peanut butter chocolate cake and fancy fails

IMG_3889This might be the best damn looking cake Miss Fats has ever made.  It’s also probably why it ended up being one of the most disappointing.  She’s  going to refer to this cake as a “fancy fail” from now on (notice it’s similarity to Fancy Feast).  Now this is being incredibly over dramatic and a bit self wallowing, but come on! Look at that thing.  It’s promising nothing but decadent flavor on par with its aesthetic level.  However this was not the case.  Spoiler alert: this is not a love story.

Ok Miss Fats will stop being a bummer to talk a little more about what’s going on with this beauty.  Since she’s fundamentally incapable of attending just about any event without a sweet treat in hand, Miss Fats’ recent invite to a belated wedding reception/joint birthday celebration was no exception.  This event boasted a wedding and two birthdays and therefore required her to impose a cake upon everyone.  Hell, Miss Fats wasn’t even really invited to this thing but you better damn well believe she was bringing a big ass cake in celebration.

IMG_3884She asked for her usual flavor request to help send her in a general direction; “chocolate?” was all she got.  Now this was the second chocolate cake of the week for Miss Fats (she had just gone to cacao town with D’s birthday cake earlier in the week).  Since Chicago weather had been crap, she didn’t even feel obligated to work with a cake that celebrated the sunshine and flavors of the summer (because let’s get real, summer literally just started in Chicago).  So shit was about to get real.  IE Miss Fats was going to lay down her favorite flavor combination of all time: peanut butter chocolate.

She knew there would be another cake at the party, so she felt less obligated to craft a cake that perfectly encompassed the couple (a task that Miss Fats’ has actually never even tried.  Though she can’t wait for a Frankenstein cake soon).  Instead, she was hoping to simply highlight the importance of celebration, decadence and excess.  This party was a fun and simple backyard affair, so the peanut butter seemed to be an appropriate way to dial back the ‘smance in favor of some childhood ooey gooey peanutty business.

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She knew that this type of celebration definitely required an actual cake: three celebrations can’t quite be encompassed in a little cupcake object.  However she’d been struggling with the humidity over the last week and was seriously worried about her super-moist chocolate cake recipe not holding up for this thing.  With D’s cake days before, the wet air wreaked havoc on the removing-cake-from-pan process and she thought it might be a good idea to go with a butter-based cake instead.  She’s a big fan of Bakers Royale and has a good deal of success with many of her recipe components, so when she found her Best Chocolate Cake Recipe it seemed like the natural choice.  It followed many of Miss Fats’ baking rules: minimal bowl action, no cake flour, and no butter creaming (these are not steadfast rules: just wonderfully attractive features that she often looks for).  It essentially resembled Miss Fats’ oil-based chocolate cake, but used melted butter instead.  She ended up using milk instead of the cassis because: a) Miss Fats really has no fucking idea what cassis is anyway and b) she’s a grad student not going to buy a bottle of that fancy liquor for one cake.  Given that the recipe produced two 8 inch cakes, Miss Fats ended up multiplying the recipe by 1.5 to get three 9 inch layers.  The cakes cooked beautifully and easily held up despite the wet wet air.

Now came the filling.  Miss Fats has been trying to think through the ultimate peanut butter filling for quite some time now.  Peanut butter is not just some creaming thing you can slap in between cake layers.  It’s a sticky-salty spread that should be celebrated flavor-wise, but requires a bit more work to transform it into a perfectly crafted cake filling that works with the textures of the cake and frosting.  She liked the idea of something between a buttercream/mousse: she wanted the intense flavors of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup, but a lightness that wouldn’t overpower the fluffy crumb of the cake.

She ended up going with Bakers Royale’s Peanut Butter Frosting, that boasted intense peanut flavor in the form of a buttercream.  She was a little worried about how much frosting this recipe produced and the intensity of the peanut flavor, so Miss  Fats made a couple of variations that she’s sharing with you here:

Peanut Butter Filling:
makes about 3 cups of filling
adapted from Bakers Royale’s Peanut Butter Frosting

1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup creamy, all natural peanut butter
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (dependent upon how sweet your peanut butter is)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt + more to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Set aside in the fridge.

2. Beat the butter and peanut butter on medium high until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and salt and mix until fully combined.  Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until combined.  Adjust salt based on your own preferences (Miss Fats obviously added more).

3. Fold the frosting into the heavy whipping cream.

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Since she was diggin’ on the look and feel of D’s chocolate cake from earlier in the week, she ended up going with the easy, spreadable chocolate ganache frosting.  Fully riding the salt-sweet train at this point, Miss Fats needed to jazz this thing up to keep it on par with the celebration level of the party.  She figured in-line with the backyard, slightly nostalgic feel of the event, a chocolate-covered pretzel would be the ideal object of decoration.  What says salt-sweet tasty town more than a chocolate covered pretzel?  However to keep it elegant (and photographable), she needed a bit of color contrast, so she ended up deciding to do both chocolate and peanut butter-dipped treats.  Miss Fats isn’t going to give you a recipe for these, since all she did was melt down about a cup of chocolate chips and a cup of peanut butter chips and dunked those suckers in.  To make them all pretty, she made a mess of herself and kitchen by using a fork to whip lines of peanut butter and chocolate across them. The only trick of these pretzels is not eating them all before they make it on to the cake (so so hard). Let them firm up in the fridge and stack them in a circle.  Boom. So pretty, yet to easy.

So what’s the problem, you ask? Is Miss Fats seriously just whining about how good looking her cake is?  Ok so here begins the abbreviated discussion of the cake’s problems (skip ahead if you’d rather live in cake fantasy land and see this as perfection).  So this is pretty fucking epic looking right?  And when you make a cake like this one, you want that first cut and bite to match the level of beauty (Miss Fats has a HUGE problem with beautiful cakes that cannot live up to their looks in flavor).  However, cutting into this cake, it crumbled. Total frosting/filling/cake mess.  The chocolate ganache pulled at the crumbly cake, destroying the three, carefully stacked layers.  Hardly the kind of display for a wedding: no embarrassing (cue tiny violins).  And while this mess may have been acceptable given the casual celebration, Miss Fats regrets to say that the flavor just didn’t quite make up for the disastrous structure.  There just wasn’t enough peanut butter filling to balance with the fudge of the cake and ganache.  Salt-sweet fail.

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Ok ok.  Miss Fats will stop now, because for the most part, guests seemed to really enjoy the cake (naively so).  And in the end, the bride and groom/birthday boy and girl seemed to really enjoy it.  Which is all she can hope for.  However if Miss Fats were to attempt this cake again, she’d seriously amp up that peanut butter filling: literally double that recipe.  She’d also return to her oil-based cake, which just has a bouncier texture that holds up to a sturdy filling like peanut butter.  This is to say that Miss Fats is not completely discouraged: she will try the ultimate peanut butter chocolate cake again.  Though this cake will probably haunt Miss Fats’ sugar dreams for a while, she recognizes that this was not a complete fail.  The real success came in making a beautiful cake for a beautiful crowd and couple.  They should just wait for peanut butter cake the sequel: coming to birthdays next summer.

donuts and drinks party

EndoftheYearInvite

Miss Fats’ dreams came true last week.  You know how sometimes all of the forces of the universe converge at fix all problems ever?  This happened last week, and it will forever go down in history as the day of infinite donut luck.  (Now when she says “all her problems were fixed,” Miss Fats really means that a big ‘ol fried dough band aid was slapped across her life and the universe called it a day. Donuts can’t write papers, but they can definitely delay them.)  Anyway, one (miraculously) sunny morning, following one of the greatest classic raised donuts of her life (that shit was warm, but more on that in a future post), she received a text from J inquiring whether she’d “won donut party.”  Naturally, given the donut party that had just happened in her mouth, she went on an on about that classic raised.  To which J responded to check twitter.  Logging on she found a cryptic tweet-back to a response she had totally forgotten she’d posted.  Late the night before she’d suggested a party option for Glazed and Infused twitter contest to win a “donut party for 20-30 people.”  Pitching and “end of the year party,” Miss Fats forgot her lame idea and went to bed.  So naturally, this was a huge surprise come morning.  She’ll save you the boring details of correspondence, but within thirty minutes she’d secured her winnings and was well on her way to dreaming up the ideal donut bash.

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Miss Fats was now sitting on top of a sugary evening for 20-30 guests up at Glazed & Infused Lincoln Park location.  They generously offered the entire shop on a Friday or Saturday night from 9 pm ’till 2 am, and donuts for all of my guests.  Now luckily Miss Fats has a little party-planning position in her department and access to funds as a result.  She and her partner had been struggling to nail down an end of the year gathering given Chicago’s weather schizophrenia.  And here was the answer, delivered fried and delicious by Glazed & Infused.  This meant that Miss Fats had a significant chunk of change to supply drinks with the donuts, and turn the evening into a real party (“real” party according to society at large.  Miss Fats considers almost any occasion where fried dough is consumed to be a party.)  Now the trickiest part of this party was really getting enough stressed grad students out of Hyde Park and all the way up north during finals.  Miss Fats was real worried she wasn’t going to be able to make it happen.  However she seriously underestimated her department and friends love of fried dough and drinks.  By the end of the RSVP period she was sitting on a guest list of 60 + people.  Glazed & Infused was incredibly kind to welcome everyone and offer donuts for all.  Life was good. Miss Fats was looking at a trunk full of alcohol, a donut supply for 60 excited guests, and a whole shop to themselves into the early morning hours.

IMG_3674Glazed & Infused Lincoln Park shop turned out to be a nice, intimate space for the gathering.  The long, two-roomed space had plenty of tables and even a nice bar to display the wide variety of drink options (see above).  Abraham (the greatest donut store manager of all time), let them have full control of the sound system to pair some tunes with the treats.  All in all, this was literally the easiest party Miss Fats has thrown all year.  Glazed & Infused laid out an incredible spread of donuts throughout the space.  Baking sheets were piled with a variety of their insanely indulgent treats and Miss Fats was delighted to see tray after tray of fried dough keep coming out.  They had everything from a classic vanilla bean raised to Glazed & Infused famous bacon maple bars and a range of crazy goodness in between.  Miss Fats seriously had trouble containing herself while those donuts were laid out; and naturally, as soon as they appeared to be finished, she and J tore into those suckers.  Instant sticky fingers and happy faces.  This was preceded by an insane tasting session, as they ran around trying all the different types and shoving their favorites into their purses (bad form: yes.  But she knew it was worth waking up to an old fashioned glazed the next morning.)

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By then, guests had started to arrive and the evening had started.  Miss Fats watched group after group of people arrive and their eyes burst out of their faces as they saw the sugar smorgasbord.  Most people got super excited and dove straight into the selection, emerging seconds later with sticky faces and hands.  It was like a delightful return to a childhood sugar rush over and over again.  Only you got to top it off with a cool refreshing adult beverage afterwards.  Guests meandered around the room cutting off bites from every flavor, trying their best to select a favorite.  Given the pace at which people seemed to dig into the spread, Miss Fats was a little worried they’d run out.  She underestimated the crashing powers of the sugar rush and actual number of donuts out there.  That initial gorging moment seemed to create a premature end to the donut-consuming portion of the night.

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Alright, alright enough of the people, let’s get to the donuts.  Miss Fats tried them all (you know: for “research” purposes).  The flavor list included: old fashioned, chocolate old fashioned, vanilla bean glazed, chocolate glazed, bacon maple, coffee glazed, lemon blueberry glazed, pistachio passionfruit, apple fritters, banana cream cheese, and blueberry goat cheese. That’s right. Take a moment to marvel in that list.

In the end, Miss Fats’ favorites included the chocolate and traditional old fashioned, vanilla bean glazed, and the lemon blueberry.  Clearly Glazed & Infused does the classics well.  The old fashionds were both incredibly flavorful, moist, cakey donuts that were not too sweet, but still a sugary delight: ideal coffee pairing donut.  The vanilla bean glazed was the big surprise of the night.  She almost never goes for a simple raised donut at a gourmet shop, but boy was Glazed & Infused a beautiful surprise.  The massive glazed donut was light, airy and perfectly moist.  Total cloud donut.  Finally, the lemon blueberry was a summery, tart mouth party of fun flavors.  They were such a nice treat following the gallon of classic donut glaze that was filling up her gullet.  Refresh your pallet with one of these dude on your next donut binge.  Now Miss Fats can’t go finishing this post without a shout out to the bacon maple glazed.  This has become a staple at most gourmet donut shops, but she has to say that Glazed & Infused serves this up right.  It’s hard to get the right balance between the fatty, salty bacon and the super sweet maple, but these long johns hit that symphony of salt and sweet that Miss Fats is always looking for.  Despite the fact that the bacon just kind of sits in the middle, every bite strikes the balance and never leaves you just eating center meat portion and doing away with the scraps.

photo (16)Despite the fact that the combo of alcohol and excessive sugar caused most of her guests to sugar crash (sugar party hard) before the clock struck midnight, Miss Fats has to say this might be the most successful party she’s ever thrown.  An essentially endless supply of donuts and the company of all her friends created a fantasy sugar evening that will go down in friend dough history.  The insanity of her twitter prize still shocks Miss Fats, and she hopes all her guests enjoyed themselves and had the proper sweet hang over the next morning.  Miss Fats would like to extend a HUGE THANKS to Glazed & Infused for all their hard work, crazy delicious treats, and awesome space.  It was a great party success (people need to marvel just in the fact that Miss Fats got 40+ students to show up), and she could not be more pleased with her undeserved winnings. She hopes everyone now be inspired to see donuts as the new ultimate party food and go throw an excessive sugar bash themselves.   You’re guaranteed to have nothing but infinite donut smiles:

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THANK YOU, GLAZED & INFUSED!

Note: This post is not officially sponsored by Glazed & Infused.  But hey, they did give Miss Fats a free party.

Other Note: Sorry for the lameness of these black & white images.  Miss Fats was too busy eating to properly document this miraculous event.

Korean BBQ Tacos

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Chicago seems to be suggesting we’re headed toward warmer times (although those thunderstorms and annoying snow flurries certainly played games with Miss Fats).  And what that means for Miss Fats’ appetite is nothing but tasty ethnic food cravings.  Come sunshine, she can’t get enough Thai noodles, crunchy Vietnamese spring rolls, or spicy tacos.  Yet one particular flavor has been on Miss Fats’ mind (and taste buds) lately: Korean BBQ.  For some reason, nothing sounds better than that sweet salty sauce and spicy kimchee.

One of Miss Fats’ favorite food discoveries since moving to the Midwest are the Korean Tacos at Del Seoul (this genius trend had not yet reached Seattle. Confusing.)  Unfortunately those crazy delicious shrimp tacos are damn far from Hyde Park, so Miss Fats was determined to recreate some of their goodness at home.  After a bit of research and picking up only one ethnic ingredient (might be two for you!), Miss Fats has created her homage to the Korean taco.

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This meat marinade is so easy and works for any cut of meat that you just want to cook the shit out of.  So far, Miss Fats has tried this with a whole chicken (which she quartered) and a hunk of pork roast.  Both were crazy good.  The BBQ sauce is deadly: you just want to suck it up with a straw.  And you can easily just make the sauce and throw it on any left over meat you might have lying around.

Korean BBQ Tacos and Asian Slaw:
BBQ sauce reproduced from Steamy Kitchen’s Kogi BBQ Sauce

marinade:
meat of choice (1 whole chicken, 3 lbs of pork roast, etc)
3 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs sriracha
2 tbs sake (or you can use any rice wine or increase the rice vinegar to 3 tbs)
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
water

bbq sauce:
2 tbs Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang) (Miss Fats found this pretty easily at an Asian grocery store in Chinatown)
3 tbs sugar
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp msg (totally optional.  Miss Fats has now tried it with or without: both times it was delicious.  The MSG just adds that little extra flavor that makes the sauce as addictive as those cold chow mein noodles sitting in your fridge.)

slaw:
1/2 english cucumber, thinly sliced
4 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned or shredded
1 cup shredded napa cabbage
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 tbs rice vinegar
pinch of salt
sesame seeds (optional)

corn tortillas
sriracha (optional)
kimchee (optional)

1. night before: make the marinade.  In your slow cooker base (or another bowl if your cooker doesn’t disassemble), mix all the marinade ingredients together except for the water.  Throw your meat down and pour enough water to cover everything.  Refrigerate over night.

2. morning: cook everything for approximately 8 hours on low (or 4 hours on high) (this will really depend on your meat and how much you’re cooking), until the meat is falling apart.

3. make the slaw (this can easily be done ahead of time): toss all the ingredients into a bowl and mix.  The longer you refrigerate this, the more pickle-like it will become: yum yum.

4. make the sauce.  Mix together all the BBQ sauce ingredients in a bowl big enough to hold all your tasty cooked meat.  Remove your meat from the slow cooker and shred whatever animal you’ve prepared.  Toss in all that salty sweet goodness.

To assemble these guys Miss Fats throws down a steamed corn tortilla (just put ’em in the microwave for 1 minute with a wet paper towel underneath), a healthy portion of shredded meat, and a mound of crunchy slaw.  Then (of course) a drizzle of sriracha is needed with a side of spicy kimchee for “palate cleansing.”

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Miss Fats hopes you enjoy these weird ethnic monster tacos.  Too bad if you think a corn tortilla can’t be a vehicle for salty sweet asian bbq tasty times: you’re wrong.  But seriously: get out there and try these.  Guaranteed addition.

fungal fear: the tale of two yeast breads

IMG_2712Miss Fats apologizes for that title: she knows how it sounds.  But seriously: she’s got a fear of baking with yeast.  This is not some deep-seeded, repressed childhood problem: it’s completely irrational.  Yeast baking tends to take hours and hours of waiting and work, and can often go terribly wrong.  There’s nothing worse than spending all that time to create a disappointing product.  So it’s essentially been years since Miss Fats has tried baking with yeast, but about a week ago, she had the urge for a new project and one of those little packets ended up in her grocery basket.

She is always pinning recipes for cinnamon rolls and various breads that look insanely delicious, but Miss Fats has never bitten the bullet and just freakin’ tried to make them.  However, she stumbled upon this simple olive oil-based morning bun that seemed manageable: not to mention she had all the ingredients.

IMG_2718Recipe in hand, Miss Fats set aside a whole day to tackle these buns.  She began by trying to wake the yeast up with a little warm water and sugar: did not go well.  She followed the instructions: letting them sit in their warm little bath but she was not convinced they were alive.  Obviously Miss Fats obsessively googled what properly proofed yeast looked like while all this was going on: it did NOT look the same.  However she decided to press on with her pathetic looking bowl of spit-foam and just make the dough.  Naturally, her brain turned off and she accidentally ended up using a 1/3 cup measuring cup instead of the 1/2 cup she assumed she’d grabbed.  This created some problems as she was integrating the flour into the dough, which was looking real sticky… Unfortunately she didn’t realize her mistake until more than halfway through the process.  She half-heartedly added more flour and threw the dough in a bowl to rise, totally convinced it was going to be a brick.

However Miss Fats could not deal with a total bread failure.  So she decided to give it another try. She realized the morning bun recipe was in fact a focaccia bread base, so worst-comes-to-worst: she’d have buns and a loaf of bread.  Blaming her yeast (not her brain), she went out and purchased a new packet.  Again, the proofed yeast didn’t come out as planned and that bowl of rising dough was looking real flat.  Low point.  Using the correct measuring instrument, she followed the recipe again and hesitantly threw the dough into a bowl, placing it in the warmest part of her apartment.  Luckily this batch began to rise along with Miss Fats’ spirits.  (She just pretended first batch dough didn’t exist.)

IMG_2743Miss Fats decided to alter the original recipe with some of the delightful preserves currently taking up space in her fridge.  She opted to fill these buns with butter, lemon curd and cherry preserves.  After rolling out her dough (with some effort: that shit is sticky), she spread melted butter all over it (because why not).  Next came the lemon curd and cherry, each spread over half of the rolled-out dough.  Doing her best to not make a mess, Miss Fats rolled up this gooey, jam-y mess and pinched the ends real tight.  She then cut that log up into twelve rolls, placing them into a 8×8 pan to rise again.  As you can see, this made a huge mess: oops.  Too much jam. Oh well.

IMG_2751She let the rolls sit out to rise again (so much waiting!), and finally checked on that forgotten bowl of rising dough.  To her surprise (literally 3 hours later), it had actually doubled in size.  Having no real idea what to do, she stretched the dough out onto an oiled baking sheet and pressed little holes with her fingertips to create focaccia’s dimpled look.

IMG_2723more waiting.

About an hour later, Miss Fats finally stuck the buns in the oven, fairly sure that they’d bubble over with jam and create a huge sticky mess of burnt sugar at the bottom of her oven.  These are the risks you take: she likes to live dangerously.

IMG_2774But they didn’t!  Somehow they turned out puffed, golden brown and oozing with fruity delight.  Clearly they looked at little naked, so Miss Fats decided to throw together a cream cheese glaze.  In a little bowl, she mixed about 4 oz of softened cream cheese, milk, lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth.  Then obviously she slathered those hot buns in this tangy, sweet sauce.

IMG_2777Yep. Take it in.

IMG_2791While they were still warm, Miss Fats dug into one of those sticky sweet buns which were surprisingly tender and chewy on the inside and crispy on the top.  The cherry preserves weren’t too sweet and went well with the cream cheese topping: think reconstructed danish.  She will say that these could have used more butter.  The subtle olive oil flavor of the dough was nice, but the excess of butter fat might always win on the baked good front.  Overall Miss Fats was incredibly pleased: she could not believe these little dudes actually came to life.

IMG_2761And back to the bread.  Feeling much more positive, Miss Fats finished off the focaccia loaf with a hearty dusting of kosher salt, some z’taar, and threw it in the oven to bake.  She was riding that hot bun high pretty hard, so even if this bread turned out as hard as a rock, she would have been elated with herself.

IMG_2764However it didn’t!  Instead Miss Fats got a fluffy, crunchy loaf of focacia bread!

Now how the hell to eat all this bready goodness? Called for a cheese plate.  Luckily Miss Fats’ a friend happy to oblige.  And Miss Fats and the breads lived happily ever after… then end.

Now Miss Fats probably won’t go baking bread every week, or even attempt a sticky bun for months, but she’s officially demystified the scary world of living yeast friends.  And bread week was awesome (she nom’d on that loaf for days), and just may have spurred a new special hobby to break out on those days when Miss Fats is stuck inside her lame apartment writing for hours on end.  Everyone deserves a fungus break after all.

Snickers Reece’s Monster Cake, or the most indulgent cake ever made

IMG_2557Just look at it. Pure cake monster.

Miss Fats is a huge supporter of celebration: mostly because it involves cake.  So when her friend’s 30th birthday rolled around she was thrilled to be able to create a crazy cake for the big day.  This particular friend has the palate of a ten-year old boy: there’s no such thing as sugar excess.  This was Miss Fats’ chance to make the most indulgent cake of her life: she’d like to think she delivered.  He tends to favor Snickers and Reece’s candy bars, so Miss Fats just went for it to create a cake that layers dark chocolate cake, peanut butter and chocolate pudding, and graham crackers, all topped off with chopped candy bars, chocolate ganache and homemade salted caramel sauce.  Yep. Welcome to Snickers and Reece’s mutant child: Miss Fats named him Georg (pronounced “gee-org:” say it right.)

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This cake has a number of steps, but doesn’t actually take as much time as you think.  Not to mention the decorating process is endlessly fun and you cannot screw it up.  The key is getting all the components: you need to bake cakes, make pudding, ganache, and caramel sauce. Miss Fats split the process over two days to allow the cake to fully set up in the pan.  She recommends assembling the cake in the loaf pan on day one, and then finishing it off with the sauces and candy the next day.  What emerges from 48 hours of labor is a layered loaf of cakey-pudding crazy time that will send you right back to that Halloween when we discovered just how good it was to shove a mini Snickers and a Reece’s cup into your mouth.  Seriously, though, you are getting every texture with this cake: the fluffy cake, smooth pudding, and a good crunch from the graham crackers all topped off with big chunks of candy that have been drizzled in chocolate and caramel.

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There are a number of shortcuts one could easily take with this cake to speed up the process: using box cake mix, instant pudding, etc.  But Miss Fats doesn’t recommend this. Ever.  All of these recipes are incredibly easy and frankly won’t take you much longer than the processed, instant versions.  Not to mention a good basic chocolate cake and pudding recipe is key to have in your arsenal anyway.  Miss Fats also apologizes for the poor photo quality.  She has to admit that this cake was made in the middle of the night and unfortunately the pictures reveal the state of lighting and her mind at the time.

IMG_2547Snickers Reece’s Monster Cake AKA Georg:
makes one 9x5x3 loaf pan cake
adapted from Baker’s Royale Snickers Cake

cake:
Miss Fat’s favorite easy chocolate cake recipe can be found here.  She simply halved the recipe, and substituted prepared black coffee for the water.

pudding:
1/2 cup corn starch
1/3 cup sugar
heavy pinch of salt
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (Miss Fats used unsalted chunky all natural)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

caramel sauce: Miss Fats used the recipe from Baker’s Royale and it was absolutely delicious.  All she added was a couple of good pinches of salt to give it that toffee, salty flavor.  ingredients and instructions are reproduced here.
1 cup sugar
6 tbs water
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup heavy cream

chocolate ganache:
4 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

2 snickers bars, chopped
3 packages of Reece’s (total of 6 regular sized cups), chopped
8 graham crackers (approximately)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make the cake: follow the instructions to make the batter in the link above.  Divide your batter between two greased 9×5 loaf pans and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

2. Make the pudding: in a large glass or metal bowl (that you can sit over a saucepan of water), combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk.  Whisk vigorously to avoid any corn starch clumps.  Place over a simmering pan of water, whisking fairly frequently.  Allow the pudding to thicken until it coats the back of a spoon (Miss Fats’ took about 30 minutes).  Divide the pudding in half.  In one bowl, mix in the peanut butter.  In the other, stir the chocolate chips into the hot pudding.  Taste and add additional salt if you’d like.

3. Assemble the cake: create a tin foil sling at the bottom of your 9×5 loaf pan by folding a long strip of foil in half and placing it across the width of the pan with sever inches hanging over the edge.  Line your pan with plastic wrap.  Place the first layer of cake at the bottom.  Follow up with a generous layer of peanut butter pudding (don’t skimp too much on this because the pudding helps keep the cake nice and moist).  Add a layer of graham crackers, followed by a thinner layer of chocolate pudding.  Repeat this step once more.  (You should have 2 layers of peanut butter pudding and 2 chocolate and 3 graham cracker.)  Top off with the second layer of cake.  This layer will be slightly smaller than the top of the loaf pan (if yours is tapered like Miss Fats’), so simply fill in the sides with chocolate pudding. Make sure you have an even top (if not, simple use additional pudding to do so).  Chill the cake overnight.  If your pudding was not super thick, Miss Fats recommends freezing the cake.

IMG_25454. Make the caramel sauce: place sugar and water into sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir and allow sugar to dissolve.  Once it has, turn up heat to high. No more stirring.  Simply swirl the pan as it begins to bubble.  Cook the sugar until it reaches a light golden brown (about 6-8 minutes): be careful not to take it too far.  Add the butter and cream and stir vigorously.  The mixture will bubble up so be careful.  Add a healthy pinch of salt. Remove from heat.

5. Make the ganache: heat the cream in the microwave.  Pour over chocolate chips, allow to stand for a about a minute and stir to combine.

6. Decorate the cake: to remove the cake from the pan, use the sling to make sure it’s loose (came out quite easily for Miss Fats).  Invert your serving platter (Miss Fats favors ones of the sea monster variety for this one) over the cake and flip.  Use the sling to make sure it comes out clean.  Remove the plastic wrap and foil.  Drizzle caramel sauce over top of the cake and mound half of the chopped candy bars on top.  Drizzle the ganache and more of the sauce.  Hell. just go to town with this.  No rules.  Drizzle and mound the hell out of it.

IMG_2551There you have it.  You’ve just birthed Georg.  Congrats on your mutant baby.  Miss Fats stored this monster in the fridge to allow all the sauce to set up.  She recommends allowing the cake to sit out for about 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

IMG_2555She hope you and your friends enjoy this pile of gooey, messy, chocolately goodness.  This cake is no joke and is NOT for amateur eaters.  Make sure to save Georg for only the best of your friends:

Best Gourmet Doughnuts in Chicago

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Chicago seems to have finally caught on to the gourmet doughnut trend (way to be two years behind).  In the last year, Miss Fats has noticed a crazy increase in the number of spots featuring doughnuts and the opening of a handful of delicious gourmet shops across the city.  With the release of Saveur Magazine’s “America’s 50 Best Donuts,” article, Miss Fats thought it was high time she ranked her favorites for you all. As you all know by now, Miss Fats has an unhealthy addiction to fried dough, and considers herself a self-taught expert in gourmet doughnut knowhow.  She’s slaved over testing out all the hip and is prepared to give you her official ranking. Miss Fats realizes that many of you might disagree, so please share thoughts and your own rankings, but know that she put some serious research in. Get ready for some sweet fried food porn.

In reverse order…

5. Do-Rite Donutsphoto (5)

New kid on the block. Do-Rite Donuts hasn’t been in its loop location long, but they boast small-batch gourmet donuts, including vegan and gluten free options.  Miss Fats was very excited about the prospect of getting a HOT, fresh donut.  Her’s was warm, but not too exciting.  Don’t get her wrong, Do-Rite made a DAMN FINE old fashioned.  They had a perfectly crispy outside and delicious cakey inside.  Seriously a textual orgasm.  However Do-Rite comes in 5th because they need to turn it up a notch flavor-wise.  You see that crazy delicious looking lemon pistachio raised donut up top? Yeah, you think that would be a total mouth party.  Unfortunately it was just good.  Not great.  Lacked lemon flavor and not everything was jiving together exactly.  The same can be said for the two old fashioned: butterscotch (boy was Miss Fats excited for that one) and meyer lemon.  The butterscotch just tasted like a perfect old fashioned glazed donut, so if that’s what you’re looking for, Miss Fats highly recommends it. But Miss Fats wanted her butterscotch flavor and it never happened.  Same goes for the lemon.  Give me some tang, Do-Rite.  Miss Fats feels that with a little more extract and some experimenting, Do-Rite could easily rise to the top.  She puts them to the challenge.

4. Glazed and InfusedGlazedandInfusedBear

Miss Fats apologizes for the lack of Glazed and Infused pictures.  As some of the first gourmet doughnut shops to open in the city, Glazed and Infused has been visited sporadically over the last year, and therefore lacks proper documentation.  She’s a big supporter of Glazed and Infused multiple locations and easily accessible fried dough goodness.  Pictured above is their monstrous bearclaw that was filled with insane almond paste that did away with Miss Fats’ most tragic marzipan memories.  She has now had the opportunity to try their PB&J jelly, as well as the Triple Chocolate.  And it’s that chocolate doughnut that helped Glazed and Infused earn this spot.  Holy shit chocolate goodness.  Now she doesn’t recommend this doughnut for those out there who might just “like” chocolate.  You need to love it to truly appreciate the excess of this thing.  That shit is basically covered in ganache, not glaze.  She wishes she had the same things to say about the PB&J, but unfortunately Miss Fats took one bite and it exploded all over her.  Never a good sign.  Despite it’s amazing homemade jam inside (and all over Miss Fats’ shirt), it lacked peanut flavor.  Total fruit overload. Literally.  Therefore Glazed and Infused earns its respectable spot at number four.

3. The Doughnut Vaultphoto (7)

Now this was a challenge.  The Doughnut Vault is one of those spots that boasts a long line, up-to-the-minute twitter feed, and VERY limited hours.  For literally months, Miss Fats tried to get herself one of these doughnuts.  She religiously followed on twitter, examining the busiest days, the best hours, what daily special she’d aim for… Not to mention in order to get one of these bad boys, Miss Fats would have to hurry her ass to a bus by 7:30 am to get to their Merchandise Mart location in time for some serious line waiting.  With her schedule last spring, that really only left Saturdays for Miss Fats to attempt to get her doughnut on.  So one cold, wet morning she braved the early bus and got herself to the line by 9 am.  She waited and waited, refreshing her twitter app, watching the day’s doughnuts disappear.  She was so close. But no luck.  This unfortunate situation kept Miss Fats away for a bit, as she longingly watched the tweets of delicious treats go by.  Finally three months later, she went for it.  She had a Thursday morning free.  She arrived a little before 10 am and there were still plenty of flavors left.  She settled on the Buttermilk Old Fashioned and Blackberry Jelly.  The jelly was pretty unremarkable.  It was a solid doughnut but little can really be remembered about that pastry.  The Old Fashioned on the other hand is why Doughnut Vault has outranked Glazed and Infused.  This was pretty much perfect.  Tender, crispy, and not too sweet.  BALANCE: They have it. Is it worth the wait?  Probably not for most.

2. Firecakes

photo (9)This little shop just opened downtown and Miss Fats was ON IT.  Miss Fats needed to be downtown at 9 am one Saturday morning so she felt entitled to treat herself to a morning donut.  She stopped in at Firecakes just after they opened and got to choose from their fresh full selection.  Because it was practically dawn, Miss Fats impulse purchased the GIANT Butterscotch Praline and Raspberry Blood Orange Jelly (she had intended to try a cake donut for you all). She does not regret this decision at all.  Hell no.  Let’s begin with the Butterscotch: holy shit it was filled with fresh butterscotch pudding.  Need she say more?  The doughnut itself was tender and chewy and topped with a crispy praline glaze. fuck yes. The jelly was the same raised dough business but it was filled with a tangy and fresh mixture of blood orange and raspberry jam.  That shit oozed out into a powdered sugar and sticky mess that Miss Fats proudly wore all over her face all day long (despite being at a super important academic conference. priorities, people).  Now to make sure she’d done proper work for you all, Miss Fats returned for a cake doughnut.  And she was NOT DISAPPOINTED.  In fact, the Valhrona Glazed Chocolate doughnut might have been the greatest cake doughnut Miss Fats has ever had.  Like Glazed and Infused, it was basically topped with a rich chocolate ganache and peppered with cacao nibs.  The cake itself was the star, though: PERFECTLY tender, yet rich and dense.  Some sort of magic happened in that doughnut and Miss Fats doesn’t want to know anything about it.  Just keep them coming.

HOWEVER: on a side note, Miss Fats also tried their Bacon Maple Pineapple mini doughnuts.  She was very unimpressed.  These little bites did nothing.  She supposes the maple flavor was good, but she hardly thinks a sad piece of pineapple and some bacon bits belong together on a lame doughnut bite.  Skip it.  Miss Fats highly recommends that Firecakes toss them from their menu.  

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I am lame. Do not purchase me.

1. Nightwood Sunday Brunchphoto (10)

Alright. Here it is: Miss Fats top choice for Chicago’s gourmet doughnuts.  She’s talked to you all before about these gems, and she stands by them: Nightwood Sunday brunch doughnuts are the greatest in the city. Miss Fats might be obsessed with their Butterscotch Bacon doughnut.  It comes hot to your table with a sweet, sticky glazed outside, topped in a heaping pile of maple-y, crispy bacon. Shit, is there anything better than a hot doughnut, people??  The bacon doughnut seems to be available every week (or at least for the last month or so), but the filled doughnut changes week-to-week.  Miss Fats has had the opportunity to try the Chocolate Cherry Cashew and Vanilla Custard Burbon Caramel.  Both were damn good. She’s complained a bit about the lack of cherry in the chocolate before but still fully supports its oozing ganache filling.  The vanilla was full of flavor: stuffed with a fresh vanilla pudding and topped with a boozy caramel sauce.  Miss Fats’ friend pointed out a slight lack of salt, which she found was true if you couldn’t quite get the right bite of that milk crumble.  And don’t forget: you get three crispy little doughnut hole friends rolled in cinnamon sugar.  Just go mopping up your caramel sauce with one of those little suckers and pop it in your mouth.

Miss Fats realizes that Nightwood might not count per se, because it is in fact not a doughnut shop.  Nor are doughnut available more than one day a week.  She fully recognizes that there are many other restaurants out there that feature house made doughnuts, and Miss Fats will get to you!  But for now, she stands by these Sunday treats and encourages you all to go out and have some of the greatest fried dough treats of your life.

Shout out: Beaver’s Doughnut Truck

Miss Fats wants to give a special shout to Chicago’s only mini doughnut  truck: Beaver’s Doughnuts.  This delightful truck parks on Miss Fats’ campus multiple days of the week, tempting her with fresh fried goodness.  Though Beaver’s does not make the short list, she appreciates their cheerful truck and dedication to hot, freshly fried doughnut bites.

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Beaver’s specializes in fried to order mini doughnuts that can be tossed in the usual doughnut hole coatings: powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.  OR you can top those suckers off with a range of tasty gooey delights.  Miss Fats indulged in their Turtle Doughnuts, which featured chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.  This gooey hot mess had to be eaten with a fork, but it was oh-so-good on a crap, cold Chicago afternoon.  Not to mention, Beaver’s served Miss Fats ten mini doughnut when she only ordered six.  DOUGHNUT WIN.  Despite the fact that they had been recently hanging out in a vat of oil on a truck, these little guys were still surprising light and crispy.  The reason why they don’t make the list is because they unfortunately had that grocery store doughnut hole flavor.  This was mostly masked by the toppings, but Miss Fats doesn’t let these things slide.  Your doughnut dough should be able to stand on its own (she feels that same way about the cake part of a cupcake).  But Beaver’s is a damn fine enterprise and she’s always a fan of moving fried dough vehicles that want to warm her up with gooey doughnutness.

Worst Doughnut in Chicago:

Ok, so Miss Fats is probably being to dramatic about this one and should let it go, but whatever. She’d just like to remind you all to avoid the pathetic “Italian” doughnuts at Spiaggia Cafe.  These sad little fried things deflated into a chewy mess as as soon as she bit into one.  Just don’t do it.  They’re too lame for words.

Spiaggia

So that’s it, people.  Miss Fats has laid down some truth for you all.  She hopes you go out and try all of these tasty treats and reports back on your favorites, and potential disappointments. Do you all agree with Miss Fats’ list?  She knows she’s missing some critical Southside favorites, but Miss Fats considers those to be in a league all of their own.  They are clearly doing their shit right: the classics, served up without any of this shmancy nonsense.  But for those of you who like a little nonsense in your life, she recommends eating a $5 doughnut covered in bacon.

brunch for a crowd

Last Saturday Miss Fats put on her social chair hat (yes, that position is real) and threw a brunch for a crowd.  Her task was to feed between 20 and 30 people following a boozy department party the night before.  Since Miss Fats attended the prior night’s festivities, she wanted to keep morning cooking duties to a minimum.  BUT that doesn’t mean she wasn’t all about a spread.

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Clearly Miss Fats opted for the excessive cheese and meat platters.  Who doesn’t love a wide variety of cured meats and creamy cheeses?

IMG_2064Epic cheese plate. Miss Fats doesn’t really know that much about selecting cheeses, so she basically just went for one of every animal.  And since she wasn’t paying for it, obviously fancy jam had to happen.  Thanks to her brilliant friend, Miss Fats now knows the beauty of blue cheese and Bon Maman cherry preserves.

IMG_2059Yeah you know you want that salty porky goodness following a night of too much wine and department nonsense.

IMG_2055Along with some bowls of salted almonds, pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe and papaya, this end of the table featured all of Miss Fats cooking additions.  In the early morning hours she whipped up two quiche lorainnes, a batch of her patented peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (not sure the reasoning behind that menu addition), and some of that crazy delicious buttery lemon cream cheese coffee cake she told you all about last week.

IMG_2056Now there’s no way Miss Fats could have done this on her own, and she is no drink expert, so she handed bar duty off to her co-social chair who turned it out.  They had the good orange juice (no concentrate for Miss Fats), bellinis, and bloody marys (and of course a TON of coffee).

Miss Fats considers this brunch to be a big success.  Plenty of food for their large hungry crowd and even some leftovers for post party snacking.  It’s hard to say what the final budget came to (this was thrown in conjunction with the department Oscar party), but she’d say somewhere around $150-75 for everything (including alcohol!).  Miss Fats enjoyed this little get together, but can’t say she’ll be throwing any more of these big brunches any time soon:she prefers to leave brunch to the professionals.  She resembled this sleepy kitty afterwards:

Brunching at Nightwood + Sunday Sundaes at George’s

Team Miss Fats hasn’t spent much time in Pilsen, so they were excited to venture into this neighborhood to get their brunch on. (Though they fully recognize this brunch is a NOT a representation of Pilsen’s excellent Mexican restaurants.  THEY WILL BE BACK FOR MEXICAN BREAKFAST. DO NOT WORRY.)  Nightwood has been at the top of their lists for a while, but is way far out of their price range.  But per Miss Fats’ style, brunch is always an option.

And what could make Miss Fats more excited?  Surprises.  Nightwood does not have a set menu and changes their options every week, so they only had a vague idea of what they were in for.  Look at the super cute hand written menus:

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Miss Fats thought listing just “fried skin” (what animal? who cares.) as an ingredient was pretty dope.  Game on, Nightwood.

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Bacon butterscotch donut

J: Having had an extremely unpleasant experience with the Maple Bacon Manhattan at The Southern, Miss Fats avoids bacon in places where bacon shouldn’t go. Actually, Miss Fats generally never eats bacon, and doesn’t understand why it’s such a thing. (Go ahead, lose all respect for Miss Fats as a person right now. Go ahead!!! She’s used to it.) This wasn’t half bad though. Except when her “better half” dropped the last bite on the floor. Doof.

M: Miss Fats is just going to say it: this is the best donut in Chicago.  (Maybe even one of the best things in the city.) Hands down.  Fuck. No words. SALT. SWEET. CRISPY. SOFT.  Miss Fats isn’t even sure how to go about describing this incredible treat.  It was literally the most heavenly contrast between the soft, fluffy cake center and crisp tender outside that was smothered in butterscotch glaze.  Don’t even get her started on the crispy bacon goodness. BEST.  This is the stuff of dreams.  Which turned into a nightmare when she dropped the last bite:

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THE SADDEST PICTURE YOU WILL EVER SEE.

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Chocolate cherry cashew donut

J: This was a pretty great donut. There wasn’t really a detectable cherry flavor, it was more like the very very distant memory of a chocolate-covered cherry. Both of the donuts came with three tiny donut babies. Free baby donuts! Miss Fats really likes when food comes with extra food, like how when you order a Bloody Mary you get a free surprise snack. Sometimes it’s celery, sometimes it’s cheese-stuffed olives, you never know! Sometimes you order a donut and you get donut babies! The only bad part about the choco donut is when Miss Fats dropped one of the cinnamon-sugar babies on the floor. Doof. (see above if you want to cry again.)

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M: Again: donut bliss. Miss Fats is such a huge fan of donuts she’s not sure this is even a fair subject to discuss.  And what’s basically the only thing Miss Fats loves more than fried dough? CHOCOLATE.  So obviously she was all over this shit.  Usually chocolate donuts are a little too sweet with their glaze, but this shit was filled with the tastiest, perfectly salted ganache.  She agrees with the other Miss Fats, however.  No cherry.  She wishes they had just omitted the flavor from the description or thrown a heaping spoonful of tart cherry preserves right on top.

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Hello! I am cherry sales-kitten and I can help!

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Wood-grilled Butcher + Larder Polish sausage, sauerkraut, neon relish, peppers & onions, runny egg

M: This was Nightwood’s cracked out version of a polish sausage complete with Chicago’s token neon green relish.  Miss Fats seriously struggled to get this monster into her mouth, but once she did, she was all about it.  The sausage was so tasty: perfectly tender and full of porky flavor that wasn’t over powered by spices (sausage often has too much fennel seed for Miss Fats).  Obviously this paired well with the sauerkraut and runny egg: two ingredients that cannot fail.

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Pure joy.

J: What M actually said about this dish was, “I’M INTO YOU,” while pointing at it with her fork. Miss Fats forgot the sausage came with all that sauerkrauty gloop. Not a huge fan. It overwhelmed all the other flavors. Stupid bossy sauerkraut. But look at that eggsplosion! Best!

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Bagel sandwich – Rushing Water’s smoked trout cream cheese, slaw, bacon, an over-easy egg and tots

M: This was a very tasty bagel sandwich.  The crispy bagel (Miss Fats needs to eat more bagels) and crunchy bacon were paired with mustardy sauciness and (always appreciated) runny egg.  Despite fully enjoying this dish, Miss Fats is disappointed to report the lack of smoked trout flavor.  She is ALWAYS excited about the prospect of smoked trout (there may not be a better smoked fish) and could not wait to get her salty-fishy cream cheese on.  However the shmear fell short: little-to-no fish flavor.  Still a damn good sandwich, but she was all excited about that trout! Guess Miss Fats’ fish luck ran out.

J: The fish luck didn’t run out! We just transferred some of it for ultra convenient parking spaces and ice cream luck. The bagel sammy was better than the sausage, but Miss Fats had to remove some of the bacon, because you just shouldn’t do surf n turf n egg like this. TOO MANY ANIMALS. It was too much!!! Miss Fats got spoiled with the ginorm serving of smoked fish they received at Jam, so the cream cheese did seem lackluster in comparison. None of this really matters though, because have a look at these breakfast potatoes….

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tater tots

M: Ok these tater tots deserve a post all in their own.  Miss Fats could probably spend a full twenty minutes describing these to you.  Supposedly tater tots are a “food trend” now, but team Miss Fats has been munching on these suckers since birth.  Well maybe not these gourmet tots.  Nightwood’s tater tots were perfectly soft and tender inside and crazy crunchy deliciousness on the outside.  BALANCE. (Insert nonsense food talk about texture.)   This shit celebrated that potato.  Though Miss Fats will continue to order tater tots whenever she enters a bar, she will always remember just how good a tot can be.  And then probably run home and make a rez for brunch at Nightwood.

J: New plan is to contact chefs from Nightwood, Little Goat, and Jam, and have them make a mashed potato out of the Jam potatoes, then apply a Nightwood crispy filter and tempura fry them like Little Goat. It would be the best. The. Best. Ever. These were so so so so so ridiculously crispy. Each entree came with three of these golf-ball sized tater gems, but Miss Fats would have happily eaten a pile of these on their own, maybe with some different dipping sauces. #dreams
Oh yeah, and the fine staff at Nightwood kept our coffee cups FULL. So they get 10/10 coffee points from Miss Fats. Which is important. Coffee points are better than brownie points.

after-brunch

Miss Fats wanted to take a nap after this, but instead WAS AWESOME AND WENT ON MORE ADVENTURES.

Cut to Andersonville.  (Don’t ask why we made this jump.  Just know that some serious appetite was created in the process. Aka sitting in traffic listening to Top 40 and wishing we were at the Chinese New Year parade.)

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George’s – A new instant favorite for Miss Fats! George’s offers more options and amazing flavors than anywhere else around, with super cute chalkboard drawings & vintage photos with funny captions. And a photo of a raccoon eating ice cream with a bear or something. Yes please.

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How Miss Fats felt after they conquered George’s.

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coconut, birthday cake, horchata ice cream

J: This was a greedy combination of three flavors. Miss Fats could not decide between these three, pistachio nut, “Kitty Kitty Bang Bang” (a cheesecake ice cream with raspberry ripple, Oreo and chocolate chunks), and a raspberry soy ice cream that looked pretty darn yums. Unfortch, George’s doesn’t offer a size option for “Insane Gluttonous Food Bloggers Who Think They Can Justify Eating ALL The Ice Cream Because They’re Going To Write About It Later,” so Miss Fats had to choose.
The coconut would have been great on its own, as would the horchata, they were both subtle, rich, and got lost in the birthday cake wonderfulness. Miss Fats is a big fan of super tacky ‘party cake’ flavored ice cream, this was just like, THAT, but made out of REAL food ingredients. And had windex-blue swirlies in it! George’s horchata flavor was maybe a little bit too subtle for us, the cinnamon rice-milk gelato at Cafe Spiaggia really hit a better balance with their spices. Overall, Miss Fats found everything they tried at George’s to be better than Baume & Brix’s Fish Cream. SHOCKING!

IMG_20051 scoop Heaps of Love: oreos, pecans, caramel, chocolate ripple, cookie dough in vanilla ice cream; 1 scoop Yippie Skippie: peanut butter cups, caramel ripple, and more crack Miss Fats cannot remember; topped with hot fudge and peanut butter

M: Miss Fats fears she may have just given you a sugar attack just by listing those ingredients.  This was literally the most indulgent chocolate-cookie-peanut butter-caramel crazy time that Miss Fats has ever had.  It was someone gave her free reign and asked her to list all her favorite sweet treats and shoved them into a sundae.  She’d like to think that her six year old self dreamed this one up, but let’s get real: this is pure adult Miss Fats.  Not even child Miss Fats would have even gone this far.  And boy was that good.  While picking flavors Miss Fats was faced with her usual crisis: top with hot fudge or peanut butter??  She asked the kind woman at George’s which to do, and she made the reasonable rec to go with fudge… and THEN TOPPED IT WITH BOTH.  WIN. It was like every spoon full was a new treat: Miss Fats spent most bites exclaiming what new discovery she’d made.  This sundae is purely for chocoholic professionals.  Beware of choco-salty-sweet flavor explosion.

Hey, it also turns out it was the one month anniversary of Miss Fats! Four weeks ago Miss Fats was enjoying/taking unprofessional photos of some sundaes on a Sunday… and Sunday Sundaes was born. Miss Fats didn’t realize this till they were deep in the middle of today’s ice cream divertissement and had a bit of deja vu. Yay Team Miss Fats!!!

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cat art from the Andersonville Galleria, where there were no treats. but that’s a story for a different day…

galentines part 2: JAM + Bang Bang Pie Shop

Miss Fats did galentines RIGHT.  Newly mobile, team Miss Fats got themselves up to Logan Square. the inaccessible [at least from where Miss Fats lives] mecca of hip[ster] food in Chicago.  Top of their list: Jam and Bang Bang Pie Shop.  Since they rarely make it this far north, Miss Fats was NOT going to let this opportunity got to waste.  4 course brunch, followed by pie dessert/dinners to-go. Get ready for some serious eats.

IMG_1933Appetizer: half order of the “waffle of the day-” thyme waffle, with double fried chicken breast

M: Holy shit chicken and waffle.  This waffle is HANDS DOWN better than Longman & Eagle (famous for the bougie chicken and waffle).  They’re very lucky they don’t have to compete daily with this one. The chicken was so juicy and tender, and the waffle crisp and light. Despite being a bread/fried object, it was not heavy, dry or oily, like most waffle/chicken combos.  Instead all you got was pure flavor explosion and texture delight.

J: Chicken isn’t usually this dope. JAM took chicken as far as chicken can reasonably be expected to go, and then they put that radness on top of a reaaaaally nice waffle. Waffles are usually way denser than this one, which is NOT what you want with a chunk of fried cluck. The drippy was some kind of tomato syrup (?), there were some tomato-y things on top, and when all the flavors got together it was a SUPER AWESOME PARTY TASTE!!!

IMG_1934Second Course: Smoked Salmon, Potato-Leek Pancakes, Poached Eggs, Béarnaise, Salsify Slaw

M: Smoked salmon might be one of MIss Fats all-time favorite foods.  There is nothing better than a salty, soft piece of fatty smoked salmon.  And Jam paired this already indulgent ingredient with béarnaise and eggs, resulting in the go-to combo of creamy sauciness and salty fish.  While the salmon was absolutely satisfying and they did not skimp on the portion, the star of this dish was the potato-leek pancake: perfect salt, perfect crisp, pure potato bliss.

J: Skimp’s a weird word. Remember when Miss Fats ate Fish Cream? That bad fishflavor memory became fish dust in the fish wind, thanks to this ultra-pile. Omigod, it was so cute. Look at those poached eggs! There are few things more delightful than breaking the yolk on a perfectly poached egg. Okay, there are about 60,000 more delightful things, five of which are:

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but it’s still pretty fun to smoosh an egg.

IMG_1935Third Course: Egg Sandwich, Pork Shoulder, Ricotta Salata, Plum Preserve, French Bollo, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

M: Ooey-gooey porky mess.  out of control. This was the best kind of hot mess, people.  The oozing eggs soaked into the tender pork and bread creating a sticky mess that you could not wait to get into your mouth immediately.  Miss Fats favorite part was the ricotta salata, which provided the perfect salty, cheesy contrast to the rich meat and egg yolk.  Now there was no way Miss Fats could finish this monster, but boy did they enjoy trying.  Nice work, Jam.  Oh and a serious shout out to those potatoes: you were so good soaked in yolk.

J: These POTATOES, people. Breakfast potatoes usually suck. They’re there because they take up space and are cheap, and peeps usually don’t put a lot of effort into them.
It’s kind of an All About Eve situation with this sammy though. Mr. Eggypork got UPSTAGED by his taterfriends. Don’t get Miss Fats wrong, it was a WONDERFUL SAMMY, but these potatoes, man, these potatoes. Can Miss Fats just add that their waiter Brandon literally said, “you guys are my heroes!” when Miss Fats apologized for not being able to finish the whole thing. Brandon: “You not only got a whole other entree, you got a half order of chicken and waffles, AND a dessert pancake, and you STILL got further into this sandwich than most people.” Miss Fats Wins. Every time. Brandon also laughed at Miss Fats and had to bring them extra napkins because their hands were totally covered in egg yolk and gloop.

IMG_1937Dessert: Maple Pancakes, Meyer Lemon Custard, Indian Sugar Brûlée, Citrus Rind Conserve

M: Where to begin with these? Miss Fats was promised the “weirdest pancake you’ve ever had.”  She’s not sure “weird” is the right word, however.  More like mouth orgasm pancake.  Such tart lemony custard, crispy bruleed sugar and tender tender pancake.  dfsksfjslsdfnsdfkieng.  yep. words dissolved.  just like that buttery custard. WIN.

J: Yeah, no words. Gonna use someone else’s words, to paraphrase good old e.e.:

i carry this bite with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my pancake;and whatever is not eaten
by me is your doing,my darling)

SAMSUNG

Following this meal, Miss Fats was borderline ill. But there was pie to be had. So off to Bang Bang Pie Shop they went.

IMG_1946Check those steamy windows and super cute interior.

J: Omg, it was steamy cause hot boys were inside! And hot pie!

M: Having read reviews before hand, Miss Fats ordered the Meyer Lemon Custard Pie, Chocolate Chess Pie and a Biscuit to-go.  They were very lucky to have gotten their hands on one of these coveted biscuits: apparently they stop serving them after 2 pm, however it being Valentines day, they had extras (probably just for Miss Fats.)  The real draw of the biscuit was the Jam and Butter Bar.

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M: Yeah, gurl.  You know you want all of that.  While loading up on jams and butter to-go, Miss Fats was trying to figure out how to split the pies as they parted ways. Overhearing their flustered dilemma, a wonderful (adorable) pie man offered up Miss Fats a couple of extra (sizable) pie scraps of each!! PIE WIN.  Little does he know, he gave them the greatest valentine ever.

J: FREE PIE FREE PIE MISS FATS GOT FREE PIE AND IS NOW IN LOVE WITH CUTE FREE PIE-GIVING BOY!!!

M: Miss Fats hereby owns the rights to future pie boy missed-connections screenplay. DON’T ANYONE GO STEALING IT.

IMG_0076M: Miss Fats started with this infamous biscuit.  She smothered the buttery, fluffy pastry in the homemade blueberry jam and cherry preserve.  Despite being hours old at this point, it was still flakey, soft, tender and moist.  This biscuit is PERFECTLY salted.  A rare quality for a biscuit, which usually is a sad side to some over-oily salty meal.  NOPE. This shit shines all on its own.  Miss Fats was particularly into the combo of the tart cherry preserve and salty crisp biscuit top.

IMG_0077M: Miss Fats is a huge fucking chocoholic.  So naturally she went home with the large slice of chocolate chess pie.  This was essentially a brownie with a pie crust.  The cakey center was fudgy but tender and not too sweet.  Yum Yum.  One little critique is that she’s not sure what was happening with the caramel sauce.  Supposedly this bad-boy has some caramel goodness in the bottom that was oozing out the sides.  However she could not taste this!  Disappointing.  Mostly because she could see all that amber sauce but couldn’t taste it.  Additionally, the crust was a bit too crispy.  Frankly, Miss Fats didn’t need it.  When she tasted it separately, of course it was delicious, but she’s not so sure it added anything to this pie.  The filling was star.

IMG_0074M: Not the prettiest picture.  But hey, that shit was FREE.  No complaints.  This meyer lemon custard pie was near pastry perfection.  Miss Fats has always been wary of fruit pie because it often borders on too sweet for her.  She just has never really understood why delicious fruit needs so much extra sugar.  But this lemon custard was amazingly tart and creamy.  The well-salted crust provided the right crispy texture against the fluffy filling.  mmmmmmmmm fluffy tart filling.  Yeah meyer lemon rind, you get in my mouth too.

J: Miss Fats is lazy and tired from the long hard day of eating all the food and so this is her 2 cents by way of altered song lyrics:

Chocolate chess pie you are making me crazy
I’m in love but I’m lazy (sort of the Beatles)
When you cut it, cute pie boy, save me a slice
Your chocolate pie, I declare, it’s sweet and nice  (sort of Led Zep)
Taste so good make a grown man cry
Sweet lemon pie, yeah (sort of Warrant)
You’ll be my lemon pie until the day I die, I hope that’s a long time,
cause I don’t wanna die and live without my Meyer lemon pie – (sort of Of Montreal)

SAMSUNG

J: Oh yeah, Bang Bang had Bacon. In a jar. Just in case you’re still hungry, or something.

M: Miss Fats didn’t even SEE this! Double win, Bang Bang.

This Galentines/Valentines was right near the top of best all time.  Miss Fats felt and looked EXACTLY like this at the end of the day: (this is a happy cat, people)

PudgeTheCat_valentineImage courtesy of Pudge the Cat.

Sleepy kitty needs a pie nap.

galentines part 1: affordable fetes from miss fats

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image courtesy of Michelle Taylor

Happy Galentines everyone! Miss Fats is a HUGE supporter of this made-up holiday.  She doesn’t need any excuses to brunch or celebrate with girlfriends, but whatever, she’ll take it.  Since Miss Fats remains technically single this year (though obvi her better half of Miss Fats is her real valentine), Galentines is getting a double feature: february 13 AND 14.  So for all you out there looking to share galentines (or valentines) with friends, Miss Fats is sharing some ideas for budget entertaining.

This past weekend she hosted two little get togethers: a larger dinner celebration for a friend, and a valentines cookie decorating dinner party.  Since she’s in grad school, budgets are tight. However Miss Fats is obsessed with a deal.  And both of these parties were a steal.  (She hopes her excessive enthusiasm for thriftiness doesn’t cheapen the experiences for those readers out there who might have attended one of these shindigs!)  Now, none of this is Martha-style, but both parties are fun, casual ways of providing guests the opportunity to play with their food while you don’t have to do all the work.  Now put your hostess hats on and get the partay started (sorry, that just happened).

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Gyoza Making Party: 12 guests, 2 hours prep (3 including dessert)

Yeah, Miss Fats just wanted to give you a taste of just how epic gyoza party is.  We’re talking way too much food, satisfied guests and activities: all for about $30.  Yep. That’s right: $30. For 12 people. INCLUDING dessert.  For a party of this size it will require a bit of leg work, but this is easily scaled down depending on the number of guests.  Miss Fats is going to give you the run-down for the gyoza and sides, and for the dessert, you can head on over to Monday’s post.  So here’s how you do it:

Shopping List:

  • Round gyoza wrappers. This can be a little tricky to find, but for the most part, grocery stores (Whole Foods or fancier places) will carry them.  The ideal spot to find these, however, is an asian grocery store.  They’re dirt cheap (about $1.50) and can easily be frozen/hoarded. For 12 people, Miss Fats used 3 packages of about 40 wrappers. (FEAST)
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 package of firm tofu
  • 1.5 lbs of ground pork
  • 1 large ginger root
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • About 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbs sesame oil
  • Ingredients for Obachan Spinach (Miss Fats quadrupled this recipe)
  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • Any assortment of dipping sauces you’d like. (Miss Fats likes to keep it simple: she just mixes half white vinegar and soy for her gyoza dipping sauce).

onionandginger

Prep:

Basically, get ready to spend at least an hour chopping. Miss Fats recommends turning on your favorite tunes and entering into a mental chop zone.  For lazy people out there, you can purchase things like shredded cabbage to make your live easier, though this will up the budget a bit.

Essentially all that needs to be done pre-guest arrival is chopping up and mixing together all the ingredients to make the filling.  This can even be done the day before (which Miss Fats almost prefers because it gives the yummy pork and tofu time to hang out in the flavorings).  For this past weekend’s party, Miss Fats opted to do both vegetarian and pork gyoza.  This means chopping everything up and simply dividing the ingredients between two giant mixing bowls.  Thinly chop the green onion and shred the cabbage (Miss Fats probably used about 4/5 of the large head of cabbage).  Grate in about 2 inches of fresh ginger into each bowl. Roughly chop the tofu (do not worry about this- it will look like crap) and throw all of it into one of mixing bowls).  In the other, dump in the pork.  Divide the soy, and sesame oil between the two bowls (this does not need to be exact by any means) and mix!

Filling

Store your filling in the fridge until guest arrival.  Meanwhile, make that Obachan Spinach, and about 30 minutes prior to guest arrival, begin the rice.

Spinach

Party Activities:

At your dining room table, set up your big bowls of filling, wrappers with small spoons to go around, a couple of trays or baking pans to put the gyoza on, and a few bowls of water.

Now it’s time to teach folks how to fill.  Miss Fats thinks that this blog did a much better job documenting the process, so she asks you to head over there for instructions.  While peeps are hard at work, you should set up a couple of nonstick frying pans and a steamer if you have one, on the stove. For a crowd this size, Miss Fats highly recommends as many cooking pans as possible.  It seriously speeds up the process.

To pan fry the gyoza, heat some canola or vegi oil to medium high in a nonstick pan.  Once the oil is hot, place the flat side down and allow to brown (about 1-2 minutes).  Pour about 2 tbs of water into the pan and immediately cover with a lid.  Reduce heat to medium and allow the gyoza to steam through (about 7 minutes for the pork, less for the tofu).  (Just break one of those bad boys open to make sure they’re all cooked.) Repeat this process until your giant trays of gyoza are all done! (This is exactly why Miss Fats recommends also using the steamer.  That shit has three levels and doesn’t need to be attended to. Plus then guests get even more food options.)

To serve these up, Miss Fats just sent them out on some large trays and allowed people to grab what they wanted, along with the big bowls of rice and spinach.  Now there’s a rule to this party that Miss Fats fully believes in upholding.  There can be NO LEFTOVERS.  You and your guests did all that work, and frankly, those gyoza aren’t that great the next day, so get your fat pants on and FINISH them.

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Cookie Decorating Party: 5 guests, 2 hours prep (plus 1 hour a day prior)

This delightful little holiday-themed get together was a fun way for Miss Fats to share her love of baking with her friends, while indulging in some much-needed child-like crafting and nostalgia.  This party was basically part two of last week’s card crafting sesh, and this time it was Miss Fats’ turn to host.  For dinner, she kept it light with a hearty winter salad of brown rice, baby spinach and roasted sweet potatoes.  This allowed for maximum cookie consumptions during decoration.  The budget for this party came to about $30, which when you compare to the gyoza party, is not as much of a deal.  However this could easily be subsidized by asking folks to bring along sprinkles and candies. (Sprinkles ate up this budget.)  Miss Fats also recommends spreading the prep over two days, because the sugar cookie dough or even the baked-off cookies can easily be stored over night.

Shopping List:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • About 2 tbs honey
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 2 lemons
  • Feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (for all recipes)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour (plus extra for rolling)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Any assortment of sprinkles
  • Ziplock bags

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Day Before: make cookie dough and bake cookies

The day before the party, Miss Fats recommends just banging out these easy cookies.  Her favorite recipe is an old-school dough from an ancient copy of Joy of Cooking.  She will share it with you below:

Sugar Cookie Cuouts

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour

1. Beat butter and shortening on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, baking powder and a dash of salt.  Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix in flour.  Divide dough in half and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out your dough on a floured surface to about 1/3 inch thick.  Cut out your hearts and bake for about 8 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies), or until edges are ever-so-slightly golden.

Store these in an airtight container for the next day.

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Day of Prep:

With all that pesky baking out of the way, all that needs to be done is the salad and frosting.  About an hour before the party, cook the brown rice.  Then work on the following components:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

3 diced sweet potatoes
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 inch grated ginger
2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs honey
1 tbs curry powder
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk honey, ginger, butter, oil and curry powder together.  Add potatoes and onion and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for about 30 minutes or until they are tender and browned.

Dressing:

Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp honey
About 2 tbs olive oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Whisk together all the ingredients.  Add warm cooked brown rice and toss to coat.

To serve up this salad, lay down a bed of the baby spinach, followed by about a 1/3 cup of the brown rice, a couple of heaping spoon fulls of the potatoes, and finally top with a little feta.  Pretty, heathy and delicious.

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Ok ok, so far this party sounds pretty contained and bougie, right?  Well Miss Fats doesn’t do under-indulgent, prim and proper.  Not to mention, this valentines day themed party was seriously lacking chocolate.  So, because this meal was looking too healthy, Miss Fats decided at the last-minute, to throw together some salted double chocolate chip cookies for snacking (got to keep the energy up).

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Unfortunately, these were not factored into the budget because Miss Fats literally had all the ingredients on hand (obvi.)  She used Martha’s double chocolate chip cookie recipe , added salt, and simplified them by refusing to use more than one bowl.  Simply skip a couple of steps by melting the chocolate and butter together in the microwave, and moving directly to step 2 of the recipe.  Once the batter is done, sprinkle a little kosher salt over top.  Miss Fats also recommends allowing the dough to sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to firm up: she found her second batch to be a lot fluffier once it had sat for a bit.

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Chocolate and Salt: literally one of the greatest combos in the world.

Now after enjoying your salads and cookie apps, Miss Fats recommends stepping away from your guests to make the buttercream frosting.  This will take you literally 5 minutes.

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Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), soften to room temp (VERY IMPORTANT)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
food dye (optional)

optional: make your frosting chocolate buttercream.  All you need is 1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled

1. Beat the butter on high for about 2 minutes until fluffy,  and light in color.  Scrape down sides.  Sift in the sugar in batches (so as not to make a huge mess), beating to combine each time.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Beat to combine. Optional chocolate: remove about 2/3 of the frosting into other bowls.  Beat in melted chocolate into the remaining frosting.

2. In separate bowls, divide your frosting and mix in whatever colors you’d like.  Miss Fats kept it simple with white, pink and chocolate.  To make little pastry bags, distribute frosting into ziplock bags and simply cut the tip off of one corner.

And now it’s decorating time.  Miss Fats kept it simple my throwing down some paper bags to protect the table and allowed people to just have at it.

Deocrating

So much craft delight, with treats to take home.

IMG_0049Clearly Miss Fats’ friends are not the most adept pastry chefs, but it’s about the experience, people. Plus they all taste damn good.

Miss Fats hopes this inspires you to celebrate with your girlfriends today.  In the very least eat a waffle or watch a chick flick.