In this perfect world I was going to test out all these recipes beforehand, but of course that didn't work out! So as a sort of compromise, I decided to pre-make a lot of the meal the day before, so if anything went wrong I would be able to handle it without an audience. The night before I planned to make the hummus, bread and cake. Then the day of the dinner I would just need to make the lasagna and play hostess.
Since this is a baking blog, and because all the other recipes are available online, I will just post the recipe for the mocha cake. It's from the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Healthy Today cookbook and here it is:
Makes 12 servings
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp instant coffee
3 oz. semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup all purpose flour
5 egg whites
any topping you'd like: whipped topping, icing sugar, fresh fruit
1. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, and lightly coat the inside of the pan with PAM (or another nonstick cooking spray). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium sauce pan dissolve sugar and espresso powder in water on medium-low heat. Stir in the chocolate until melted and remove from heat.
3. Place yolks in a bowl and gradually whisk the chocolate mixture into the eggs. Make sure you pour the chocolate in slowly initially (while whisking the eggs quickly) so you don't get scrambled eggs! Stir in vanilla.
4. In another bowl sift together cocoa and flour. Stir the flour and cocoa into the chocolate mixture until smooth.
5. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form (the tips should stand straight). Stir a small amount of egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.
So I started off my prep day by making the bread. The recipe can be found on the allrecipes website here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/michaels-foccacia-bread/detail.aspx.
Right out of the gate this is where it all started going downhill. The recipe called for active dry yeast, and I thought that was what I had in my cupboard, but apparently I thought wrong. For some mysterious reason, we only had bread machine yeast. And let me tell you an interesting fact, we don't own a bread machine. Anyways, I decided to use the yeast anyways, foolishly thinking it would be ok, but it wasn't. Boy was it ever not ok! I have never seen or tasted a more dense bread in my life. At various points in the recipe you are supposed to let the dough rise, and if anything my compressed into a tighter ball. So there was epic fail #1 - it went straight into the garbage.
I decided to make the cake next since baking's my thing. I could redeem myself with this cake cause it seemed simple enough. And really, it was! It came together with no problems and I put it in the oven to bake. I usually check my desserts a couple minutes before the end of the suggested bake time (in case my oven's too warm), so at 25 minutes I took the cake out. It looked and smelled done, I touched the top of the cake and it sprang back like indicated - so that was perfect! I set it out to cool, feeling accomplished, and went to tackle the hummus next.
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/hummus-iii/detail.aspx. All you do it put the ingredients in a food processor and blend. What can be so hard? Turns out nothing! I did change the recipe slightly by adding about 1/3 cup of roasted red pepper, and it turned out tasty! So I had two wins in my pocket and only one fail!
I decided to remake the bread, since it was bugging me that I didn't get it right. So I went out, bought the right yeast and remade it. I guess the baking gods were feeling sorry for me, because the bread turned out fantastic! I sprinkled the top with a little parmesan, dried oregano and dried basil before baking and it gave the bread nice flavour.
Feeling tremendously accomplished, I decided to pack everything up for the night. This is where epic fail #2 reared it's ugly head. As I went to move the cake from the cake pan to it's tupperware, the whole thing fell apart. It literally melted in my hands. Turns out I didn't bake the cake long enough and it was a goopey mess. Unfortunately it was past 10 o'clock and I didn't have the ingredients to remake it, So I went to bed, feeling like I failed as a chef and baker. All I wanted to do was order pizza for the girl's night and save myself the humiliation.
I woke up the next morning determined to prove to myself that I am a good baker, so I decided to remake the cake right after work. Thankfully, it turned out devine and so did the whole dinner party that night! The lasagna was the easiest thing to prepare and turned out delicious! The recipe is from Martha Stewart and I followed it almost to a tee (I just added thinly sliced peppers to the zucchini). Here is the recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/334102/no-bake-summer-lasagna. (Sorry the picture of the lasagna is so blue, I took it right in front of the window and it threw the colours off)