Easy Kahlua with Chameleon Cold Brew

Cold brewed for low acidity with fabulous coffee taste, I first had locally made Chameleon Cold Brew at the TechMunch food bloggers conference held at Whole Foods headquarters in Austin during SXSW earlier this year.  Hopefully, they will be more widely available soon.  But if you live in the Austin area, check out their website for availability and grab some.  I am not much of a coffee drinker but this stuff is delicious and so convenient for the occasional caffeine fix.  I do love White Russians and was struck by inspiration today to concoct another Kahlua recipe using Chameleon.  If you only have ground coffee or even instant go here for my original recipe.  But if you are lucky enough to have Chameleon, try the recipe below.


1 Cup brown sugar

1 Cup water

1 16 oz bottle Chameleon Cold Brew

2 Cups vodka

1 Tablespoon Vanilla  (I prefer Danncy’s Mexican Vanilla)


Bring brown sugar and water to a boil.  Take off heat, add bottle of Chameleon and let cool.  Add vodka and vanilla.  Pour into a clean container.  Makes a little over 5 cups so you will have a little left over if you use a litre bottle.  If you can stand it, let it age in a cool dark place for two weeks for maximum flavor.

Bacon S’mores from Bacon Takedown 2011


Recipe: Bacon S’mores

Summary: Winner of the 2011 Bacon Takedown Best Sweet at SXSW in Austin, TX. These candies start with a layer of graham cracker caramel, topped with bacon marshmallows, dipped in dark chocolate, and finished with a sprinkling of bacon powder.

****  Hint  ****  Cook the bacon for the marshmallow layer BEFORE you start the caramel layer. 


  • [amd-recipeseo-recipe:3]
  • Quick Notes

You can use 2 smaller pans but it is hard to pour liquid caramel evenly in 2 separate pans. One layer may be thicker than the other. Also if you use foil instead of parchment paper, you must grease it with butter or cooking spray. this causes the caramel to pool in spots and hard to spread evenly. Spring for the parchment paper. It will change how you cook and clean!


I found that using all dark corn syrup was a little too molasses like in taste. You could easily use all dark if you prefer or all light corn syrup for a lighter caramel.

Summary: The caramel layer can cool slightly while you prepare the marshmallow layer. If the caramel is too hot, it will melt the marshmallow but if it is too cool, they will not stick together. It should be warm to the touch but firm and not runny.


Quick Notes

I find the easiest and cleanest way to cook bacon is in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet tray. About 1 pound should fit per pan. In order to get the bacon crispy enough to contrast with the fluffy marshmallow, cook it about 275 degrees for approximately 1-1 1/2 hours. After 45 minutes, check it every 15 minutes until it is done.  ***Remember to cook the bacon BEFORE you start the caramel***


Summary: Here is were the molecular gastronomy part comes in. This is my take on Grant Achatz recipe in the Alinea cookbook. The point of his powder is to be a total powder in contrast to actual bacon. I found I liked the contrast of the ground up bacon mixed with the powder for this application.


Quick Notes

I found the tapioca maltodextrin in a 1 pound tub on Amazon.com. This is more than enough to share with your adventurous chef friends. I want to try a foie powder next! Word of warning, this stuff is very light and fluffy like powdered sugar and it gets everywhere. Salt is also very important to bring out the right flavor. Too little and it tastes like powdered fat. Achatz’ recipe calls for pepper as well but that did not work so well for this.


I used a small cookie cutter to make my candies into heart shapes. My caramel was initially too hard to cut into shapes, so I used a heating pad on medium set underneath the pan to warm the caramel but not melt the marshmallow. Melt at least 2 pounds of chocolate in a double boiler to dip candies in. I used 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Ideally, you should use a couverture chocolate and properly temper it to acheive a sheen and snap to the chocolate. If the weather is not too warm out you can get away with good quality melted chocolate chips like the Ghirardelli which will not temper but hold their shape fairly well. The better your chocolate, the better your results.  I would not use generic chocolate chips, even the Nestles do not melt well. They have additives to keep their shape when you bake them.   Please do not ever use dipping chocolate. That stuff is just gross. 

I used a fondue fork and a long wooden skewer to dip the candies.  First use the fondue fork to pierce the side of the candy.  It should be secure enough to stay on while dipping but keep in mind you need to get it off the fork once dipped.  The wooden skewer helps with removal from the fork.  Dip far enough up the sides so just the top of the marshmallow is exposed.  Let the chocolate set up for several hours or overnight. 

The funnest part of all!  You must have a blowtorch to properly brulee the tops.  The oven broiler will get the chocolate too melty.  The blowtorch will soften the chocolate along the sides but after a few minutes, they should be stable enough to handle.  You can use one of those cute little creme brulee torches but a full size torch is about the same price and WAY more efficient.  Get one with a trigger and it is super simple to start and control your flame.  You want the kind that comes wth a blue container for the gas.  The yellow container is not for human consumption.

Sprinkle the bacon powder over the top and serve!  Yes, I know these are way more complicated than marshmallow on a stick but I truly enjoyed the whole process and I hope you do too!


The House of Bacon Gattis made for me on glorious Bacon Day- This is the day my coworkers love the most, when I get my pre- Takedown package from Hormel.
Two of the gorgeous and talented judges- Hilah Johnson (l) from Hilah Cooking! and Claudia Alarcon (r), writer for Austin Chronicle and many other publications.
That is Matt Timms with the camera. We are taking pics from the stage at Emo’s of the crowd at the Takedown.


More S'mores!

Homemade Chocolate Vodka- in the Crock-pot!

Two great tastes that taste great together!  I was intrigued by several different posts on the web like this one claiming that you could make chocolate vodka with 3 simple ingredients, chocolate, vodka, and a dishwasher.  Basically the concept is you put the chocolate or candy bars into a bottle that is 3/4 full of vodka, cap it, and place it in the dishwasher and run a full cycle, including drying.  Shake it.  Let it cool.  You have a bottle of chocolate vodka!  This method definitely works but I ran into a few problems and came up with a solution of my own.

I started off with grated dark chocolate intended for hot cocoa, not the powdered kind but actual grated chocolate.  You could grate a candy bar or smash up some chocolate chips but the point is to get the chocolate into little bits so it melts easier.  Giant chunks of chocolate in the bottle will melt eventually, so don’t stress over it too much.  Just get the chocolate as fine as you feel like fooling with and put it in a clean, dry bottle.  Now add enough vodka to fill the bottle 3/4 full and cap it.

The reason you leave some room in the bottle is that alcohol boils at 79º and starts to evaporate into a gas.  Chocolate melts between 100-113º.  So when you get the bottle hot enough to melt the chocolate, the alcohol needs room to evaporate.  This led to my first problem with the dishwasher method.  I heard a loud “pop” from my dishwasher and realized the alcohol fumes had pushed the cork out of the bottle.  Definitely use a screw top if you are using this method.  I was lucky to get to it quickly enough to avoid spillage, or worse, soap in the bottle.  But now how to melt the rest of the chocolate???

I ended up placing the corked bottle into my crock-pot and filling it up with warm water from the tap.  Within half an hour, the water was hot enough to melt the chocolate without risk of explosion or soap.  You definitely have to watch the pot with this method.  If the water gets too hot, it could build up too much pressure in the bottle from the alcohol vapors and shatter the bottle.  But it gently heats the water, so the risk is less than trying it on the stove.  Once the chocolate is melted, give it a good shake and let it cool to below 79º before you open the bottle.  Ideally, store it in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks, giving it a good shake every couple of days but really, is chocolate vodka going to last that long?

I used 4 ounces of dark chocolate for 2 cups of vodka.  As a pastry chef, let me tell you the secret to all great chocolate desserts.  USE THE BEST CHOCOLATE YOU CAN FIND.  I have lots of opinions on brands.  Some of my favorites are Valrhona, El Rey, and Ghiradelli.  I cannot always afford Valrhona but when you are only using a few ounces in a recipe, it makes a huge difference on the taste as well as the results.  I found a premium brand of chocolate that was packaged grated to be used to make hot chocolate which worked quite well.  The vodka, on the other hand, you can skimp on.  I would not use a premium bottle of vodka like Grey Goose to make this.  The best bargain vodka that still tastes pretty smooth in my opinion is Monopolwa.  It is a potato vodka originally made in Poland but now made in Austria.  I had a very good Russian friend who drank this exclusively.  That’s good enough recommendation for me.

Do svidaniya!

Homemade Kahlua Recipe

Well before the Dude Abided, I was a White Russian fan.  My first legal drink in a bar was a White Russian.  I remember thinking, “Vodka and milk?  This is going to be gross.”  But what I didn’t know about then was the Kahlua, which is a coffee flavored liquer that when added to vodka and milk transforms the cocktail to a drink I like to refer to as Quik with a Kick as it is similar to a glass of the Nestle’s drink with a decidedly adult  finish. 

Kahlua is delicious and can be used in other drinks besides White Russians as well as in baking but at around $20 a bottle, it can be expensive.  I used the knock off store version for years before I figured out how to make my own.  I have  some that will most likely be poured into a mug of hot chocolate tonight to put a dent on the chill in the air.

Homemade Kahlua

  • 4 cups water*
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee*
  • 4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 liter vodka  **update**  I recently made a batch with a full liter of vodka on accident and actually liked it a bit a bit more, so I would say use a minimum of a 1/2 liter
  • 2 vanilla beans or 2 Tablespoon vanilla

Combine water, instant coffee, and brown sugar in large pot and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  This is important because the boiling point for alcohol is 79°.  If you put the vodka in before it has cooled to at least this temperature, you risk loosing some of the alcohol to evaporation.  Combine the vodka with the cooled coffee mixture.  Cut the vanilla beans in half and place into a clean 1 liter glass bottle.  Fill bottle with the coffee liquer and give it a shake.  The black specks floating around are the seeds from the vanilla bean also called “vanilla caviar”.  Yum!  Store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks.  The longer it sits, the tastier it gets but that is usually as long as I can wait.

* You can substitute 4 cups of your favorite strongly brewed coffee for the water and instant coffee.  I actually had some decent instant that a friend brought me back from Jamaica in my last batch that worked out great but use whatever you like.

Mary Booth’s Favorite Lemon Tartlets

Mary Booth and I met at a Slow Food Austin potluck several years ago.  I made these tartlets because at the time I was hoping to launch a commercial endeavor selling lemon curd.  Mary was on the Slow Food Board and an enthusiastic supporter of local farms and food.  Because of health issues, she told me she could not taste many foods but somehow she was able to taste the tart sweetness of the curd.  Every time I saw Mary after that I was greeted with a big smile and introduced as the Lemon Curd Lady.  Mary passed away this last July, so this holiday season I have renamed my tarts in her memory.  The Austin food community misses you, Mary!

The curd that Mary loved so much was made with eggs from Boggy Creek farms.  With so few ingredients, it is very important to use the best ones possible.  If you have never had farm fresh eggs, get your tail-feathers down to the local farmers market and pick up a dozen.  You will be amazed by the intense color and flavor of the yolks which showcase nicely in this curd.

Lemon Curd

  • 10 egg yolks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
  • pinch of salt


Add the zest to the sugar and set aside, preferably overnight but at least an hour in advance.  Check my post  about the virtues of keeping a supply of lemon sugar on hand in your kitchen at all times!  Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 2/3 cup. Add juice to egg mixture and whisk smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. (UPDATE- A friend of mine recommended I add to the description of the thickness. As you whisk the curd, you should be able to see the tracks of the whisk and the curd should be thick enough to stand up on a plate. It will thicken more as it cools but if you don’t cook it long enough, it will be soupy.) Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. If you have any eggy bits or wish to strain out the zest you can.  Personally I prefer the texture with the zest. Remove to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Tartlet Shells

1 16 ounce  box phyllo sheets (40 sheets)
Butter, melted and cooled  (2-3 sticks)


Phyllo dough can be a challenge to work with.  The most important things to know are that it should be gently thawed in your refrigerator at least 1 day before you plan to use it and that it dries out very quickly, so as you remove a sheet, cover the stack of sheets you are not working with immediately with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp cloth.  Do not let the damp cloth touch the sheets or you will end up with a gummy mess. On a clean surface lay 1 sheet of phyllo, lightly spread melted butter over entire surface with a pastry brush and sprinkle lightly (approximately 1/2 teaspoon sugar) over buttered surface.  Lay another layer of phyllo on top and repeat melted butter and sprinkling of sugar.  Repeat phyllo/butter/ sugar for a total of 3 layers.  Lightly spray a muffin tin (mini or standard size) Cut dough in squares a inch or so wider that the muffin cups. (Dough squares will form a fluted-edge tart.) Place the dough in the tins, pressing carefully so that the dough fits snugly in the cups. Brush with butter and bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until light golden color. Fill with curd.  Garnish tarts with fresh berries or candied lemon zest.

Makes approximately 40 3 inch tarts.

Mexican Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Spicy Pecans

For the past 4 years during the string of 100 degree days Austin has, there is an Ice Cream Festival held at Waterloo Park.  There is an I Scream contest, an ice cream eating contest, a Popsicle stick art contest, and an ice cream making contest.  I participated the first year and had a really great time but it took a couple of years to forget how hot it is to carry a mobile kitchen in and out of a park.  The first year I made a goat cheese with rosemary and fig ice cream.  It was popular but probably a little too “different” to win.   Surprisingly, nobody made a chocolate ice cream so this year I decided to try a dark chocolate flavored with my favorite Mexican vanilla, Danncy’s**** and accented with homemade spicy pecans.  I didn’t win this year either but had a blast and met some really nice folks who I promised I would post my recipe, so here it is.   














1 tsp cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder*
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning (or your favorite seasoning salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (preferably chipotle)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 large egg whites
  • 3 cups pecan halves

1/2 cup sugar

Heat oven to 275 degrees.  Stir first 8 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Whisk egg white in large bowl until foamy. Whisk in spice mixture. Add pecan halves; toss to coat completely. Sprinkle sugar over and toss to coat.  Cover baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.  Spread pecans across in single layer.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes. 

I usually make these pecans with 1/4 sugar but I found for the ice cream, they needed to be a little sweeter and the bits of spicy caramelized sugar that come off the pecans give the ice cream a nice kick. 

****  check the web for warnings about Danncy and Coumarin.  The bottle I have says Coumarin free but be forwarned.


Make it in the Pan Pie Crust

Pie crusts can be so intimidating.  Lard, shortening, butter which fat is best?  There are tomes of books written on the subject.  Then there is the mess of rolling it out and getting it in the pan.  I have to admit, one of my proudest moments in culinary school was turning out a truly flaky pie crust which should ideally be done with every pie that comes out of your kitchen.  In the real world, sometimes I want a shortcut that does not shortcut on flavor.  Store bought is NOT an option.  Especially when homemade is this easy.

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 2 tbsp. milk

Mix dry ingredients in bottom of 9 inch pie pan.  Make a well in the center and add milk and oil.  Use a fork to mix and spread pie crust into bottom of tin and up the sides.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown if recipe calls for baked pie crust.

That flaky culinary school pie?  The secrets were BIG chunks of COLD butter.  When you rolled out the crust, you could literally see the chunks, which create pockets of steamy butter and flakes in the crust.  Wet fillings, like berry pies, tend to turn flaky crusts into a soggy mess.  The oil crust is actually ideal for this kind of pie and gives a tender, crispy, crumbly crust.

5 minute Chocolate Pudding

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces 70% chocolate

In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in butter, chocolate and vanilla. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.

This recipe is so much easier and better than pudding from a box.  I like the depth of flavor that the brown sugar gives as well as the addition of dark chocolate at the end which also serves to thicken the pudding.  Pour it into a baked pie crust for a delicious chocolate pie.

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Poundcake

This recipe came as a result of my favorite kind of dining, guerrilla dinner party.  Picture it, an assortment of Austin hipsters are hanging out on a porch in Buda.  And I know they are hipsters, myself included, because they would be really pissed to find out someone was trying to define their coolness with something as bourgeois as a label.   They are drinking Lone Stars in truly vintage t shirts that some might pay a fortune for but I know for a fact came from the bar one used to work at as a gimme from the beer company and another was actually purchased at the Fishbone concert in the 80’s and it looks washed and worn because it has been.  At least they are not fake hipsters.

Anyway, said hipsters on the porch happen to be a couple of miles from one of the best meat markets around that also functions as a Mexican market/gas station.  I know exactly how to get there but I am not sure of the address.  I just know all the roads you turn on start with RR or FM.  The boys bring back 5 gorgeous New York Strips for less than $5 each, a suitcase of Natty Light, and more Lone Star. 

I  brought a beautiful box of produce leftover from the chef demo tent at the Wine and Food Fest, so Michelle and I start making sides with the vibrant purple cabbage and sweet, fresh corn.  But we need something for dessert.  I had given Michelle an autographed copy of The Essential Baker by Carol Bloom who I had the great pleasure to work with at the Central Market Cooking School a while back.  Michelle had made the cornmeal pound cake before and thought she might just have the ingredients to make it.  Lucky for us she did!

I added the blueberries to the batter instead of the compote that Ms. Bloom used and  kicked up the tartness with a fabulous lemony glaze that sent us in to a puckery heaven with the crunch of the cornmeal crust.  This cake is a wonderful cross between cornbread and blueberry muffins.  Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Poundcake

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup frozen or fresh blueberries-  if you use frozen, do not thaw or your batter will turn purple

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups cake flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

zest (optional but adds a wonderfully tart texture) and juice of 4 lemons, approximately 1/4 cup

1 cup confectioners sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 8 1/2 inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. Place the 12 tablespoons butter in large bowl and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cream together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping in between each egg addition.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, powder, salt, and cornmeal. Add to the butter mixture in 3 stages, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add the lemon zest and juice.  Fold in blueberries.  Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. It should be very thick, so spread it evenly throughout the pan. Bake 45 minutes, until the cake is light golden on top and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out slightly moist.
  5. Combine lemon juice and confectioners sugar.  Let cake cool about 10 minutes and pour 1/2 of glaze over cake.  Let sit for another 15-20 minutes and pour over rest of glaze over cake.

* if you do not have cake flour, use 1 TBS less of all pupose flour.


When I saw the post from Serious Eats on making sushi out of Rice Krispie Treats and decapitated Peeps, I had to give it a shot.  Their recipe called for store bought Rice Krispies and Fruit by the Foot.  Of course, I had to make my own! 

Here is the recipe straight from Kellog’s website for Rice Krispie Treats:  

  • 3 tablespoons  butter or margarine
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40)  regular marshmallows
  • – OR –
  • 4 cups  miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups  Rice Krispies®


1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
2. Add KELLOGG’S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 2 and 3 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.


For best results, use fresh marshmallows.
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème can be substituted for marshmallows.
Diet, reduced calorie or tub margarine is not recommended.
Store no more than two days at room temperature in airtight container. To freeze, place in layers separated by wax paper in airtight container. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

     I thought it would be easier to mold the the Treats before they were set.  It wasn’t.  I found the easiest method was to let them set fully and then cut off slices about 1/2 an inch thick.  Also a good idea to butter your hands and have a cup of water standing by to quickly wash off sticky goo. 
     Fruit leather is very simple  and a heck of lot cheaper and tastier to make yourself.  Basically you make a fruit puree by peeling and pureeing in a food processor whatever fruit you feel like and then straining out the solids.  Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, add sugar to the puree to taste.  You can also add a touch of lemon or any spices you want at this point.  Cook the puree on the stove top until thickened.  This will vary depending on the water content in your fruit.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with sturdy plastic wrap (the kind that is microwave safe) or use a silpat baking mat.  Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.  Place the baking sheet in the oven, try to keep any plastic wrap from touching the sides of the oven or the oven racks. Also try to make sure that the plastic wrap hasn’t folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won’t dry out. Heat the oven to a low 140°F. If you have a convection setting, use it, it will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and form fruit leather. I usually keep it in the oven overnight, so about 8-12 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface.  I have even over dried it before and it became almost brittle but I just brushed it with some water and it became pliable again.
     I found it easier to shape individual pieces of the sushi and cutting the leather to fit the pieces.  It might have been possible to shape in rolls like regular sushi but I did not have a rolling mat.  I used Pop Rocks to garnish like roe as well as sesame seeds and chocolate sprinkles. 
I took these to a birthday celebration and had to get a shot of my biggest fan!!
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