Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shake it up, baby

I have a few favorite comic strips on the side of my refrigerator.  Most have to do with food.  One is from Baby Blues (a hilarious strip for anyone with kids).  Darryl and Wanda are sitting across the kitchen table from each other, with a recipe box in between them.  

Wanda: What should we have for dinner tonight?
Darryl: Let's see...We had hamburger Monday night...We had chicken last night...
Darryl: Unless I'm mistaken it's hamburger's turn again.
Wanda: Is it just me, or does it seem like we're in a food rut?

Raise your hand if you know the feeling... =)

I've been feeling like I'm in a rut lately.  About just about everything.  I need something to shake me out of it, but I'm still trying to figure out what.  Food seems like a good place to start, since I spend so much of my time focused on it.  I don't blog about savory food, but I cook a lot.  It seems like lately we've been eating the same things over and over.  Some of that is because I'm trying to come up with quick things so I can get the girls to bed (and that's another post).  Some is just because I don't know where to start looking for new ideas.  Any suggestions for new things to try?

I don't have as much trouble with baking, especially since being a part of blogging groups forces me to try new things.  But I've been having a hard time finding the motivation to make stuff lately--even Tuesdays with Dorie hasn't been inspiring me as much.  Thank goodness for my friends on Twitter.  I'm more likely to want to make something when others are making it at the same time.  That's what several of us did on Sunday morning for Christine's pick of Chocolate Pots de Creme. 

Making custardy things can be a little scary, but in this case, the oven does most of the work for you.  For this chocolate version of pots de creme, you start off by making ganache with the chocolate and some of the cream.  I used a mix of El Rey 58% and 70% (what I had on hand).  I didn't have whole milk, so I used a bit more cream in place of a bit of the milk.  I also cheated and heated my milk/cream mixture in the microwave.  While it was heating, I whisked the yolks and whole egg together, then gradually whisked in the sugar and a very generous pinch of salt.  The milk was then gradually whisked into the egg mixture and then the whole thing was stirred into the ganache.

The recipe calls for eight 4-ounce ramekins.  I only have four, so I used those and four 6-ounce ones.  I'm glad I did, since my custard mixture filled them nicely.  I didn't want to get out my big roasting pan, but I couldn't get the cups to fit into my 13"x9" pan, so I had to use it.  And then I had to heat more water for the water bath, because the roasting pan is so darn big. =)  But finally I got it done, including covering the whole thing with foil, and got everything into the oven.  I checked at 30 minutes, and the custards were nicely set, with some jiggle left in the middle.  After a 10-minute rest in the pan on the stovetop, the custards were a little more firm.  Perfect.  I took the cups out of the water bath, let them cool to room temperature, then put them in the fridge.

The verdict?  Mmm.  The pots de creme were really good.  They have a lovely smooth texture.  After tasting the custard before baking, I wasn't how chocolatey it would be.  But after baking, the chocolate flavor was more intense, and it wasn't too sweet.  The pots de creme were a big hit with Brianna and Gillian, who love anything resembling chocolate pudding.  Of course, Jamie and I were happy to eat our share.  I'm not sure that this recipe will supplant my favorite (a non-baked version from Cook's Illustrated), but I'm really glad I tried it.

If you'd like to try these for yourself, Christine will have it on her blog.  Or you can just get a copy of the book for yourself. =)  To see what everyone else thought of this recipe, check out this week's Links.

Two more quick things...  In another effort to shake myself out of my rut, I decided to play around with my blog's design.  I pretty much hadn't touched it since I first set it up over three years ago.  What you do you think?  And you just never know when something unexpected will inspire you.  When I was going to take pictures of my pots de creme, Jamie was sitting at the kitchen table, in my usual photography spot.  Rather than disturb him, I looked around the house for another place to take pictures.  I ended up in the front room of the house, in my girls' play kitchen area.  Their little table is up against a window, and the light was great.  I'm really happy with how the pictures turned out.  So it never hurts to try something new.


  1. The no-bake CI version is my favorite as well, but these weren't bad. Looks delicious!

  2. I like everything- new blog design, your photos, your pots de creme! nice work

  3. Like-new blog design, photos and chocolate pots de creme. Why is it so hard to get everything done and get kids in bed....I feed them at 5pm so they can be asleep by 7:30 and it is still a rush-around sometimes!

  4. The pots de creme look amazing...love all the photos! And I like the brightness of your new design...very springy.

    I hear you on the dinner thing. Hubby and I actually sat down at the beginning of this school year to make a dinner-ideas chart: a list of foods for quick dinners (when we only have 10 min to throw something together), a list of dinners that make a lot (for when we need leftovers for lunch), a list of good weekend meals (when I have a lot of time to cook), etc...Helps gives us ideas for those "what's for dinner?!" nights.

  5. I used 55% chocolate and it was probably a little sweeter, so I am ok with that. I love TWD because it does force me to make different things. Like you, I only blog baking so my dinners are usually quite uninspired.

  6. nice ratio of cream on there- just the way i like it! :)

  7. I like your new design...feels very fresh and springy to me. I think we all feel rut-y this time of year; I know I do. Glad the pots de creme helped shake things up a bit for you! They look gorgeous.

  8. I love the new look! I've been known to snap photos on very unlikely places, as long as there's a sliver of natural light. It was so much fun making these together this weekend. I'm not big on whipped cream but I must say they look so elegant with cream and chocolate jimmies.

  9. The pot de creme looks spectacularly good. I'm new to your blog and it convinced me to browse through your earlier entries. I'm so glad I did. I really like the food and recipes you share with your readers. I'll definitely be back to see what else you've been cooking. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  10. A home run with the new blog look AND the puddings! I thought these were better than I originally thought... a must-make-again. Glad you have a new look - it's like a shopping spree... only cheaper.

  11. The new design looks great Di! I'm in the middle of re-designing my site too - must be that time of year :)

    We get into ruts here too, especially this time of year. I'm hopeful the start of spring will shake us out of it!

  12. LOVE the new background. And love how you finished the pots de creme. So festive.
    Chicken, HB, Chicken, Chicken, HB, fish. Yep, rut!!

  13. Love the new blog look. What pretty little pots those are...so cute and just right for this recipe. I try not to get into ruts around here with cooking anymore since I discovered all of you and there are so many things everyone is making that I want to try!

  14. im getting hungry when i see this photos