Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Day 1: Welcome Cocoa

This post marks Day 1 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

One of the things I enjoy most about winter is that feeling of warmth and comfort that comes after being outdoors in the dank chill.

There's nothing like skating, or sledding or shoveling the walk (or simply bearing up to the driving the winter wind), and then finding yourself indoors — safe and cozy.

It's the "fresh, dry socks and a cup of hot cocoa" feeling.

Hot Chocolate

Maybe you can't always offer up a pair of dry socks to wayward travelers, but it's nice to be able to welcome winter visitors (or maybe just yourself) with a quick cup of homemade cocoa.

Make some of your own mix now, and you'll be ready for those moments of cocoa comfort.

The mix makes a nice gift as well. Just put it in a jar and add a ribbon with a cute tag with the basic how-to.
Hot Cocoa Mix (Makes 8 servings)
3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

1. In a mixing bowl, blend cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt.
2. Store mixture in a lidded jar or another airtight container.

To prepare the hot cocoa:

1. Whisk together 2 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa mix (for each serving) with 1/4 cup hot water (for each serving) until smooth and blended.
2. Blend in 3/4 cup whole milk (for each serving) heat the cocoa until it steams.
3. Serve hot one-cup portions in mugs.

For an extra-nice cuppa, I like to add in a 1/4 tsp (for each serving) of vanilla extract and maybe a dollop of cream, whipped cream or marshmallows, but all that's just lovely excess...

This mix is also delightful served with a cinnamon stick, a peppermint stick or a shot of peppermint schnapps, as you like it.

Holiday Cheer!
Miss Ginsu

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12.01.2008

Food Quote Friday: Madame d'Arestel

Hot Chocolate with fresh-whipped cream at Angelina in Paris

" 'Monsieur,' Madame d'Arestel, Superior of the convent of the Visitation at Belley, once said to me more than fifty years ago, "whenever you want to have a really good cup of chocolate, make it the day before, in a porcelain coffeepot, and let it set. The night's rest will concentrate it and give it a velvety quality which will make it better. Our good God cannot possibly take offense at this little refinement, since he himself is everything that is most perfect.' "

— as quoted by Brillat-Savarin from The Physiology of Taste, 1825

Sip up more decadent food quotes here.

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2.08.2008

Day 16: When Cake Imitates Life

This post marks Day 16 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

I don't know about you, but I enjoy the notion of novelty cakes. I've always been entertained by the idea of the Coca-Cola Cake, the Orange Dreamsicle Cake, the Daim Cake and the Wacky Cake.

My boss loves to talk about his girlfriend's orange cake, which is actually pretty tasty. Whenever he explains this cake of wonders to someone, he inevitably exclaims, "It's got pudding in it!" as if the notion of pudding mix in a cake brings some kind of magic to the whole enterprise.

One of my dad's favorite cakes is simply a dark chocolate boxed cake mix that he pours into the pan over a 14oz can's worth of pitted dark cherries (and the syrup, presumably). It's then frosted like a standard chocolate cake. Dad's chocolate-cherry cake is fruity and gooey at the bottom... I suppose it's sort of a lazy man's German Chocolate Cake. A bit rich for my taste, but people always rave and ask him for the recipe.

Maybe it's some kind of kitchen alchemy, this combination of manufactured items and home-cooked goods. Or maybe the use of grocery products offers an element of adventure (will it work?) and an aspect of surprise (you'll never guess what's in it!).

Perhaps we've all just been brainwashed by generations of recipes produced and published by food manufacturers. (Try these easy, delicious Spamwiches!)

hot chocolate cake

Regardless of the psychology burbling in the brain, I found myself taken with a Hot Chocolate Cake I recently found through the aid of Real Simple magazine.

The Hot Chocolate Cake is essentially a (nearly) flourless chocolate cake that's topped with marshmallows and browned to perfection just before serving. You can do individual portions in teacups or cocoa mugs with mini-marshmallows (a terrific presentation) or one larger round cake with the big marshmallows (as seen herein).

I think I'd recommend the individual cakes in oven-safe teacups. Presentation is key for a novelty cake. You want to hear the round of "oohs" and "aahs" as the desserts are presented. They'd be fab for cold-weather entertaining (Christmas dinner, anyone?)

The cakes (or cake, if you're doing an individual one) are truly tastiest if they're still a bit soft and underdone in the middle, so take care not to overbake.
Hot Chocolate Cake (Makes 8 servings)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for coating
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup mini marshmallows (Or 1 bag large marshmallows for a full-size cake)

Heat oven to 375°F. Generously butter, flour, and sugar eight 6-ounce ramekins or ovenproof coffee cups or mugs, tapping out any excess coatings. Wipe the rims clean and place on a baking sheet.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, salt, and sugar until the mixture doubles in volume, about 5 minutes; set aside. Stir the flour into the chocolate mixture.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Fill each ramekin or cup with batter until it's 1/2 inch from the rim.

Bake until the cakes puff and crack on the surface but are still slightly liquid in the center, 13 to 17 minutes, depending on the size of the cups. Remove from oven.

Sprinkle with the marshmallows. Return to oven until the marshmallows begin to crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip: You could make a single hot chocolate cake instead of individual ones. To do this, you'll need a 10-inch springform pan and enough regular-size marshmallows to cover the surface. You'll also need to increase the initial baking time to 22 to 25 minutes or, if you prefer a more gooey center, to 17 to 20 minutes.

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12.16.2007

Day 4: A Hot Chocolate Field Guide

This post marks Day 4 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate. Also: Happy Hanukkah!

When it comes to cocoa, there are distinct camps. I think of them as the Swiss Misstics and the Chocovores.

Identifying the Parties

The Swiss Misstic thinks the Chocovore is a pompous twit. The Chocovore sees the Swiss Misstic as a philistine. It's a war over definition.

What nobody understands is the very simple difference at hand. The classic Swiss Misstic is looking for something like warmed milk with chocolate in it. The Chocovore is looking for something like warmed chocolate with milk in it.

It's a difference of ratio, decoration and price vs. quality.

Epistrophy Cocoa
Epistrophy (on Mott Street) serves up a cream-covered hedonist treat for Swiss Misstics

The Swiss Misstics

The classic Misstic is looking for a warm cup of comfort. If it comes with whipped cream, chocolate drizzles, flavored syrups, mini marshmallows or cookies for dipping, that's all the better, but the Misstic is easy to please. Just serve up a powdered mix and hot water or chocolate syrup mixed into warmed milk.

Here's a quick recipe for homemade cocoa mix. Mix up a packet and give it to your favorite Misstic along with instructions and a cute mug.

Homemade Cocoa Mix (Makes about 7 1/2 cups of mix)

Basic Ingredients
5 cups dry milk
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Optional Add-Ins:
1/2 cup crushed candy canes
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Blend ingredients.

2. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag.

3. To make a single serving, combine 1/4 cup mix and 3/4 cup hot water in a mug. Stir well to blend.


Epistrophy Cocoa
The chocolate at St. Helen Cafe (in Brooklyn) is dark and rich under all that foam.

The Chocovores

A Chocovore insists on splendor. It's high-quality chocolate or none at all. You'll rarely see ornamentation on the chocovore's cuppa, and if you do, it's probably something simple, like chocolate shavings. Give the chocovore something made with whole milk and melted dark chocolate nibs (at least 70%). Chocovores also enjoy name dropping. Give them packs of Jacques Torres, MarieBelle, Schokinag Drinking Chocolate or Vosges Couture Cocoa.

To each, his own (cup)

I think we can all get along. Mutual understanding is the key to peace between the factions this holiday season.

If you're mixing up hot chocolate at a holiday party, you can easily please Misstics and Chocovores alike.

Adjustable Hot Chocolate

Add a cup of milk for each cocoa drinker to a saucepan and heat on medium, incorporating pieces of bittersweet chocolate with a whisk until the liquid matches the correct color scheme (see below).

You'll stop early for the Misstics, offering up mugs of lighter-colored liquid topped with marshmallows or whipped cream and chocolate drizzles.

Keep whisking in chocolate for the chocovores. Offer decorations, but don't be offended if they just want their fix straight up.

Use the following chart for color reference:

hot chocolate chart

However you drink your cocoa, I wish good cheer to all, and to all, a good cup!

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12.04.2007

I (heart) Hot Chocolate


Zucco dishes it up schnazzy.

I realize this is one of those far-from-controversial opinions.

Proclaiming a passion for hot chocolate falls in along the lines of revealing a long-held affection for large-eyed puppies.

That said... wouldn't you agree that it's still about the best thing winter has to offer?

Ice Skating and Hot Chocolate
Courtesy of this week's Manhattan User's Guide:

Skate: Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers
Hot Chocolate: Le Gamin, 183 9th [21st] 212.243.8864

Skate: The Pond at Bryant Park
Hot Chocolate: The Pond Snack Bar

Skate: Rock Center Rink
Hot Chocolate: Cafe SFA at Saks.

Skate: Wollman Rink
Hot Chocolate: Serendipity

Skate: Lasker Rink
Hot Chocolate: Hungarian Pastry Shop, 1030 Amst [110th/111th]

Skate: Riverbank State Park
Hot Chocolate: You’ll have to fill your thermos for this one – Jacques Torres perhaps...350 Hudson [King] 212.414.2462

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12.01.2005