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Entries in cake science (2)

Wednesday
Dec102014

Recipe Redux: Butterscotch Chip Microwave Fudge

Fudge? That you can make in the microwave? Who has ever heard of such a thing?

Um, you have. On this very site, several years ago. It's OK. I understand that if you're new to the site you haven't spent all day sifting through my archives. I also understand that if you're a longtime reader...well, you forget things.

But this recipe is good enough to bring back. I made it "new" by employing butterscotch chips instead of peanut butter this time. And let me tell you, it stands the test of time. It appeals to me both on a level of novelty (it's fudge! made in the microwave!), but also on a level of taste (it's chocolatey! It's very, very sweet! It has butterscotch chips inside and on top!). 

Basically, what I am getting at here is that this recipe is fun, it's tasty, and it's worth your time. It's also easy enough that if you had a cookie swap to go to in an hour, you could still make it RIGHT NOW. 


Butterscotch Chip Microwave Fudge

Makes about 16 squares

  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 cup half and half, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chip morsels, divided into 1/2 and 1/4 cup

Procedure

  1. Line an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch pyrex pan with parchment paper or waxed paper.
  2. In a large microwave safe bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa. Pour 1/4 cup of the half and half over the mixture and place butter in bowl. Do not mix (it will be too thick to mix, anyway). Microwave on high until butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the butterscotch morsels (the residual heat will melt them just enough). Stir vigorously until smooth. You can also put the mixture into a stand mixer if that sounds exhausting. If your mixture is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup more half and half, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together in a fudge-like consistency.
  3. Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan and using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture so that it is evenly distributed. If desired, sprinkle the top with the remaining chips.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour, or the freezer for half an hour, before serving. Makes about 16 squares.

Have you ever heard of or eaten microwave fudge?

Tuesday
Feb192013

Does Cake Taste Different Depending on Your State of Mind?

Cake!

Cake always tastes delicious. That's a fact and nobody can take that away from you.

But here's a question that, once it occurred to me, made me pause to ponder: does the same cake taste different depending on the time of day and your state of mind? Obviously, there was only one way to find out: I had to make myself a cake-eating guinea pig in this important experiment.

So I made up a batch of cake--cupcakes, in fact. Vanilla with chocolate frosting. Actually, it was the cupcake version of my birthday cake from last year. So I know it's a cake I like. I put several in the freezer so they wouldn't go stale, and then rationed them out to myself over the next several days, experimenting with how the cake would taste at various times of day and centered around different activities.

Oh, the things I do for science! Here's how it went. 

Wake n cake

Wake n Cake: Cake eaten directly after waking up. That's right. I had the cake at the ready, so that when I woke up, I literally turned over to my night table, grabbed the plate of cake, and dug in (what I do for the sake of research!). Believe it or not, it isn't the first time I've done something like this, but it is the first time I tasted mindfully and really observed the experience. I still had morning breath and felt sleep-fuzzy, and the cake almost seemed like an interloper in my sleep world. My taste buds rejected it at first as foreign, odd. But the more I ate, the cake taste coated my mouth and I tasted sweet, not sleep. Not a bad way to wake up the taste buds, but I think I'll wait at least 10 minutes in the future before going for the cake.

Cake while watching tv

Cake Interrupted: Cake while eating TV. It basically went like this: I'm eating, I'm eating, it's sweet, and then it's gone. Wait, how did that happen? I realized that while the cake tasted good, I barely registered the experience. I felt like I'd had just a bite or two, and I wanted more. I can see why eating in front of the TV is not good for you--you don't eat mindfully at all!

Cake yoga

Cake OM: cake after yoga class. This was probably the best cake of all. I felt like my senses had been awakened by stretching my body, and walking outside into the brisk coldness and walking two blocks home, I felt invigorated. Still in that zen state of mind, I ate quietly, slowly, and mindfully. I tasted every bite, and every bite tasted like a sweet reward. I highly suggest eating cake after yoga or exercise. 

Cake salad

Virtuous cake: cake eaten after salad. Have you ever eaten a slice of cake directly after eating a salad? It's weird, man. You've got the natural sweetness of the salad ingredients--the crispy lettuce, carrots, etc. And the tartness of the vinaigrette. Then you have a slice of cake, and it just tastes weird and sour for a few bites. Luckily, after the initial few bites my taste buds were acquainted with the cake, and I found it an enjoyable experience. But the first few bites were really not that enjoyable.

Cake and burger

Naughty cake: cake eaten post cheeseburger. I'm told that eating a fat slice of cake after eating a nice fat burger is not so good for you, healthwise. But I'm here to make an argument for its nourishment of the soul. The gorgeous contrast of the soft sweetness of the cake following the savory salty unctuousness of the burger is an absolute thing of beauty. It felt like yin and yang. I craved ice cream with the cake, or to have the cake slightly chilled for even more of a cooling, sweet contrast, but the room temperature cake seemed to do just fine. Verdict: Thumbs up. 

Cakewalk

Cake Walk: cake eaten while walking around the block. Eating and walking is an interesting experience. For me, it is a mixed bag. It's enjoyable because I like the feeling of eating outside--the air on your skin, even cold, stimulates my taste. But eating a slice of cake (a strange food to be eating while walking) made me self conscious, and I think this took away from tasting because I was concerned about people looking at me. Verdict: thumb halfway. 

Cake in bed

Cake Dreams: Cake eaten right before bed. Do sweet foods give you sweet dreams? Well, I thought they might at first, because eating cake at night in bed is AWESOME. Not so awesome, however, is a half hour later when you're trying to sleep and find yourself all sugar-fired-up and ready to like, dance the macarena or something. Of course, I am not a big late-night eater, so this made me uncomfortable and too energized before bed. 

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