Guest Chick Monday: Cat Schield

Settle in for a story from a Chick of the Frozen North.  Cat Schield lives in Minnesota with  her daughter and their Burmese cat.  Winner of the Romance Writers of America 2010 Golden Heart® for series contemporary romance, when she’s not writing sexy, romantic stories for Harlequin Desire, she can be found sailing with friends on the St. Croix River or more exotic locales like the Caribbean and Europe.

And she has a book released this month, who-hoo!  Meddling With a Millionaire was given FOUR STARS by Romantic Times.  You can read more about Cat here.

Group Fun

Once upon a time there were four friends–two of them married–who decided it would be fun to get together and use the married couple’s pasta maker.  Now, this was not one of those machines where you put in the ingredients and out comes the pasta.  No, this was the sort where you crank the dough through over and over until you get to the perfect thickness.

Friends who cook together… eat together

We had so much fun that we decided it should be an every other month event.  Right away, we settled on the theme of cooking different ethnic foods.  And, ten years later, we’ve cooked our way around the world a couple of times.

Usually we start around two in the afternoon and make an appetizer.  We look for beer or wine from the country to accompany the meal.  Some of the ingredients have proven impossible to find, others times we’ve lucked out at specialty grocery stores.

We try and pick time intensive meals that we wouldn’t ever prepare on our own.  It’s fun to share the work even as we bump elbows in the kitchen.  As the years have gone on, we’ve each fallen into a specialty.  Rose likes to chop.  Kevin keeps track of the protein.  Diane is fabulous picking out the recipes.  Me, I like to measure ingredients and keep track of what we’re working on since often we’re doing three recipes at a time.

Along the way we’ve had successes and failures.  But no matter what we prepared, we always had a great time in the process.

Fun in the kitchen!

The most memorable, for me was also our most time intensive.  My neighbors at the time were really into Italian cooking so I invited them to participate.  Jan devised the menu and provided the recipes.  We showed up with the ingredients.  It took six of us four hours to prepare everything, but was it delicious.

We started with an almond soup.  The main course was a tortellini pie.  And for dessert we had a flourless chocolate torte.  We had a different wine with each course and I’m pretty sure it was the best meal I’ve ever made.  And because of the community effort that went into the preparation, it remains in my mind the perfect dinner party.  I’ve included a recipe for the chocolate torta.

Torta Barozzi
1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp cocoa (not Dutch process)
1-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 to 4 tbsp all purpose unbleached flour (organic stone-ground preferred)
8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
3-1/2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
4 large eggs, separated
5-1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
½ oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1-1/2 tbsp instant expresso coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
1-1/2 tsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp cocoa
½ tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Working ahead:  The Barozzi can be baked ahead and has admirable keeping qualities.  It may be slightly better tasting in the first 24 hours after baking, but the cake keeps all its flavors when tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days.  It freezes well 2 months.  Serve at room temperature.

Making Almond Powder:  Combine the almonds 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar and 3 tbsp cocoa in food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Process until the almonds are a fine powder.

Blend the Batter:  Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch spring form pan with 1 tbsp of butter.  Cut a circle of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan.  Butter the paper with ½ tbsp butter and line the pan with it, butter side up.  Use the 3 to 4 tbsps flour to coat the entire interior of the spring form pan, shaking out any excess.

Preheat the oven to 375 and set the rack in the center of the oven.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed 8 to 10 minutes, or until almost white and very fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl during the beating.

Still at medium speed, beat in the peanut butter.  Then beat in the egg yolks two at a time until smooth.  Reduce the speed to medium-low and beat in the melted chocolates, the dissolved coffee, rum and vanilla.  Then use a big spatula to fold in the almond powder by hand, keeping the batter light.

Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.  Lighten the chocolate batter by folding a quarter of the whites into it.  Then fold in the rest, keeping the mixture light, but without leaving any streaks.

Baking:  Turn the batter into the baking pan, gently smoothing the top.  Bake 30 minutes.  Then reduce the oven heat to 325 and baked another 15 to 20 or until a tester inserted i the center of the cake comes out with only a few small flecks.  The cake will have puffed about two thirds of the way up the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake 10 minutes in the pan set on a rack.  The cake will settle slightly but will remain level.  Spread a kitchen towel on a large plate and turn the cake out onto it.  Peel off the parchment and cool the cake completely.  Then place a round cake plate on top of the cake, and holding the two plates together, flip them over so the torta is right side up.

Serving:  Just before serving, sift the tbsp of cocoa over the ca.  Then top if with a sifting of confectioner’s sugar.  Serve the Barozzi at room temperature.

Thank you Chicks for inviting me into your kitchen.  If anyone would like to share their own stories of group cooking experiences, I’d love to hear them.


33 thoughts on “Guest Chick Monday: Cat Schield

  1. Thanks for your post, Cat! My group cooking experience is me offering help once everything else has already been done! *laugh*

    Okay, not all the time. I do cook a lot with the Things – well, baking, really – and I used to cook parts of meals along with my college friends. Your experience sounds like so much fun!

  2. Abigail, thanks for inviting me to blog with you today. We really do have a blast cooking. Luckily we’ve had more hits than misses. And every now and then we make something that I add to my favorites list. The chocolate torte is one of those.

  3. OMG- the recipe sounds amazing. I used to make my own pasta, but I’ll admit, I used an attachment from my mixer. And when I divorced, his folks had given us the mixer so I gave it back. Stupid idea…

    I’m thinking about doing a ginger carmelled pear cake this weekend. I’ll have to add yours to my MUST make list.

    Thanks for sharing,

  4. Lynn, a ginger caramel pear cake is making my mouth water.
    BTW, we paired the cake with a dessert wine. A Muscat. Yum!

  5. Oh, what a trial for a person on a diet to read. But I can promise you this: that chocolate beauty will be right there at the celebration when I’m where I want to be . . .

  6. Oh…My…Heavens! Group cooking, I miss those days. I lived overseas for seven years and we did this. It was an Ex-Pat community of at least 10 different ethnic cultures. We created some really special meals. Generally, there was a theme for the evening but often times the Pot Luck events were the best. Something for everyone that way and everything was scrumptious! I have to say, though, that these days my cooking is more about what’s fast and easy…like frozen dinners. Aaargh! Loved your post, it brought back some great memories. Thanks!

  7. Beppie, I knew someone would have a hard time when I put up the torte recipe. Sorry. But just tuck it into your recipe book for some special day when you need a treat.

  8. Jaye, what fun your group must have been. It really is great to get a group together that way. When I lived down in Florida we used to do a potluck at someone’s house every Sunday night. Someone would make the main course and the rest of us would bring the salad, bread, dessert, etc. It was so much fun.

  9. First of all, Huge congratulations Cat, on your new release. Very cool indeed (hey! That makes you a cool Cat).
    Second, I loved reading this post about your experiences in the kitchen. These cooking partners must be some special friends indeed. And that is something to celebrate too. Friends that good, I mean.
    I’ve printed out your recipe and given it to my baking-daughter to practice until she perfects. That way, when I’m ready for that kind of (ten pounds to my thighs) celebration, she’ll be ready! I don’t dare put it in my recipe box or I’ll be up at three in the morning, making it just so I can watch “Titanic” in the dark and eat it all myself…
    Again, congrats on your new release. I hope it keeps you busy and happy!

  10. What a wonderful thing to do. About the only time I’ve been able to do group cooking is with family at the holidays. It is about the only time I can spend more than 30 – 40 minutes in the kitchen. 😉 Congratulations on the new release!

    • I once tried to liven scrambled eggs that my mother was making with pepper and garlic. She nixed that idea. I don’t think we’d work well in the kitchen together.

  11. I’ve got to be content with reading the delicious recipes and reveling in all your shared experiences. And let me tell you–I’m impressed with what you can do. These days, I cook ‘seriously’ only on holidays when everyone gathers. Tonight, for instance, I’m planning a special encore of a Lean Cuisine fav , served at my computer while I try to get the next capter finished for critique group tomorrow.

    Seriously, good going, ladies!!

    • Don’t give me too much credit – my breakfast was a bagel and cream cheese and lunch was a Lean Cuisine! I do have two kids, and I figure if I want to have the Family DInner, I should probably put some effort into it. 🙂

  12. Marne Ann, you made me laugh about the Titanic and eating the whole cake. I had a wonderful visual.
    These are friends I’ve had for almost thirty years. Man, that makes me sound old.
    There’s nothing like a book release to keep you busy. It’s a ball both on-line and hitting the stores to network with booksellers. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  13. Tina, great to see you! It’s a fabulous recipe. Easy and delicious. I’m so happy for your sale. It’s awesome when hard work pays off!! And you SO deserved for your ship to come in.

  14. Charlie, cooking with my family for the holidays is challenging because my parent’s kitchen is tiny and my mother is very bossy. Last Thanksgiving, however, I got to have it at my house and my daughter and I had a blast getting ready. At eleven, she’s developing into a great assistant.

  15. Barb, I know what you’re talking about with those quick dinners at the computer. I’ve learned to live on soy milk and Zone bars. It’s a fast, perfectly balanced meal. Good luck with the chapter.

  16. Oh rats, I’m sorry I ate dinner first. Now I want to try this cake, but I don’t have any room to spare. Definitely something for the weekend! Thanks for sharing, Cat, and wishing you much success on “Meddling with a Millionaire”! 🙂

  17. Cat,

    Your recipe sounds delicious!

    Since it’s only a few tablespoons of flour, would chickpea flour work as a subsitute? Always looking for tasty gluten-free recipes and right up to the flour, yours sounded perfect.

  18. The recipe sounds deelish Cat! Getting together to cook sounds like so much fun. My best friend and I live in different places and often talk about how we’d do so many things like cooking and gardening, etc. Thanks for sharing. And congrats on your new release!

  19. Wow, that looks like a LOT of work! I must admit to being a one-pot cook (turkey enchilada casserole is as complicated as I get), so I really admire you. Got your book on the way, can’t wait to read it!

    • Gabrielle, that turkey enchilada casserole sounds wonderful. I do a crock pot tortilla lasagna that’s great too.

  20. I think we all missed the really important question here.
    How good does this batter taste when you lick the bowl?

    • Abigail, it’s chocolate, peanut butter, coffee and almond. How can it be anything but fabulous? Thanks for having me!!

  21. Cat, I love this! It reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom’s brothers and sisters, along with their families, would get together every couple of months to make tacos and burritos. Everyone worked together to prepare all the components, laughing and having a great time in the process. Man, those were the best burritos I’ve ever had and I sure do miss those dinner parties.

    More recently, my family did this with a variety of Chinese dishes. Each of us picked a recipe from a cookbook and prepared it. We had fun making our own Chinese buffet. 🙂 The boys are after me to do this again and your post has lit a fire under me. Thanks for sharing!

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