Monday, December 26, 2011

Lazy Woman's Dobostorte

Being in love with all things Hungarian (even an American bass player who is 1/4 Hunky), I decided that this would be the Christmas that I would get around to making this iconic dessert for said bass player's family. I am, however, the even more iconic fat, lazy American, so after having made thirteen types of cookies plus seasoned nuts and having volunteered myself to make falafel with tahini sauce for the gathering of my in-laws (did I mention that I adore Middle Eastern food, too?) as well as a Christmas morning breakfast of boozy oranges, baked Scotch eggs and cinnamon biscuits for the immediate family, I searched for a shortcut that would conserve both time and effort without going too far astray from the classic concoction. I ended up combining two recipes I found via the Web and one of my Taste of Home holiday cookbooks.

The layers of a Dobostorte are basically thin versions of sponge cake. They are very eggy and lack leavening, depending on beaten eggs for lightness. I decided to use a recipe for some sort of one-layer sponge-type cake in order to approximate the texture of the cake rounds. I didn't feel like separating and beating eggs a lot, so I went a step further in laziness and used a (more or less) one-bowl génoise recipe from the late 1800s that I found on Wikipedia. (I've "translated" it into modern cookery speak.)

The chocolate buttercream frosting is done with no shortcuts, but even it is easier than it looks, provided you've already learned a few basic baking skills. The caramel glaze is even simpler; since you're applying it to a frosted cake, all you do is drizzle it on and even it out a bit with a spoon.

You can feel free to garnish or decorate the cake as you wish to pretty it up, but I like it as-is.

Lazy Woman's Dobostorte

Serves 8 (or more--it is very rich)

For the Génoise:
  • 1 3/4 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. plus 2 T. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. (8 T. or one stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 to 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. strong coffee (not cold)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan (I like to cut a circle of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom and grease it, too, just to simplify the removal of the cake). In a small bowl, combine melted butter and vanilla. In a large bowl, beat together flour, sugar and eggs with an electric mixer on the highest speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. (You can mix this by hand, but you must do so very briskly; prepare your arm for fatigue after five minutes straight of heavy exertion.) Fold the butter-vanilla mixture into the batter very gently. (It is very important to fold the mixture in gently because if you stir it in rudely, your egg mixture will deflate and therefore fail to perform in the oven--i.e., be gentle or expect your cake not to rise.) Pour combined batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until the cake tests done and is a golden yellow/light brown on top. (It's okay for the génoise to be just dry--the finished product will be plenty moist!) Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes.

After this time, invert the cake twice so that the top is facing up, peel parchment (if using) from the bottom and allow cake to cool completely. When the cake is cool, use a fork to poke holes in the cake in several places on the top. Slowly pour the coffee over the holes in the cake, allowing time for the liquid to be absorbed and keeping the coffee from spilling over the sides. Moisten the entire cake in this manner (you may not need the entire amount of coffee--you're not trying to make the cake soggy). Allow cake to sit long enough to absorb the coffee well, about an hour.

For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
  • 1-3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter, softened
(You will end up making more frosting than what you need, but what the heck? Save it for a later use, or give it to the neighbor's kid and watch him drive his parents nuts.)

In a small saucepan, melt chips with coffee and sugar; stir until smooth. Remove from the heat. Add a small amount of mixture to egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes or until mixture is thickened and reaches 160°, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl with a whisk attachment, beat butter until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in chocolate mixture. If necessary, refrigerate until frosting achieves spreading consistency. (If you refrigerate the frosting for too long, it's easy to soften it up again; just stick it in the microwave for ten seconds at a time until it's spreadable.) Frost cake.

For the Caramel Topping

  • 12 caramels (the soft, chewy kind, not hard candy)
  • 7 teaspoons evaporated milk

In a small saucepan, melt caramels with milk. Remove from the heat; drizzle evenly over the top of the cooled, frosted cake. With a tablespoon (the eating utensil, not the measuring instrument), carefully spread frosting to cover the cake evenly. (It's okay if it doesn't reach the edge--it probably won't--just so long as it is neat-looking and distributed so that each potential slice has an equal amount of caramel topping.) Allow to cool before cutting into slices.

This was rather admired by my boyfriend's family, and I was asked for the recipe. For my next trick, I will attempt to make this masterpiece low-carb, for all you Hunky peeps who are diabetic and/or who are against the whole concept of stuffing your faces with copious amounts of sugar and refined starches. Stay tuned.

Recipes from:, and

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Holy Trinity", Hungarian-Style

For Cajun/Creole cooks, the "Holy Trinity" refers to a combination of vegetables common to the cuisine consisting of onions, bell peppers and celery. I think most cultures have something similar; for Cuban cooks, it's the "sofrito"; according to Wikipedia, it's a mix of green onions, ginger and garlic for the Chinese; I'm not sure what it would be for us Irish or Irish-Americans, but it's probably something close to potatoes, cabbage/kale and onions/leeks. It's kind of like what was described in a column in the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, where the author described a situation where every good cook relies on a few key pantry ingredients when all else fails, extrapolated to a national/cultural scale. Yesterday, I enjoyed another fine dinner at the Darlington Inn, a Hungarian-Transylvanian restaurant near Ligonier, PA. This time, I ordered Chicken Lecso, a dish with which I was already familiar from preparing it at home. It consists of chicken smothered in a seasoned, sauteed sauce of onions, peppers and tomatoes. I like to use Hungarian hot or sweet peppers. The version I ate yesterday contained green peppers. In the hands of a different cook, someone with much more experience in Hungarian cuisine than me, it took on a different character. I loved it. (I should note that the cook also put cheese on top, which is never a mistake in any cuisine.) I know that Wikipedia states that the holy trinity of Hungarian cuisine is lard, paprika and red onion, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Hungarian Holy Trinity is Lecso. True, it's a relish more than a cooking ingredient, but it can and should be used in cooking, too. Even my significant other likes it, and he hates tomatoes and cooked vegetables. That should tell you something. If you're in the vicinity of Ligonier, PA, you really should visit the Darlington Inn. Otherwise, you can try my favorite Lecso recipe at home, to which I've posted a link here. Just be sure to use real Hungarian paprika, not that flavor-less deviled-egg garnish!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Low-carb eaters: Send me your recipes!

If anyone reading my little web log would like me to convert his or her favorite recipe to the low-carb lifestyle, send it on to me! If I can convert it, I'll let you know by reply as well as posting the recipe conversion on my web log. While I have no professional culinary training, I have many years of experience baking and cooking, so I'd love the challenge of trying to make your favorite foods fit your lifestyle. Try me!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Variety is the Spice of Life

I'm not endorsing adultery or "steppin' out" of any kind, but Ladies, be honest: have you ever wanted to engage in sexual acts with a businessman? Now, I don't want to hear confessions of, "My husband sells life insurance, and I think he's sexy" or anything else so pedestrian. What I mean is, do you know of a businessman who has taken care of you so well that you'd like to "take care" of him? Maybe it's your butcher, your mechanic or your shoe repairman? For me, it's my spice man.

He owns a little gourmet food shop about twenty miles from my home. He has saved customers from placing online orders or making trips to larger cities for special ingredients. He also stocks a wide variety of herbs and spices which are cheaper than gourmet at the grocery store (and probably fresher). Yet I did not discover the full potential of the spice man until I asked him to order some spice mixes for me. Instead, he made jerk spice and Ras el hanout for me, right in the shop. The smells of the finished products are so good, I find myself sniffing them compulsively from time to time. I feel like there should be a public service announcement about the addictive properties of great spice combinations.

Spice Man, I could kiss you!

Titus Andronicus: To Be or Not to Be

(yes, I went there)

I guess it seems silly to have written a web log entry on paper before typing it into the computer. I know it seems strange to me, like I'm committing some breach of style (the MLA kind, not the fashion kind). I'm from a pen-and-paper generation, though. Truly enough, I first learned to navigate the Internet (in exciting new HTML!) at the age of about fourteen, but when friends and I needed to say something (not yet "sth"), we didn't send text messages. We passed notes, called each other on landline home phones or visited each other. There's a certain internal editorial power wielded through setting pen to paper, a power bled dry by constant instant communication.

That's the reason for being a physical writer--not a typist composer--but a writer. The honest reason for this particular pre-written web log entry is simpler and more urbane than that--I needed to vent before I could get to a computer.

Today (now yesterday) I auditioned for a show called Titus Andronicus. You either know it or you don't, and if you don't, you should look into it because you don't know what you're missing. At any rate, after a couple of days spent memorizing a pieced-together monologue (from Queen Margaret in Richard III), asking questions about it to understand it better, practicing my delivery and being struck with frightened nervousness for a few hours before the audition, I finally let loose, my anxiety getting the better of me at moments. I'll admit, I'm not top-shelf stuff, but I've improved a great deal over several years.

To my disappointment, I discovered directly after auditioning that the producers experienced such an anaemic turnout that they were very seriously considering canning the show. Gut Punch #1. Shortly after that, I learned that the role I really wanted, which I didn't have great confidence of getting but which still helped to convince me to bring a competitive spirit to the audition, had been promised to another actress. Gut Punch #2. In the end, Gut punch #1 is the kick in the ovaries. "Sorry, you can't even be cast as Roman Citizen #4 because the people who want to do this aren't capable of increasing their numbers by asexual reproduction." I at least wanted to believe that my fruitless audition was a good one, to take it away as a small consolation prize. A friend told me that, more or less, my piece was dominated by nervousness and sounded of loud bursts of lines. I know I was nervous, but c'mon?

I'm not rancorous; again, I'm disappointed. This isn't like high school, where I (with some decent acting experience) get passed over for any sizable part in a production that is fairly innocuous in the long run in favor of someone prettier and/or more well-liked. This is real adult theatre, for fun and for art. The play is not likely to happen at all, and even were it to occur, the choice role would have already gone to a hand-picked actress. At least allow me the comfort of my pretty folly that I fairly kicked ass in my audition.

Did I kick ass in my audition? I don't know. I'm not very good at judging myself. It's always pathetically black or white--either I was gold or shit. Would I have chased Tilda Swinton out of the top spot, assuming we were coeval and alike in appearance? Well, I'm not a moron. Did I earn myself some kind of slot in a play that I've wanted to do ever since I first saw it? I'd like to think so. Allow me my pretty folly.

I've been passed over before, sometimes even by people less talented than me. In this case, everyone's been passed over. Sometimes liking something great puts you squarely in the minority.