Recipe: Spicy Cheese Sauce

I’m on vacation for the holidays, and plan to spend much of the next few weeks in the kitchen. This will result in more posts about food and fewer posts about Power BI. You’ve been warned.

This is my favorite cheese sauce. The recipe is adapted from one originally published by Modernist Cuisine, and made much better by the application of chilies.

Please note that the recipe uses proportions by weight, rather than specific amounts. You can easily scale the recipe up or down so long as the proportion is the same, but you will need an accurate kitchen scale for this one.

Ingredients

  • 100% extra sharp orange cheddar cheese
  • 100% jalapeno juice
  • 4% sodium citrate

Procedure

  • Juice 10-50 jalapeno chili peppers and weigh the juice.
  • Grate an equal weight of cheddar cheese.
  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the juice and sodium citrate and bring to a boil.
  • Gradually add grated cheddar to the liquid, blending with an immersion blender to incorporate each batch of cheese before adding more.
  • That’s it. It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Storage

Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Applications

  • Dip tortilla chips into the cheese sauce and eat them. Eat all of them!!
  • Use on nachos.
  • Use on chili cheese fries, with homemade french fries and green chili sauce from El Patio De Albuquerque.

Notes

  • If you really love spicy food, you may be tempted to use habaneros or another spicier chili to start with. Don’t do that. Start with jalapenos and scale the heat up as appropriate by adding a few spicier chilies to the mix. Trust me on this one.
  • Alternately you can scale down the heat by replacing some of the liquid with water. Do what is right for you.
  • So long as you keep the same proportions, you can use any liquid and any cheese you want. The possibilities are limitless.
  • You can also use jalapeno juice in other recipes where you want to add flavor and heat. My other favorite application is in yeast breads, where you can replace the water with chili juice. I’ve made this recipe multiple times with great results using this technique.

Recipe: Sea Salt Caramels

This is my favorite caramel. The recipe is adapted from one originally published in Dessert Professional Magazine. As with any caramel you want to be careful with this one – don’t take your eyes off hot caramel!

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Ingredients

  • 123 grams glucose syrup
  • 821 grams granulated sugar
  • 10 grams Fleur de Sel sea salt
  • 657 grams unsalted butter
  • 388 grams heavy cream

Procedure

  • Line a 9×13″ baking/casserole dish with parchment paper. Have the prepared dish ready by the stove.
  • Combine the glucose, sugar and salt in a large pot over medium-high heat and cook until it reaches 293 F, stirring frequently.
  • Meanwhile, combine the butter and cream in a medium pot and bring to a boil.
  • Once the sugar mixture reaches 293 F, slowly and carefully pour the cream and butter into the pot with the sugar, whisking constantly.
  • Bring the mixture back up to 122 C / 252 F, stirring constantly.
  • Pour carefully into the prepared dish.
  • Cool the caramel to room temperature, 3-4 hours or overnight.
  • Cut the cooled caramels into squares.

Storage

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Vacuum seal and freeze indefinitely.

Applications

  • Eat them as is
  • Enrobe with tempered chocolate, and top with a few flakes of sea salt
  • Bake peanut butter cookies with a small thumbprint depression in their tops, and fill the depression with a generous lump of caramel

 

Recipe: Candied Orange Peels

This is my favorite holiday treat. The recipe is adapted from one originally published in the mid-90s in Chocolatier Magazine. I’ve made it scores of times, and the results are always wonderful. For me and my family, the smell of candied orange peels is the smell of Christmas[1].

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Ingredients

  • 12 fresh ripe navel oranges
  • 1 gallon water (3,785 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (18 g)
  • 4 pounds granulated sugar (1.8 kg)
  • 1 quart water (946 ml)

Procedure

Phase 1:

  • Combine one gallon of water and one tablespoon salt, and stir to combine
  • Using a fork, thoroughly perforate the peels of each orange, stabbing through the peel into the flesh
  • Using a sharp knife, divide each orange into quarters
  • Using your thumb, remove the peel from the flesh of each orange
  • Place the peels in the salt water, and use the flesh for some other purpose
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent the peels from rising above the surface of the salt water, and allow to rest for 8 hours or overnight

Phase 2:

  • Combine four pounds sugar with one quart water in a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally
  • Drain the orange peels
  • Add the orange peels to the sugar syrup and bring the syrup back to a boil
  • Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring frequently
  • Remove the syrup and peels from the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature
  • Cover the syrup with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 8 hours or overnight

Phase 3:

  • Remove the peels from the syrup and place on baking racks over baking sheets
  • Allow the peels to rest for 24-48 hours or until the excess syrup has drained

Storage

The peels will keep refrigerated for weeks, and will keep indefinitely in the freezer, although it is rare that they last very long at all before being eaten.

Applications

  • Cut peels into strips, and dip into melted (ideally tempered) dark chocolate
  • Chop peels into small chunks, and add to oatmeal cookies with white chocolate and dried cherries
  • Chop peels into small chunks and mix into chocolate ganache with toasted nuts and dried fruit – refrigerate and cut into squares

Honestly, these are good in just about anything.

Notes

  • The recipe easily doubles or triples if you have a big enough pot, and enough racks to drain the candied peels
  • Select oranges for the thickness of their peels
  • Since the finished product is vegan, gluten-free, and everything-but-oranges-sugar-and-chocolate-free, chocolate-dipped peels make great gifts for people with common dietary restrictions, unlike cookies
  • If you accidentally stab your hand with the fork while you’re perforating the oranges, you’ll quickly realize just how much you liked not having fresh orange juice in a stab wound

 


[1] If you ever wondered why the blog was titled “BI Polar” at least one reason is that the topics covered will swing dramatically from time to time. Please try to keep up.

Create Something Awesome and Share It

One of the things I love the most about software development is that it lets me imagine something, create the thing I imagined, and share the thing I created.

For me, baking hits the same creative “sweet spot” that software development hits. And, of course baking can also be literally sweet as well. But beyond the joy of eating something delicious and homemade, making something with your own two hands can be deeply satisfying and therapeutic, in a way that making something at the keyboard is not.

Kind of like how fencing is sometimes described as “physical chess,” baking is like physical software development.[1] There are common components and frameworks. There are tools that are required, and tools which are optional, but which will will save you time and frustration. There are patterns that can be learned in one application, and applied to other, related applications. There are some rules you must follow, and some rules you can bend, and it takes study and experience to know the difference between the two. The parallels go on and on.

It doesn’t matter where you channel your creativity, but having a creative outlet where you can relax, learn, and express yourself.

In related news, if you’re going to be at the Power BI World Tour event today at the Microsoft Advanta offices in Bellevue, I baked cookies. Specifically, I baked caraway shortbread cookies inspired by the ones they serve at Dinner by Heston in London. Look for me at the evening reception event.

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[1] Fencing is also sometimes known as “chess with pain” and “pain” is French for bread. Coincidence? I think not.