I love birthdays. I often start planning my own months in advance. I know this is inappropriate. My inner birthday whore fights with my inner etiquette geek every year. Of course, my poor husband is not such a birthday freak, but every year I badger him into some sort of party or gathering by promising him that I will cook him whatever he likes. I tell myself that deep down he likes it.
This year, the request was Southern food (specifically, chicken and dumplings) and Rock Band. Since it is my belief that your birthday is your own personal holiday, in the Butterpants house, what you want is what you get.
I generally avoid cooking meat whenever possible. The last time I tried, it resulted in a minor emotional breakdown so this time around, Mr. B took care of the shredding and prepping of the chicken and I took care of the rest.
Of course, birthdays require cake. Last year, Mr. B requested a box cake. I’m not going to lie, I was offended at the request. But…. what you want is what you get. Well, a box cake he got. Too bad it looked like this:
I swear I did not do it on purpose.
This year, I insisted on homemade. Since Mr. B is a huge peanut butter/chocolate fan, I settled on the recipe from Sky High for the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Peanut Butter Glaze. Holy mother of G-d.
Both recipes are excellent. Mr. B found the chicken and dumplings a little on the salty side, so if you’re not a salt person, err on the side of caution. The cake is hardcore. Superrich, but absolutely incredible. This cake is going to be my chocolate cake base from now on.
Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings
From Scott Peacock via Martha Stewart.
Note: This is more of a soup than the thicker stewy texture (think Cracker Barrel) that Mr. B was hoping for. I thickened it a bit with flour. That didn’t really get to where he wanted it, but he was satisfied with it in the end and said it tasted even better the next day.
1 large chicken (4 to 4 1/2 pounds), cut into quarter
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
8 cups Scott’s Chicken Stock (I confess, I used canned because I was lazy and crunched for time)
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise
2 ribs celery, preferably inner ribs with leaves attached
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (I did not use these, Mr. B would have flipped)
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream
Generously season chicken with salt. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.
In a large Dutch oven, combine chicken stock, 4 cups water, onion, celery, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat Add the leg portions and the backbone of the chicken to the Dutch oven. Place the breasts, skin side down, on top of the legs. Reduce heat to just below a simmer. Cover partially, and cook, making sure the stock mixture does not come to a simmer, until breasts are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove breasts, and set aside. Continue cooking legs until very tender and meat begins to pull away from the bone, 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove chicken and vegetables, reserving liquid. Discard vegetables and set chicken aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg, oil, 3 tablespoons cold water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in flour until well combined. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
When chicken has cooled, remove skin and discard. Remove meat from bones and tear into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces; set aside.
Turn dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Roll out dough until it is about 1/16-inch thick. Cut dough into 1 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch rectangles. Bring reserved stock mixture to a boil over high heat, and season with salt. Add dough rectangles to boiling liquid, shaking pot as necessary, but not stirring. Cook until, dough is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved chicken and reduce to a simmer. Add sliced egg, butter, and heavy cream; season with pepper. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes more; season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat and cover; let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving in shallow bowl.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle. (I didn’t do this.)
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (note from the book: commercial hydrogenated peanut butter works best because the oil doesn’t separate out)
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
Serve with Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka.
Be excellent to each other,