn’t thrilled with how it LOOKED, but the flavor was really good.
Finally, I had to make French bread for the po’boys. (Yes, I was trying to do all of these at once. I know better now.) This is a good lesson in reading the recipe all the way through before starting! I had a French bread dough recipe in my bread machine cookbook. I THOUGHT I had made it before. Not so much. The stupid dough had to rise 3 more times AFTER it took it out of the machine. And I had plans Saturday night. And it turned out hard enough to use as a baseball bat. I will never use that recipe again.
So Sunday afternoon was spent re-making French bread loaves, instead of napping. (The result was much better the second time. With a different recipe. And no other projects going simultaneously.) I guess it serves me right for not reading ahead and trying to do too many things at once.
Lesson learned (at least for the moment).