Merry Christmas

December 25, 2006



I have just enough time to pop by and wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Tomorrow we are going to Paris and staying a couple of days, visiting museums and chocolate shops.
I am glad my parents live close by to this big city because I plan on bringing our weight back in chocolate and other delicacies!
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We Made It !

December 21, 2006





Seems like we would never get to France but we finally made it, happy and safe!
The plane never left on Thursday so we left on Friday qnd got rerouted through Houston. We literally ran the whole airport to make our connecting flight for Paris where we late. We waited 2 hours at the luggage carousel to find out that one of our suitcases had not left Houston when we did.... The airline company tracked it down and the bag was finally delivered to us sunday night... we are extremely relieved because B. now has clothes to put on his back, we got shoes and all the presents we had gathered the last couple of months.
We have been touring the beaches of Normandy for the past 4 days and paying tribute to the men of D Day. Very emotional for the both of us.

We are back home, a few kilometers outside of Versailles, and we are now getting ready for Christmas. I have NO time to sit down at a computer and upload pics and blog, between visiting the family and friebds and helping my mom with all the upcoming festivities, so I think you won't see much of me until I come back.

To leave you on a culinary note, here are some of the things being cooked from scratch in our household: foie gras terrine and pate, smoked salmon, chestnut and apple stuffed capons, duck sausages, praline and Nutella Yule Log, Nougat and passion fruit ice crea, yule log, 120 petits fours, truffles,.... 2 days in a row and most likely again for New Years Eve. Insanity now prevails!!!

Everybody, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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Katherine Hepburn Brownies- Blog Party #17

December 14, 2006


I missed the last Blog Party hosted by Stephanie but I am ready to have fun this time. We are 6 hours away from departure but I figured I could not leave without one little piece of decadence.

Because I have spent the last few days running around I decided to fall back on one of my favorite books for inspiration. When I first got Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours, I bookmarked this brownie recipe right away but never got around to making it until yesterday. What a perfect fit for the party which theme was Hollywood. I was not sure what cocktail to pair it with so I went with one of my new favorites, an Apple Martini. The color always makes me giggle....!

Katherine Hepburn Brownies, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp ground coffee
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 lb unsalted butter
1 c Sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 ts Vanilla extract
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 ts salt

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter over low heat, stirring until completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, coffee, cocoa powder and cinnamon . Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk well. Stir in the flour and salt and mix well. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Apple Martini, adapted from about.com:

2 oz gin or vodka
1 oz green-apple shnapps

Pour the ingredients into a shaker with ice cubes.
Shake well.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The brownies were really moist and flavorful and the martinis went down way to easily. We gathered outside with the neighbors and enjoyes the warmth of th evening, I have the feeling this is the last time I an standing on the porch at ten o'clock at night with a skirt and a t-shirt.

Off, to finish making sure for the tenth time that we have not forgotten anything...!I will come back as soon as we are settled and as soon as my parents understand the need to spend hours on the computer looking at other people's culinary adventures!!
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Gateaux Basque

December 13, 2006



Well, we played Santa this afternoon and got all of our goodie baskets delivered to the neighbors and family members. Looks like nothing is going to last until Christmas but that is ok. To make the holiday spirit last a little longer I also included an ornament in each and some clementine marmelade I made yesterday.

We are all packed (I think...!) and ready to go. Last things on the agenda are to tidy up the house tomorrow, rsvp Stephanie's Blog Party and get my fish to the neighbors, the dog is already at my in-laws and the house is so empty without him! But let's go back to the blog before I start feeling weird again!

I was able to include the meringue kisses in the gift baskets because I made one of my favorite pastries over the weekend and had leftover egg whites, and since I hate to waste but love to bake, well there it was!

I first had a gateau Basque when my parents and I took a road trip in the Basque region a long long time ago and we stopped in a small village and looking through the window of the local bakery I saw this little cake calling my name. The one I had was filled with pastry cream and sour cherries and I found out since then that there are many different interpretations if this dessert, with or without cream or cherry filling. Finding this out I think I bought one in every town we visited!

I did not have any particular reason for making this cake except that the baking stars aligned themselves and the signs all pointed me in its direction. Have you ever had that happen to you? I was getting coffee at the German bakery next to the gym (I know, evil combination) when I looked at their half price table: day old bread, muffins, and jams. Among the loot I found a jar of sour cherry jam and I love the stuff so in my basket it went! That same afternoon I was reading one of my favorite new French blogs, Blanc d'Oeuf , when I started reading about Stanislas' interpretation of Gateau Basque with cherry jam..... and the rest is history... the cakes also because they are all gone...already!

Mini Gateaux Basque, adapted from Blanc d'Oeuf:

300 g flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
3 egg yolks
150 g powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
200 g butter
sour cherry jam, for the filling

Note: I made the batter by hand with a whisk and a spatula, but feel free to use a mixer.
In microwave, melt the butter and set aside. In a large bowl, combine and whisk together the egg, egg yolks, powdered sugar, the vanilla, salt. Add the butter and give it another whirl.
Add the flour and baking powder and fold into the egg/butter mixture with a spatula or whisk.Park in the fridge for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a standard size muffin pan.
Place 3 Tb. of the batter in each muffin cavity and with your fingers or the back of a spoon, push the batter up on the sides of each cavity a little. Put 1 Tb, sour cherry jam in each, cover with 3 more Tb of the batter over the jam. To make sure the top would seal over the jam while baking I scooped out the amount I needed and flatten it out between my palms before laying it out on top of the jam. The 2 batters will meld together while baking and encase the jam without any spillovers.Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Feel free to make these with just jam or just pastry cream or both, which is I have to admit my favorite way.

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Now, here is another food and blog related post: I received my Blogging By Mail package monday afternoon and my secret Santa spoiled me rotten! Shaula from Tsuredzuregusa and her family are organic and flexitarian oriented folks so my package included tons of goodies B. and I favor also.



- large container of dried cranberries
- long organic protein bar with hemp and dried cranberries, and some chocolate on top
- Numi flowering tea ( I had been wanting these for so long), you put the dry flower in boiling flower and it blossoms while the tea steeps.
- Good Earth original tea
-bag of hickory smoked soy nuts
-turkey jerky
- big box of O'Cocos chocolate and cinnmaon chips (individually packaged for portion control)
- bag of Dr. Kracker Pumkpin seeds and cheddar flatbreads
- bag of Almondina, thin almond cookies
- bag of sweet potato and beet chips which we devoured while discovering the inside of the package

Thank you again Shaula! and to think that your husband's family lives in Charleston is pretty amazing! or Stephanie knew what she was doing....and that would not surprise me a bit!

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Allright ...because I can't resist showing you my big furry love:

That was yesterday while I was trying to put aside the clothes and shoes to be packed....and he would not let me near my slippers and running shoes.... the two pairs that absolutely define who I am these days!
He was trying to add his favorite toy to the pile as a "if my toy is on your toys then my toy wins"...one of his favorite games, along with "if it falls on the floor it is mine" and "if you touch my leash you have to take me out"!
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Are You Nuts?

December 12, 2006


Oh yes we are for these! I have already made 3 batches and each makes a lot. Every time I go fill a gift basket with a jar of these, B. comes down fron his study and starts munching claiming he needs the energy...160 research papers and 160 finals and we are leaving on Thursday! He has proclaimed himself the official Santa Gift Basket Tester...good thing we'll be walking a lot while in France

The recipe from these is straight out of Real Simple magazine and I only did minor alterations to the ingredients and process.

Spiced Mixed Nuts, adapted from Real Simple

2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups mixed nuts (I used almonds and peanuts but any combination of untoasted walnuts, pecans, cashews, and pistachios works great)
1/4 cup (½ stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil or parchment. Grease lightly and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating to a loose, meringue like texture. Beat in the cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cayenne, and salt. Add the nuts and butter and stir well to coat evenly.Divide the nuts between the baking sheets, spreading evenly in a single layer. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes to a golden brown (do not allow the nuts to darken too much), rotating the sheets during cooking for even roasting. Line a work surface with foil or parchment.After removing the nuts from oven, immediately slide them onto the foil or parchment. Cool completely. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

I want to apologize if my posts are short and not filled with interesting memories or tidbits but I reserve that for the coming weeks : thursday we are going to France for 3 weeks, spending Christmas and New Years with my family. There will be a lot of posts about our traditions, our menus and the excellent chefs and meals in my family. One example, when I called my parents yesterday my mom was at a neighbor's house preparing foie gras....and when I called back she was in the finishing phase of her onion and fig confit....and my brother called me requesting that I made Yule logs for New Years and by the way one of the guys attending that dinner is trying to get a star on the Michelin guide for his own restaurant...talk about pressure!!

I will post as much as I can, promise...!
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Holiday Meringue Kisses

December 11, 2006



One more item destined to my gift giving baskets. You are probably starting to wonder how big these are getting! Well, not everybody is going to receive every single item I have blogged about so far, (allergies, preferences, etc...), but they are pretty big indeed. They're really not baskets however... I got very holiday-ish decorated hat boxes and filled them up. The last set of ggodies will be completed tonight.

I made a couple of things over the weekends that left me with 3 egg whites. I am running around like crazy before our trip so I chose not to venture into macaron making and since I wanted to use them for my goodie baskets, I chose the safe route with Meringue Kisses.

These are the easiest things to do and they go great with chocolate mousse, parfaits, trifles, ice creams..". They are also called "Forgotten cookies", and sometimes include nuts and chocolate chips. I am pretty sure everyone has a version of them. I can't tell you where this particular recipe comes from as I found it on a old wrinkly piece of paper in my mother in law recipe box and no source was included.

Holiday Meringue Kisses:
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt.

Start these in the evening, you will understand why at the end.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a stand or hand held mixer, start whipping the egg whites. When they start to foam and form a soft mousse, add in the sugar 1/4 cup at a time in a nice steady stream (don't just dump it in there or your meringue will plunk). When the meringue has a shiny gloss and stiff peaks, stop mixing and put the mixture in a piping bag. Pipe rosettes on parchment lined baking sheets.
Put in the oven, turn the oven off and leave the meringues overnight. In the morning they will be done and dry!

I divided my batter in 2 and added a couple of drops of red and green coloring, gave to spatula turns and piped them for a holiday feeling.

Only one problem with these: far to easy to pop in your mouth one after the other. Not sure if the neighbors will get any tomorrow....!

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Crackers Au Bleu

December 9, 2006


Yes, cheese, blue cheese to be exact is sneaking its way into my "everything sweet and baked" blog. No, I have not gone mad....since it has to do with baking, flour and butter it qualifies.

I wish I could have made this with Roquefort cheese but for a couple of reasons I went with a basic Gorgonzola: the taste is strong enough to show through the cracker once it is baked and I am trying to use up as many perishables as I can before our upcoming trip. I am also including these in my goodie baskets for Christmas because not everybody likes sweets...I know crazy eh?! They go really well with the rest of the assortments, especially beside a little box of spiced nuts.
I found the recipe ages ago and originally made them for a cocktail party but they never made to the munchies table because B. and I devoured the whole batch before our guests arrived....they are excellent. You can really taste the blue cheese because there is barely enough flour to hold them together and they are so buttery that they instantly melt in your mouth.

These are really convenient to have around during the holidays. The dough can be made way ahead of time since it needs to refrigerate before baking and you can cut slices as needed if you have a small party. Believe me, that won't be necessary.... If you have leftovers, which I highly doubt, the baked crackers will keep for a week in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

Blue Cheese Crackers, adapted from Pascale:

100 gr. all purpose flour
80 gr. salted butter (unsalted works fine too)
1/2 tsp. chili powder ( I used piment d'Espelette)
1 Tb cornmeal
100 gr. blue cheese

Crumble the cheese. Cut the cold butter in small pieces. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients with you fingers or a pastry cutter and gather into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a cylinder about 6 inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the log into 1/2 thick slices and spread them out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. They will spread a little. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges start to get golden brown.

I made another batch the other day and baked bigger slices, about 3 inches wide and topped them with smoked salmon for an appetizer. Delicious!
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Cranberry Biscotti

December 7, 2006


I hope you are not getting tired of my cranberry obsession but I found a cup left of home dried ones and after sampling the chocolate biscotti from Dorie Greenspan, I decided to go for the first recipe I had noticed: her Lenox Biscotti. We are not getting tired of the mighty berry yet but that reminds me if a time where the executive chef ordered me two cases of pears instead of one. You would not believe how many desserts, recipes, creations, adaptations I came up with trying not to waste any. I almost thought about writing on book on pears.

Another great one from that book, so good that I made another batch right away since we could not stop dunking and finding inventive reason why we should!
Her original recipe called for chopped almonds which I replaced with cranberries, and I used orange flower extract instead of almond extract. If you want a foolproof recipe that you can adapt to your heart's content, well look no further.

Lenox Biscotti, adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cormeal
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp almond extract (I used orange flower water)
3/4 cup sliced almonds ( I used dried unsweet cranberries, but store bought work well, believe me I have tried aready)

In stand mixer (hand held is fine) cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the flavor extract you chose.
Sift together the flour, baking powder,salt and cormeal and add to the butter mixture. Fold in the cranberries (or nuts).
Scrape half the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a spatula and your fingers, form the dough into a log, 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Repeat with the second portion of the dough.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the logs are light golden but still soft to the touch. Let cool for 30 minutes but keep the oven on.
With a long serrated knife cut slices from each log and spread them out onto baking sheets. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes until firm.

Next step? Try to wait until they are cold enough not to burn your tongue....! Happy dunking!
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White Chocolate and Cranberry Cake

December 6, 2006


I don't know whether to blame or thank Lisa for that one! I have made it twice already and my neighbor ordered a whole on after sampling some over the weekend. A few days ago she mentionned a white chocolate and cranberry cake I should try in order to help me use the one bag of cranberries I still had. The mere thought of these flavors melding together in a cake made me crave a taste. She graciously emailed me the recipe and it sounded too good not to make it on the spot. The flavors of white chocolate and cranberries go perfectly together and the addition of orange zest and juice made it close to heaven. Perfect with a cup of bergamot tea on a cold afternoon...that's the part I have to imagine because it was 72 today.
The recipe calls for a tube or 9 inch round pan but I wanted bite size squares (except for the picture) so I used a 13x9. The cake is supposed to be drizzled with a white chocolate-orange icing but I skipped that part. Why? Could not wait that long to eat it! The only thing I will do next time will be to reduce the butter from 2 to 1 or 1.5 sticks.

White Chocolate-Cranberry Cake:

1-1/2 pkg. (9 squares) whit chocolate, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 Tbsp. grated orange zest
5 Tbsp. orange juice, divided
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 9-inch tube pan or fluted tube pan.
Chop 6 of the chocolate squares; set aside. Beat butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, orange peel and 3 Tbsp. of the orange juice; mix well. Add flour and baking powder; beat until well blended. Stir in chopped chocolate and the cranberries.
Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 min. or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 min.; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.

Place remaining 3 chocolate squares and remaining 2 Tbsp. orange juice in small saucepan; cook on low heat until chocolate is completely melted, stirring frequently. Drizzle over cake. Let stand until glaze is firm
Another winner going into my gifts baskets, cut into squares and nicely packaged in tin boxes.
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Marshmallow - Chamallow

December 5, 2006


Sounds like an insult but really it is just pillowy cottony light homemade marshmallows that I am including in my gift baskets. When I was a child, they were known to me as "chamallow", I guess the French had an issue with the pronounciation, but if you were a purist, they were "guimauve" and they were good...no matter what you called them!

I had been wanting to make them from scratch for a while and although the technique is not difficult I never really had the occasion to take out the powdered sugar, candy thermometer just because I had 30 minutes to kill and why not stand at the stove to watch that syrup get to 260!

When T&D invited us to dinner and I was preparing their goodie basket I remembered a long standing joke regarding T. and some very precious marshmallows. About two or three Christmases ago, he was showing the town to a couple of friends visiting for the holidays and they stopped at a Williams Sonoma store. The ladies got a couple of items and T. grabbed a couple of bags of marshmallows. I had never seen someone as close to a heart attack as when the cashier said :" And your total comes to $30, sir"..... were they coated with gold, was there a precious stone inside one of them? Not wanting to look like a Scrooge, T. took out his wallet and paid. The worst part was that they were not "that" special....and that really bites coming from a fine-gourmet store.
As a joke I decided to make him a couple of bags and the three marshmallows you see in the picture above are the ones that I managed to save for us to sample.

The process is actually quite easy and like in most things confectionary the only requirements are a good dose of patience, following instructions, and a thermometer.

Marshmallows, adapted from Cooking Light:

2 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with heavy-duty plastic wrap, allowing plastic wrap to extend 1 inch over sides of pan. Lightly coat the plastic wrap with cooking spray.
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water in a small bowl; set aside.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup of water, 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over medium-high heat until a candy thermometer registers 260° (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; gradually stir in softened gelatin (mixture will appear foamy).
While sugar mixture cooks, beat the vanilla, salt, and egg whites at high speed in a heavy-duty stand mixer with whisk attachment until foamy.
Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour in gelatin mixture, beating until very thick (about 5 minutes). Gently spread marshmallow mixture over coconut in prepared pan. Coat 1 side of another sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Place plastic wrap, coated side down, over marshmallow mixture. Chill 8 hours or until firm.
Sprinkle powdered sugar and cornstarch over a cutting board. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap. Invert marshmallow mixture over powdered sugar mixture. Using a dough scraper, cut mixture into about 1-inch squares. Store between sheets of wax or parchment paper in an airtight container.
Yield: 8 dozen

Results? Delicious! I am definetely making more! Next time I am trying them in color!
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Chocolate Biscotti - 5 Times Around

December 3, 2006



They are indeed 5 of us who conspired to bring you the same biscotti on this nice sunday night. Lisa emailed me the other night asking if I wanted to join her, Yvonne, Brilynn and Peabody in making a chocolate biscotti from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours. I jumped on the project with great enthusiasm as I had been eyeing the recipe for a while now and thought about including it in some of my Christmas baskets.

At the time of this post, I know that Peabody went after my heart by dipping hers in white chocolate, wicked! and Brilynn went all out with a beauiful combinations of all the variations Dorie gives on the sidebar. I went with the recipe as written...with 2 minor changes. A novelty for me which made B. wondered if I was coming down with something! The reason is twofold: I very seldom follow recipe instructions, always adding or changing ingredients depending on what I have on hand, and because I wanted to see what the "base" recipe would taste like before I start using Dorie's suggestions for variations and add-ons.

My changes: I did not use espresso powder but 2 TB of strong coffee and I toasted the almonds before adding them to the dough. See! Minor I tell you!

I made them last night and add a bite as soon as they were cool enough to handle and I have to say I was a little disappointed. There was something missing, a little "Oh Yumm!" moment that did not happen. We just had another cookie after taking some pics and I can say that the flavor greatly improved obernight. They are actually excellent! We did not say two words, sipping or tea, twirling that biscotti in it, enjoying a nice fire.

Chocolate Biscotti, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBSP strong coffee
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted and cooled
4 ounces store bought mini bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and the vanilla and coffee and beat for another 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients, mixing only until dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the chopped nuts and chocolate.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into a 12 inch long logs. Flatten both logs with the palm of your hand, so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high, about 2 inches across and sort of rectangular, then carefully lift the logs onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle each log with a little sugar.
Bake the logs for about 25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm. The logs will spread and crack-and that’s fine. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, put it on a cooling rack and cool the logs for about 20 minutes. Working with one log at a time, using a long serrated knife, cut each log into slices between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet-you’ll have an army of biscotti-and bake the cookies again for another 10 minutes.Transfer the biscotti to a rack to cool.
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Coconut Honey


We just got back from dinner with T&D and I think they were pretty happy with the assortment of goodies I put together: 3 different cookies, spiced nuts, chocolate truffles, homemade marshmallows and this Coconut Honey. The first time I saw the recipe I knew I had to try it as I love everything coconut. My husband B. thought it was a really weird concept but accepted to be my guinea pig, especially when I told him there was no actual coconut thread/flesh in that preserve. It looks funny, sets funny but one spoon on his morning bagel and he was conquered. I tend to give it away for people to try and they always come back for more.

In the spirit of this ongoing series about holiday food gift, here is the recipe for this simple yet luscious spread. I found the original here and adapted it according to the ingredients I could find at the store.

Coconut Honey:
2 cans coconut milk
1 can cream of coconut
600 gr sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 box powdered pectin
Pour the coconut milk, cream and lemon juice in a large pot, add the sugar and slowly heat over medium heat until it boils. Simmer for abut 15 minutes. Stir in the powdered pectin and stir until combined. Boil 2 more minutes. Pour into canning jars. Wipe the mouths of the jars with a clean towel, put the lids on them. Fill a large pot with water, put the jars in it, making sure they are covered with water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the water. Withing 10 minutes, you should be able to hear the lid pop inward.
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Vanilla and Lemon Syrup

December 1, 2006



In two weeks we'll be in my hometown in France and then we will have the chance to visit family, go to Normandy, spend a few days in Paris and spend New Year's Eve with my brother, his family and 4 other couples and their kids. This means that we will miss the holidays here and all the decorations and preparations of Christmas in the US, and some people among our friends and relatives here are getting worried that they won't have any holiday sweets because we are leaving...I knew why they really like me now!

The theme here for the first two weeks of December is going to be centered around food gifts and holiday baking.
One year we had difficulties Christmas shopping for the ones around us I decided to make gift baskets for everybody. Some had a theme like "Girls night in", "Movie Night", "Next Camping Trip",.... Some included a gift certificates to the recipients' favorite store, some a homemade card, sachets, picture frame, etc... People liked them so much that they started asking if I was going to do again early October!
Since we are leaving soon and we are already invited here and there for dinner before we go, I decided to start my food gift giving early and post about the different items I will include. There is nothing like something homemade this time of year!

I liked the color and the flavor of this syrup so much that this is where I'll start. Our friends T&D are new foodies but quickly catching up and they like healthful and balance meals as well as the occasional sunday brunch splurge, so this sauce I found on Cooking Light works perfectly next time they make pancakes or waffles. Not too sweet, with a slight tang from the lemon, great consistency.

Vanilla and Lemon Syrup, adapted from Cooking Light:

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; place seeds and bean in a small bowl.
Combine granulated sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla bean and seeds, stirring gently. Cool syrup to room temperature.

Pour syrup and vanilla bean into a glass container. Cover and chill.

Note: Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Yield: 2 1/4 cups
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The Mighty Cranberry...An Ongoing Story

November 30, 2006


What to do after drying a pound of cranberries? I could have done some trail mix, but we are not big fan. I thought about granola but I knew I would have eaten it all before I could photograph it. I thought about making brioche or panettone and using them in the dough, but I plan on making fruit stollen next week. Wednesday, B. usually stays home in the afternoon, works on bills, lesson plans or grades papers so around 4 - 5pm, we usually sit down for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. I went online and searched for a fairly easy coffee cake recipe since I did not have much time to bake that morning.

This one looked promising with such high ratings, I modified it a bit using dried berries and I added 1/2 cup eggnog (yes, you read right...homemade). I also skipped the nuts for the topping as I am saving them for food gifts I am giving away before we leave for France. Hard to believe I'll be home in 2 weeks!

Dried Cranberries Coffee Cake, adapted from Recipezaar:

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk, plus
1/2 cup eggnog
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries

Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 9 inch springform pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk and eggnog, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the cranberries. Pour batter into prepared pan.
In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients.Cut in butter until crumbly.Sprinkle over batter.
Bake for 45 minutes,until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.
Turned out to be easy and delicious, perfect after it has a chance to cool completely. It is perfect with afternoon tea.
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The Mighty Cranberry

November 28, 2006



Well, in this case it was not one solo cranberry that preoccupied my day but rather 4 pounds of the mighty berry!...and I did not even host Thanksgiving dinner. When November comes around and the market stalls are covered with ruby red, plump cranberries and pomegranates I think I lose it. These are relatively new to me as when I left France 10 years ago I knew only of"airelles", a smaller relative (and the only way I had had a pomegranate was in a "grenadine")I have made up for lost time since them and prepared traditional cranberry sauce and used them in upside down cakes and cobblers.


It was about the same time when I visited Tanna's blog and found out she was in the same kind of situation. I first read about her making cranberry juice from scratch and that really (really) tempted me but all of a sudden I saw many Cosmopolitans dancing in front of my eyes and that was not a good sign, it was only monday for crying out loud!
Her second use for them was an absolutely delicious looking coffee cake. Once again, temptation set in but it called for whole, fresh ones and I was not ready yet to use mine like that. I wanted to do something I had not done before and that is when the words "dried cranberries" became embeded in my brain. I use dried ones anywhere a recipe calls for raisins because B. hates (and believe it is a small word), so I go through a pretty (penny) big supply of them, and I had the perfect opportunity to make my own right at my fingertips. A quick search on the internet, a sleepover in the oven and I finally had dried cranberries in the morning and a whole lot to boot!

Oven Dried Cranberries, adapted from VegFamily:

For any quantity: wash and then plunge them into boiling water for 15-30 seconds, just until the skin 'pops.' Stop the cooking action by placing berries in ice water. Drain on paper towels. Turn on the oven for 10 minutes at 350°F. Then place the cranberries on a cookie sheet in the oven, turn off the oven, and let them sit overnight or until sticky and no longer wet. Once dry, they can be kept at refrigerator temperatures for 18 to 24 months or in a freezer for 5 to 8 years.
I used 2 pounds this time.

Still 2 more pounds to go... I have decided to save one pound fresh for something...not sure yet, but all if a sudden this evening I got very thirsty for a Cosmopolitan, and tuesday is closer to the weekend than monday...right?...please say yes! It was my turn to make Tanna's homemade cranberry juice and boy I don't regret it....absolutely delicious. She uses an orange instead of the lemon the original recipe called for, I admit I did not use either and for no other reason that I completely forgot....

Homemade Cranberry Juice, adapted from Tanna:

1 lb. cranberries, washed & drained
1 quart plus 1 c water
cheesecloth
1/3 to 1 c sugar

Cull through the cranberries and discard bad ones.
Place cranberries in a heavy nonreactive saucepan or dutch oven.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover loosely and simmer 10 minutes until all cranberries have burst.
Line a sieve with cheesecloth.
Pour cranberry mixture through lined sieve. Do not press on fruit.
Pour juice back into pan. Stir in sugar and boil about 3 minutes. The amount of sugar needed can vary, use according to your own taste.
Cool juice before serving.

Heaven....in a cup!


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Sweet Potato and Baby Vidalia Scones

November 27, 2006



I am really liking all the blog events going on each month and with a baking and pastry blog there are always plenty to chose from. When Zorra started World Bread Day back in October, I had no idea that I would still be looking at participants' entries one month down the line, but there are so many great breads outhere. She came up with the "After Hours Party" event, giving each of us the chance to try somebody else's bread and post about it. I had fun participating again. A couple of weeks ago, she sent me an e-mail about her latest one-off event "Onion Day".... and then I got speechless (yes, it is actually possible!). I was torn: I wanted to participate but I wanted to keep with the sweet/baking theme of my blog.

My mind went immediately into bread baking mode and particularly gravitated toward something that would be sweet enough to have a place here but with a type of onion that would complement it. It was not until yesterday afternoon that I found what I wanted to make when I went to the store and stood in front of my produce guy: "I need a very sweet onion for baking, even sweeter than the sweet Vidalia, help!".
Sunny is the man! He went to the back and came back with a case of baby Vidalia. They looked like big eyed leeks with a sweet and smooth fragrance. I had one of the components... On the drive home I had that light bulb effect over my head and remembered the small container of leftover sweet potato puree wasting its life away in the back of the fridge. What do you do with about 1 cup of the stuff...a Sweet Potato and Baby Vidalia Scone!
Not only did my sweet potato puree did not find a fateful end but I'd get the chance to join the festivities and have a yummy breakfast in the morning!

Although I have a recipe for scones that I love and use almost every week, I tought it was hogh time I tried another one and I now have a second favorite. These came out so tender and you can really taste the sweet potato. I bet they would be good with some bacon in them too. We sliced them open and used them as the base for a couple of poached eggs and that was our dinner last night with a side salad. Delicious!

Sweet Potato and Baby Vidalia Scones, adapted from recipezaar:
2 baby vidalia onion or one small one, sliced or diced
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium pan, saute the onion until tender, set aside to cool.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-size bowl; stir in sugar.
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix potatoes and 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter with a fork. Add the onion.
Add dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough.
Turn out onto floured surface.
Roll out with a floured rolling pin or pat dough with your hands to make a round about 1/2-inch thick.
Cut into rounds with a 2-inch fluted or plain cookie cutter.
Place 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheet; brush tops with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter.
Bake about 20 minutes or until light brown.
Split and serve warm with butter and honey.
Makes about 10 scones.


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Truffle, How Do I love Thee?

November 24, 2006

In the bowls, clockwise: dark chocolate, candied ginger, pecan praline.
Molded chocolate truffles, from front to back: dark chocolate pumpkin, Dulce de Lece, coffee buttercream


A lot, obviously! When ThePassionate Cook gave us "Truffles" as the theme for Sugar High Friday 25, I did a little happy dance. Finally a reason to cover myself and my kitchen in chocolate. Finally a reason to go back to one of my true pastry loves: making chocolate. I applaud Danielle for making a single truffle from scratch, but I wanted to play around with my molds that had been in the attic since we moved in last year.

Making truffles is a tradition for me around the holidays. While my grandmother was busy making her marzipan stuffed fruits, I was in the kitchen next to her making and rolling balls of ganache in cocoa powder. I never thought it was a big deal as I was used to making them every Christmas, and then as I grew older, I started experimenting.
At the restaurant, I was in full truffle making mode early December with Christmas parties, wedding and party favors. I do miss certain aspect of the industry, like plating desserts, the availability to order great quality chocolates, butter, produce, molds and pans. I mean, who would not love to say: "and please add a 5o ppound box of that Valrhona couverture you (vendor) recommended last week"?! If I were to do the same desserts here I would be broke buying equipement and supplies, that's why I stick to more homy concotions.
My husband did not understand my transformation into Mr. Hyde when "truffle time" came around at the restaurant, until he came by one afternoon, and saw that I was like a kid again, hands deep in chocolate and a big smile on my face. Making truffles makes me truly happy. Many an argument with the ex. chef or the husband have been settled around a plate of them.

I am getting excited again and I disgress....
Playing with chocolate (and yeast and sugar) here can get quite tricky because of the high temperatures outside and the high level of humidity, so after a few batches of not so right chocolates some years ago, I purchased "The Art of Chocolate" by Elaine Gonzales, and it has been one of my best technique books so far. The woman knows her stuff! She will guide you from basic hand rolled to tempered and molded chocolates, to beautiful chocolate boxes, roses and more.
I have adopted her techniques for rolled truffles after one summer in South Carolina when no matter what I did, the cocoa powder would sink into the truffle and disappear. If you follow her instructions for hand dipped or molded chocolates, you will become a master in no time.

Classic Hand Rolled Chocolate Truffles:

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the cream over low heat unil bubble form around the edges of the pan. Pour the cream into a bowl and let cool 1 minute. Ass the chocolate. When the pieces are soft, start stirring until the ganache mixture is smooth.
Cover loosely and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Spoon the ganache into a pastry bag and squeeze mounds, 3/4 inch in diameter. If you want really nice round truffles, use your hand to form them. Refrigerate, uncovered for a day. The trick is to let the truffle form a skin so that when you roll them in the cacao, the powder does stay on for a long time, regardless of the temperature in the room.
Dip into cocoa powder to cover.

For the 3 different hand rolled truffles that I made I doubled the recipe and divided the ganache in 4.
1/ remained plain
2/ I added 1/2 cup crushed up pecan praline
3/ I added 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
4/ I added 1/2 cup pumkin puree and 2 tsp. pumpkin spice (I used it in the molded chocolate)


Molded Chocolate Truffles:
Source for the molds: Kitchen Krafts

Tempered Chocolate for the shells: (classic method, only used if you don't have the tempered chocolate chunks required in the seeding method)

1 pound semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped.

Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate to 115 F. Let cool to 84 F. Reheat until it reaches no higher than 90F. If you exceed this temp. you must reheat the chocolate and start all over again. The remp. may be 2 or 3 degrees lower but not higher.
Your chocolate is now tempered.

Making the Molded Truffles:

Line your work aread with parchement paper. Make sure wyour molds are clean and free of particular. Pour enough tempered chocolate to fill the cavitites completely with chocolate. Tap your mold on your counter to remove any air bubbles. Invert the mold over the parchement paper. Shake it in a circular motion to coax most of the excess chocolate to run out. Using a large spatula scrape the the excess chocolate off of the top and edges. Invert and let the chocolate harden. Fill with your desired ganache or filling.

Seal the cavities: remelt and retemper the chocolate. Spoon chocolate over the filling, going slighty over the rim. Tap the bottom of the molds on the counter. Using a large spatula, scrape the excess chocolate. Refrigerate until set.

To unmold: tap the bottom of the mold once on the counter, and flex the mold a little if necessary.

For the Coffee Buttercream filling:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. butter (2 sticks) room temp.
2 Tb. strong coffee

Whip the egg yolks until light and fluffy with a stand mixer. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the syrup to 238 on a cansy thermometer. Pour over the yolks and quickly stir to combine. Return the bowl to stand mixer and whip at high speed until completely cold. Add the butter and mix in on medium speed. Add the coffee and mix .

For the Dulce de Leche: (prepare one day in advance)

Submerge a small can of sweetened condensed milk in water in a big pan. Bring to a boil and let boil for a couple hours, making sure the can of milk is ALWAYS under water.
Let cool for one day, before opening.
I know there is a cooked method out there on the internet but could not locate it.

I brought this assortment to Thanksgiving dinner to be enjoyed with coffee. I was a bit worried about how the pumpkin ganache would be received but everybody loved it.
Making molded truffles is a lenghthy process but I had plenty of time on tuesday with the cold and rainy day we were having (read: I got lazy and stayed home)


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Raspberry Crostada

November 22, 2006


I am not ignoring pumpkin or pecan pies by bringing raspberries to our table but this crostada has been part of "our" Thanksgiving for a few years now. I need to explain the "our" before I explain the pie. I don't get to cook Thanksgiving dinner which always leaves me frustrated, so I cook a mini dinner with all the traditional items just for the two of us on tuesday. B. thinks of it as practice, I, on the other hand, like searching for new recipes, setting up the table, enjoying the evening and telling him how thankful I am for his love and friendship. We had this beautiful crostada for dessert instead of the traditional Thanksgiving pies and the reason for it dates back to my first year at the restaurant. After making dozens of pumpkin, pecan and apple pies for that day I started craving something else for dessert and I am thankful that I have a husband ready to indulge my weirdness and my cooking whims so this is what I served that (rehearsal) evening.
Like a lot of people this holiday season, I am always on the lookout for variations of the traditionals dishes and desserts, maybe another brined turkey recipe or a pecan streudel pumkin pie, or a chocolate and pecan pie, that kind of variation. I liked my old recipe for the crostada but when I read about the one I am about to post I knew I wanted to try it. Why? Because it came with a beautiful story.


A few month ago, Mrs. B of Eating Suburbia, asked some food bloggers if they'd be willing to test some recipes for the upcoming release of the book she wrote with Michele Anna Jordan, The World is A Kitchen. I just did it for the fun of it , but as a "thank you", Mrs B. sent me a copy of the book, which I devoured the day I received it. The subtitle explains it all "Cooking Your Way Through Culture Stories, Recipes and Resources". It is chock full of wonderful stories, inspirational cultures and traditions. Monday night, I remembered reading the beautiful story of Giuseppa teaching Caterina how to make Crostada from scratch in her Italian kitchen. Just reading about Caterina's struggle to grasp the making of the dough or how to respect the food instead of trying to conquer it makes you want to try your hand at it. I believe this has making my new "to go" recipe for rapsberry tart. I used raspeberry but you can use strawberry or plum.

Raspberry Crostada, adapted from "The World is A Kitchen":

For the dough:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
grated zest of a lemon

Filling:
2 cups raspberry jam

Mix the crust ingredients until they form a ball, trying to knead the dough as little as possible. Refrigerate for an hour. Roll out to 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. Fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Cut whatever dough hangs from the sides. Spread jam over the bottom. Re-roll and cut remaining crust and cut out decorative shapes and strips to form a lattice. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Cool and serve.

It was delicious. The addition of the grated lemon zest makes the world of difference. The only change I would make would be to blind bake the crust 15 minutes prior to filling it.
If you struggle with your lattice work, head over to Smitten Kitchen where Deb wrote a great post to help out.
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Freak Storm, Coffee Cake And A Cream Puff

November 21, 2006



I had been eyeing a certain coffee cake recipe for a few days and something prompted me to make it last night and bake it this morning. Tuesday is an early day for B. so I figured I had plenty of time to bake at least one in time for his breakfast. The coffee cake was waiting for its fate in the fridge where it had plenty of time to rest and rise overnight and its sight filled me with promise of warmth and comfort this early in the morning.

I looked at the river through the back window and turned around....then I stopped dead in my tracks and had to do a double take...SNOW! It was snowing! Now! in November! In South Carolina! Did the world go upside down overnight? I mean, last week we were in shorts and t-shirts and a little while ago I was complaining about our lack of Fall weather! The weather people called it a "Freak Storm". I called it "Perfect for Coffee Cake". We sat there, at the dining room table, mugs smoking hot with coffee, looking at the snow (big slushy flakes that don't stay on the ground but nevertheless...snow), and devouring our breakfast.

I completely understand Yvonne when she jokingly wondered if it was bad to eat one by yourself. Bad? No. Wise, absolutely not! Good? The Bomb!
The only changes I made to the recipe were to spread each dough with 1/4 cup cream cheese and sprinkle 1/4 cup broken praline over each before rolling them, instead of using the almond filling. It smelled so good that we skipped the icing, we could not wait!

Raised Almond Coffee Cake, adapted from Wanda's Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, and Cream Puff

For the coffee cake dough:
1 envelope active dry yeast
4 tbsp. sugar
2 to 3 tbsp. warm water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup light cream
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a bowl, mix together the warm water, yeast and 1 tbsp. of the sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to look creamy and foamy.
Add the other 3 tbsp. of sugar, the salt, the egg and the cream. Combine well.
Pour the mixture in to the bowl of an electric mixer and add 1-1/2 cups of the flour. With the dough hook, mix on low speed until smooth (a few minutes).
Add the remaining flour and mix on low speed until the dough is well mixed. It will be a bit stiff.
Flour a work surface and turn the dough out. Roll the dough to a thickness of a 1/4 inch. Spread the softened butter on two-thirds of the dough.
With a knife, mark the dough into thirds by place a tiny mark at the top edge of the dough. Fold 1/3 of the dough over the middle third. Take the last third of the dough and fold it over that.
Do a quarter turn and roll the dough out again to 1/4 of an inch thick. Once again, fold the dough into thirds. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling, folding and quarter turn three more times, refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes between each time. Once you've completed these steps, keep the dough in the refrigerator until you're ready to fill it and bake the coffee cakes.

For the coffee cake filling:
1 cup blanched whole almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted


In a blender or food processor, grind the almonds with half the sugar. The almonds should be finely ground, but not pasty.
Add the rest of the sugar, the breadcrumbs, the 2 tbsp. melted butter, the egg, the extracts and the cinnamon. Combine well and set aside.

To assemble the coffee cakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide in half.
Roll each half into a rectangle that's roughly 9 inches long by 6 or 7 inches wide.
Take the 1/4 cup of melted butter and brush the surface of the dough with some of the butter.
Spread half the filling over the first rectangle of dough. Be sure to leave a 1 to 1-1/2 inch border all the way around to avoid the filling leaking out.
Beginning with the top edge, roll the rectangle towards you to form a long roll. Join the ends of the roll to form a ring. You may want to wet the ends slightly to ensure that they stick together.
Transfer the ring to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. With a knife or with scissors, cut the ring of dough into slices that are about 1 inch thick. Don't cut all the way through, but cut almost to the centre of the ring. Turn the pieces of cut dough slightly upwards so that you create a fan effect.
Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise for 30 minutes. Repeat with the other rectangle of dough.
Bake the coffee cakes for 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before glazing.

For the glaze:
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 to 3 tsp. light cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Mix all the ingredients until you have a smooth glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled coffee cakes and let set (about an hour or so).
If the glaze is too thick, add more cream until you achieve the consistency you want.

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No Knead Bread...I Am a Follower

November 20, 2006



Before you say "another No Knead Bread recipe? What is it with you people?", I am telling you to surrender and become a follower! Ah well, when I see a good thing I can't leave it unattended. When I read about a good thing I know it won't be long before I end up making it, especially when that particular item has been tried and endorsed by so many of us out there. I hate being left out of the loop! I have to admit that this is probably the first time I have followed a recipe in its entirety.
The bread is really easy to make. I made it in the evening, shaped it and let it rise again the next morning, baked it exactly according to the recipe and we had wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches Sunday at lunchtime. I truly believe that such a great result is achieved by the baking method: preheating your pan, covering the loaf 30 minutes, uncovering it for another 30. When you read such detailed instructions you know you have to respect the baker's work and do the same. I used a 2 quart Le Creuset casserole dish and I ended up with a beautiful round loaf. I believe it is the reason why I had less air pocket than other loaves I saw on other blogs but I wanted larger slices for sandwiches....hmm...also to spread more butter!

No-Knead Bread, from The New York Times
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

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Pear and Almond Tart

November 18, 2006



I am always fascinated when I pull something out of the oven, set it on the counter to cool, turn the computer on, only to find out that some have just made and published somewhat of a similar thing. If I can find a couple of bloggers with the same inclinations towards similar flavors, how many of us out there in the world have made the same dessert? (or close).
It fascinated me the same way when at the restaurant customers would gravitate toward the same dessert one night but not the next. Was it something in the air? Familiar flavors of the season?

One thing for sure: there are flavors that will always go together like nuts, fruits, and chocolate. I have made this tart plenty of times and I always change or add something to the original recipe. I sometimes sprinkle chocolate chips over the pears before baking, I change the nuts, I add some liqueur, some caramel...I serve it with creme anglaise, chocolate sauce, raspberry coulis, ice cream (vanilla or more funky flavors)...the possibilities are endless, let your creative side speak! This time however, I give you the original version. It comes from a pocket size recipe book that I have had for the past 10 years filled with sweet and savory tart recipes. It travels with me almost everywhere I go.

Pear and Almond Tart, adapted from "Idees Recettes, Les Tartes Salees et Sucrees":

Sweet Tart Dough (I now have adopted the one from Dorie Greenspan):
In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 stick of butter, pulse until it ressembles coarse meal, add 1 egg yolk and pulse until combined into a ball. I flattened it into a disk in between sheets of plastic wrap, refrigerated it and rolled it out to cut rounds big enough to fit into my mini tart pans. The dough gets soft very fast so you can flour your fingertips to push it up and down the sides and bottoms of the pan. Cover with parchment paper, add pie weights (I use dry beans) and blind bake at 350 degrees until the crust is completely baked through. Let cool.

Filling:
4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
4 eggs
200 gr. sugar
100 gr. ground almonds
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a blender or food processor, combine the sugar, eggs, almonds, cream and vanilla and pulse until combined.
When your pie crust has cooled, arrange the pear slices at the bottom and slowly pour the cream over them. Bake at 350 F. until golden brown.
You don't have to use your food processor to combine the filling ingredients together and you could it by handby whipping the sugar and eggs together, then adding the almonds, cream and vanilla.

Note: I had leftover cream and baked it in 2 ramequins in a water bath, kind of like a compromise between a flan and a creme brulee. It was delicious too!

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Walnut Chocolate Cake

November 16, 2006


Yep, no fancy name, no weird ingredient, just the pure comfort of dark chocolate in a slice. I am probably the last one to post her entry for "Dishes of Comfort" a one-off event created by Yvonne and Orchidea, and I realized today I had passed the deadline. Hopefully they will be able to include this, if not well, you can have it all for yourself!

When I first read about the event, I immediately thought about my grandmother's apple pie, my aunt Agnes chocolate mousse, or my mom's chocolate cake. I don't know if mom remembers it but for the longest time, one of my brothers birthday requirement was homemade Walnut Chocolate Cake. What they did not know is how happy to see his birthday roll around...or why...don't get me wrong I love him dearly, but I also love chocolate cake!
I also think that Grandma Paulette and Auntie Agnes deserve a post of their own. However, it has got to be somebody's birthday somewhere...out there...and if no one wishes to claim a slice I will because it is comforting and good for any reason, any occasion.

Why is this cake so comforting to me? For one it does not look perfect, and as I get older I find that highly reassuring. All crusty on top, crumbly when you cut it. Easy to eat anytime of the day, cold with milk for breakfast, warm with your afternoon coffee, with ice cream for a romantic dinner and perfect for anybody's birthday (unless they hate chocolate).
I am not sure when the recipe came from but it is one of those I bundled up in my suitcase when I moved here and one I make for B. when his birthday comes to town.

Walnut Chocolate Cake:

200 gr. dark chocolate (6 1/2 oz)(time to get your best out)
200 gr. butter (6 1/2 oz)
5 eggs
1/4 cup ground walnuts
250 gr. sugar (7 oz)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375. In a saucepan set over low heat, melt together the chocolate and the butter. Add the sugar and stir until incorporated. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and stir well after each addition. With a spatula, add the ground walnuts and vanilla. Pour into an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out "clean"
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Cake Aux Fruits Confits

November 15, 2006



Allright, it's a fruit cake. Hold on before you run away! This one is far away from the mass produced and displayed ones you see on grocery store shelves or given to you by your dear Auntie and that you try to pass on to your not-so-dear neighbor. This one is good, light and airy, buttery, soft and studded with only a reasonable amount of candied fruits. They always made me think of little gems and I have loved them since I had whole candied fruits and traditional Provencal Epiphany cake where I grew up in Provence.

When I moved to the US, I brought along with me a little black notebook filled with recipes that both my mother and grandmother would make on a regular basis as well as some of my favorite cake recipes, including this one. I forgot about it for a while because I quickly discovered pumpkin, sweet potatoes and pecan pies, cornbread and biscuits. As the holidays approached I grew a little homesick and I became really excited when I found fruit cake at the grocery store. I bought one, and decided to have a couple of slices with my afternoon tea. I got anxious upon cutting it, kinda dense.... when I put the slices on my plate it was a big disappointment: where was the cake? All I could see was a big mass of candied fruits and nuts barely needing cake batter. I made it my mission to make the one I used to have at home.

I made three that first time, one for roomie and me, one for the two guys downstairs and one for Isabel. It took a little convincing but they tried it and loved it! When B. and I spent our first Christmas together, I then used womanly persuasion and he agreed to try it, he liked it so much that now he calls me from the grocery store as soon as he sees candied fruit on the shelf. I have already made 3 this week and the neighbors want more. Even if you think you don't like fruit cake, I think it is worth a try. My sister in law can't stand it so we make it with almonds instead, I guess the batter is really good on it own.

I believe my mother got the recipe from a magazine many moons ago claiming that it came from the Lenotre Patisserie. I cannot validate this statement but I would not be surprised if it did as all their confections and desserts are scrumptious.

Candied Fruit Cake, adapted from Lenotre:

4 oz. butter
4 oz. powdered sugar
3 eggs
5 1/2 oz. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup rum
8 oz. candied fruits

Soak the fruits in the rum while you prepare the batter. Cream butter and powdered sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add the flour and baking powder. Drain the fruits and add to the batter with 2 Tb. of the rum. Pour into a loaf and
bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The top will get brown quick so make sure the cake is dry in the middle (insert knife) before you remove it from the oven.

Cake Aux Fruits Confits, adapte de chez Lenotre:

120 gr. beurre
120 gr. sucre glace
3 oeufs
165 gr. farine
10 gr. levure
4 c.s rum
240 gr. fruits confits

Faire tremper les fruits avec le rum pendant la preparation du cake.
Reduire le beurre en pommade avec le sucre glace. Incorporer les oeufs un a un, en melangeant bien apres chaque addition. Ajouter la farine et la levure. Egoutter les fruits confits, les ajouter a la preparation avec 2 cs. du rum. Mettre dans un moule a cake et faire cuire a 180 C pendant 20 a 30 minutes.



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Chocolate and Praline Tart

November 13, 2006


This tart was really a spur of the moment "what is in the fridge" kind of dessert. As I mentionned the other day, we never really don't know how our saturday gatherings with the neighbors are going to be like or if we'll have one altogether (holidays, weather, ...) Around 4pm, I got a call from the bachelor next door asking me if I had a good recipe for clam chowder. I looked around at all my cookbooks and realized with a good laugh that 99% of them were baking/dessert related ! I have a couple of French cooking "bibles" and a collection of southern recipes in case B. wants gumbo and biscuits... you get the point... the neighbor was ringing the wrong person. I did not want to shatter his image of me being a great chef (hm, hm) so I quickly went online and found one that sounded fairly easy for him to make. That's when the inevitable question followed: what was I going to bring to the party?

I had made a Banana Poundcake from Dorie Greenspan's latest book but I wanted to keep that more for breakfast or snacks. Dang! Quick come up with something that has time to bake and cool! As I said previously, sometimes leftovers are a good thing: I remembered I had a batch of tart dough in the freezer and leftover ganache from the macarons. A chocolate tart! I added 1/2 cup of crushed up pecan pralines (nut toffee of any knid would work too) to the ganache and there it was, dessert, on the fly.

Chocolate Praline Tart:

One recipe "pate sucree":
In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 stick of butter, pulse until it ressembles coarse meal, add 1 egg yolk and pulse until combined into a ball. I flattened it into a disk in between sheets of plastic wrap, refrigerated it and rolled it out to cut rounds big enough to fit into my mini tart pans. The dough gets soft very fast so you can flour your fingertips to push it up and down the sides and bottoms of the pan. Cover with parchment paper, add pie weights (I use dry beans) and blind bake at 350 degrees until the crust is completely baked through. Let cool.

One recipe chocolate ganache:
In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of heavy cream to scalding point, remove from heat and add 1 1/2 cups good quality chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes and slowly stir until well incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of crushed up praline or toffee. Pour the ganache in the tart shell, let cool 15 minutes and refrigerate until the ganache is completely firm.
I have a tendency to cut small slices because it is almost like eating a big truffle, nothing wrong with that I know. It is easy to put together even if you don't have all the ingredients beforehand, and it goes real well with a nice cup of coffee.
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Key Lime Squares

November 11, 2006


You must be in the same situation I am: you read blogs everyday, your mouth waters at gorgeous pictures and great recipes. You copy them, you print them and your collection keeps on growing. I have binders full of recipes I see on blogs and it ususally takes me longer than a few days to get around one of them, but these were the exception. When I saw the original recipe on Mary's blog, I knew I had to make them almost immediately. I love anything lime or lemon as much as I love chocolate.

I made them last week, early saturday afternoon, you know, in case of a snack attack, and I had no idea that they would part of our weekly saturday neighborhood gathering. You probably think we live on Wysteria lane the way I talk about my block, but take away some of the drama and you are not far from the truth. There are bachelors and young couiples, plenty of kids, cats and dogs. It is a fun and crazy mix. The doors are wide open, the kitchens shared and ingredients travel from one pantry to the other. No phone required, just step out on the balcony.
Around 4pm, there is an oyster roast or a clam chowder in the making, ribs and vegetables on the grill, finger foods being set out as well as am assortment of drinks to be passed around.
Around 6pm, the kids gather under my balcony and want to know what is for dessert. Tonight it was something chocolate but last week it was Key Lime Squares.

I altered Mary's recipe a little and the bars still came ou perfect. For starters, I did not have Meyer lemons but a big supply of Key lime. I also baked the crust in a bigger pan and tripled the filling quantities. These bars or squares are close to perfection. The filling has that perfect balance of tartness and sweetness. The crust is buttery but never soggy or too hard. This recipe is already part of "my favorites" binder.

Key Lime Squares, adapted from Mary at Alpine Berry:

Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Filling:
6 large eggs
3 cups superfine or bakers' sugar
6 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt2 Tb finely grated key lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice


Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and line a 13x9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
To make crust:Combine flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is pebbly. Press evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 18-20 minutes. Set aside crust.

To make filling:In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in lime zest and juice until well combined. Pour over crust (it's okay if crust is still hot). Bake until filling is just set, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.

Thank you Mary for sharing such a great recipe! Tonight's installment with our weekly gathering was not bad either, but that post will have to wait.
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Orange and Cranberry Muffins

November 9, 2006


I started wondering if people thought we only have egg yolk omelettes and macarons for breakfast given my sunday SNAFU, and decided to make a proper breakfast item. I read throughout the blogosphere about some wonderful foods and flavors of Fall but I have to tell you I am having a difficult time getting in the mood for pumpkin, persimmons, pomegranates and other items when it is still 75-80 degres and I am still in short sleeves. I don't even want to think about turkey! I know most of you want to throw me a stone right about now and tell me to count my blessings because it is either rainy or cold where you are but seriously all I want right now is a juicy piece of watermelon.

Back to breakfast. One of the things we enjoy a couple times a week, especially when B. is late for work is a good scone or a couple of muffins. Easy to eat on the go, in the car, in a rush or if we have time enjoyed on the deck wishing the leaves would fall. I decided to give myself a little pep talk the other day and finally put a couple of pomegranates and a bag of dried cranberries in my cart (ok, they were also on sale).
There are so many great cranberry recipes out there right now it was difficult to settle on just one. I found one with so many good reviews that I decided to go for it and tweak it to our taste.

Orange Cranberry Muffins, adapted from allrecipes:
Yields: 12 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temp
1 egg, beaten
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pan, or use paper liners.Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together until light. Add egg and beat until smooth. Add orange juice and grated zest. Add flour mixture and stir just until mixed. Fold in cranberries.
Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 20-25 minutes.

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No Eggs For Breakfast

November 7, 2006


And there you have it...these macarons are the reason why we did not have eggs left for or breakfast sunday morning...that and the lime squares I took to T&D for dinner that night.
I am a little late in catching the macarons bug but now I don't wish for a cure. They have become very enjoyable to make and after the fear of the first batch I have spend many hours dreaming of different flavor combinations. Some I came up with were interesting, not to say weird and some complemented the arrival of fall and its chilly days. I have to dream of chilly weather because here it is sill 82-85 degrees (!)

I use the same basic recipe everytime and vary either the topping or the flavor. This time I made plain ones dusted with cocoa powder and filled with a raspberry ganache, vanilla flavored ones with coarse brown sugar topping with a rum ganache and coffee ones with a hazelnut praline ganache. I made a firm ganache as I was going to package some for D. as a hostess gift and wanted the texture to withstand the car ride. Basically, 1/2 cup of heavy cream for one cup of chocolate. Also remember that for every ounce of liqueur, you have to increase the chocolate of one ounce also or you will end up with a runny texture.

Lisa, I have not forgotten your wish and I promise to send you some very soon!


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Note: maman, Arnaud et les reste de la smalla, n'hesitez pas a laisser un commentaire si le coeur vous en dit!

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Applesauce Spice Bars...Another Great One From Dorie

November 6, 2006


Apparently I like the book! I have tried some of the recipes and so far there has not been one we did not like. It is a great read for novice bakers as it contains all sorts of basics from breakfast treats, cookies, bars, cakes, ice creams and more. It appeals to the intermediate cook who wants to broaden his/her repertoire with all the variations Dorie gives on the sidebar of the recipes. It is full of homey, uncomplicated delights for the seasoned chef who wants to return to the basics or does not want to fuss with complicated techniques and hard to find ingredients.

Sunday afternoon, the boys were working on the boat and given that the weather was a little bit in the chilly side I thought that a batch of these apple bars with a nice cup of coffee would be totally appropriate to make them take a break. The bars are rich but not heavy, you can play with the kind of apple you use as well as the amount of spices. The recipe called for raisins but B. has a childhood aversion to them so I used dried cranberries instead and it worked even better (at least in my book). I also used Calvados instead of applejack because that was what I had on hand.

Applesauce Spice Bars, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

For the bars:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tb. applejack
1 baking apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the glaze:
2 1/2 Tb. heavy cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Butter and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350.Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat.Still in the saucepan, whisk in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well until blended. Add the applesauce, vanilla and liqueur until smooth. With a spatula, add the dry ingredients, cranberries and nuts and mix until combined.Scrape into the pan and bake 20 -25 minutes.
Let cool and prepare the glaze in the meantime.

In a saucepan, whisk the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minuts. Remove from the pan and stir in the vanilla.
Remove the bars from the pan and set on a wire rack positioned on top of a sheet pan to catch the drips. Pour the glaze over the bars and let set, cut as desired.
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