I've been playing with the puff I made the other day. I am learning a few things, like that you have to cut cleanly with a cookie cutter and not rotate at all. Here are a few little cookies that I made yesterday and filled with blood orange curd. They were devoured in no time.
I promised folks I would tell them about the birthday bash for which I cooked up a storm. (Yep, I cook and bake on my birthday. But I want to!) My friend and I have birthdays very close together (unfortunately he's a lot younger than I am), and this year we had a joint party at his place. I wanted to do pulled pork on the grill, but my husband broke a rib and I wasn't about to stand in 10 degree weather tending a fire. Someone suggested I do the crockpot pulled pork from Cook's Country. Since I already had the pork, I thought I would give it a try.
To dry to duplicate the smoky flavor that a long roast over hardwood provides, Cook's has you season the meat thoroughly, let it sit in the rub overnight, then place it atop two smoked and cured hamhocks in a crockpot. Additionally, liquid smoke is added to the sauce at the end of the cooking.
Although everyone at the party liked it very well, I was underwhelmed. While it tasted okay, it was definitely flat when compared to our usual pulled pork. It'll do in a pinch but this recipe won't be added to the repetoire.
In addition to the pulled pork, I made a sweet and sour slaw (yummy), chicken wings with my favorite wing sauce (I was afraid I would trip a breaker in their kitchen with 2 crockpots and a deep fryer - but it all worked fine), a sausage queso dip, chips and homemade salsa. My friend provided a cheese tray, veggie tray and dips. It was a BYOB affair, so I didn't have to worry about that, although I did bring some community beer.
As to the birthday cake, since this wasn't a big dessert crowd, I decided to make cupcakes instead of a fancy decorated cake. OK, the real reason was that I ran out of time due to unexpected visitors on Friday night. So I made one of my favorite cakes (it was my birthday after all!), Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cordon Rose Banana Cake, into cupcakes and iced them with her equally scrumptious Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache. A lot of people wrinkled their noses when I said I made banana cupcakes. However, upon trying them, most people decided that they liked banana after all. Many found the icing to be too rich and dark, and I didn't even use my darkest chocolate! I used Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate, which I think is only about 56% cocoa solids. I saved the 72% for another project - although it's a little dark for most of my friends' tastes. The cocoa percentage has to be above 80% before I find it too intense.
Unfortunately, I captured none of this with my camera. Sorry, no photos of darling little cupcakes or drool-worthy fried chicken. But I had a great time and managed to avoid a hangover, so I was pretty happy with the outcome.