Job Security

June 30, 2006

Here is a why I will always have a job as a pastry chef:

Life's a beach Cake by Sandra Lee

and here is why I will always have a job as a personal trainer:
Fried Chicken by Paula Dean

Pains Au Lait

These are also called Viennese Rolls, but literally translate from the French as "Milk Rolls". They are traditionally made like a brioche, with less butter and a higher amount of liquid, milk instead of water, hence the name. You can go for regular old milk, but I chose almond milk this time and it added a nice softness to the bread. You could use orange blossom water or a touch of orange juice to perk it up, instead of the almond milk. I added dried raspberries, but you could use chocolate chips, or again...leave them plain.
They are traditionally of oval shape, but you can make rolls or pretend they are palying bagels...!
They are awesome served warm for breakfast or toasted for foie gras and pates.

Recipe to come later on today...I am beat.


Bakewell Tart: Did Grandma know?

June 28, 2006

When I was growing up my grandmother used to make this tart with a very nice shortbread crust, jam at the bottom and covered with a nice cream sometimes flavored with almonds, sometimes not. The other day I was perousing the various foodie events for June and the words Bakewell Tart made me raise an eyelid: what was that? A tart I did not know existed? There I was checking Andrew's site to get more details about it and decided to go online and try to find a recipe.
Dang! It was my grandma's tart! or should I say Grandma borrowed it from the English?! I love this tart but I never really saw her follow a recipe nor did she leave me with one. After looking at about 5 or 6 recipes online I kind of understood that even without the exact same ingredient amounts the concept of the bakewell Tart is the same: a shortbread crust, a layer of jam and an almond flavored cream. I used the one found here but modified it like so: I doubled the amount for the filling part, added a good handful of toasted and ground almonds and used homemade nectarine and rhubarb jam instead of a berry one, most commonly found in the Bakewell Tart.

Bakewell Tart (includes modifications)from The Green Chronicle

Pastry :
2 cups plain flour
4 level tablespoons shortening
4 level tablespoons butter or margarine
pinch of salt
cold water

Method- Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.- Add the lard and the butter and chop it up roughly with a knife.- With cool fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.- Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and then, using a knife, mix lightly into a dough.- Add a little more water if necessary but be careful not to add too much.- The dough should not be sticky.- Gently bring the dough into a ball by hand, gathering up any stray bits of dough.- Leave to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours before using.- To use, roll lightly with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.

The Tart:
1/2 cup jam
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup caster/superfine sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
a good handful of ground almonds

Method- Line an ovenproof dish with the rolled out pastry.- Spread some strawberry jam on the pastry base.- Cream the sugar and butter together.- Add the egg, flour and baking powder, beating until smooth.- Beat in the essence.- Pour the mixture into the pastry case over the jam and bake in a hot oven until the pastry is cooked and the filling is firm to the touch.

It's really good, very easy to put together and most pleasing to everybody, great for all season if you want my opinion.

Note: I now it looks like the bottom crust is not cooked through and you would be right but there is a reason for it: the Cookie Monster likes his pie crust like his cookie dough: undercooked...yikes! I usually finish baking my slice separately.

Milk and Cookies

June 27, 2006

Yes...this is what I have just eaten as I got back from work but it is also the title of a blog I have come to visit everyday. JenJen at Milk and Cookies never ceases to tempt me with cookie creations and since I live with the Cookie Monster I need more than the traditional chocolate chip or oatmeal varieties to keep this household straight.

Since she posted about Jaime Oliver's Orange and Polenta Biscuits, the demand has been high for a recipe and she finally caved in the other day. Thank you!

I foolowed her recipe but my first batch did not spread in the oven, and I ended up smashing the little thing down with the back of a spoon. The flavors are just right, they are nice and crispy and great dunked in tea.

Here is the recipe:

Orange and Polenta Biscuits
170g unsalted butter
170g sugar
255g polenta
100g plain all-purpose flour
zest of 2-3 oranges, finely chopped
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 190C. Combine butter, sugar, polenta and flour in a bowl and rub them together until the mixture becomes crumbly. Mix in the orange zest and two eggs and beat until well incorporated.If necessary, cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge until slightly firm. Take a portion of dough and roll it into a ball and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space the balls approximately 5 cm apart, as the biscuits will spread upon baking.Bake in the oven for 6-10 minutes, or until the outside edges are lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

(Hers)NOTE: I found that there was no need to refrigerate the dough as I was baking these on a very cold day and the dough was firm enough. This step is optional, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.



June 26, 2006

The other day I made a batch of vanilla ice cream and I had about 6 egg whites left over. I used a couple to brush on some bread/brioche, but I had still that tiny container staring at me everytime I opened the refrigerator. Light bulb image and I promptly searched for a Financier recipe while I was checking other things online. I feel like a petit financier myself making good use of my money and my food, my daddy would be proud...

Here is the definition of this tasty pastry from Wikipedia:

A financier, sometimes called a friand, is a type of pastry in French cuisine. The financier is a light tea cake, similar to sponge cake, and usually contains almond flour, crushed or ground almonds, or almond flavoring. The basis of the cake itself is beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, flour, and powdered sugar. Financiers are often baked in shaped molds. The name "financier" is said to derive from the traditional rectangular mold, which resembles a bar of gold.
Financiers are often served topped with whipped cream, berries, or other fruit, and served accompanied by ice cream or other frozen confections.
Recently, a number of artisanal bakers have begun making non-traditional financiers, using flavorings such as coconut, chocolate, banana, and hazelnut.
Financiers are somewhat similar to madeleines.

For the recipe, I used one found on Our Patisserie, that she found in Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri. Here is my adaptation:

Pistachio Financiers (from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri)
2 oz. ground toasted almonds
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c flour
5 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs dark rum
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
Confectioners' sugar if desiredPreheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour the insides of 2 12-cavity mini muffin pans. Process the pistachios and 3/8 c of the sugar until very fine. Mix in the flour. Melt the butter, stir in the flavorings and set aside to cool. (I browned the butter as I like the nutty taste.) Beat the egg whites until they hold a soft peak. Add the remaining half of sugar gradually as you continue to beat the egg whites. Stop before the meringue is stiff. Alternately fold in the nut and butter mixtures, stirring after each addition. Use a spoon to fill the cavities of mini muffin pans 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Cool briefly, unmold, and serve with a dusting of confectioners' sugar if desired.

The almonds and the rum made a great combo and out of the 10 that I made using Flexipan pyramid molds, there are only 6 left..don't look at me like that!

I do urge you to make these, changing the nuts and liqueur to suit your taste because they are incredibly easy and delicious.

Under The Rain and WDB

June 25, 2006

The weather is nasty but on the other hand there is the World Cup to keep us occupied...oh yeah I am already losing my voice!
Not sure what to make this sunday. There are great recipes I want to try: cookies, gelato, cakes..everything looks so tempting...a trip to the grocery store will help me decide.

In the meantime here is my #1 fan,Tippy, wishing tomorrow weren't a school day!
You can see the WDB round up on Sweetnicks' blog here.

Coconut Bread

A few weeks ago, Cream Puffs referenced Mrs. B's upcoming book release and her need for more recipes testers. I hurried over to her site to see if there were some recipes left to be tested as I wanted to be part of this great recipe book journey. I feel proud and honored that she agreed to have me test her recipe for Coconut Bread, or rather Mama Rose's recipe.

Here is the recipe and then my comments and doings:

Coconut Bread
Makes 2 loaves

Instead of measurement, Mama Roses composes her dough using common sense; if it’s too sticky she adds more flour, if she happens to have extra coconut she’ll throw it in. I, on the other hand, improvise on a fixed recipe that is more or less the base of how I have seen Mama Rose mix her bread.
¾ cup coconut water or water
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 ½ cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
a handful or more grated coconut
6 to 6 ½ cups plain flour

In a large bowl add the instant yeast to the coconut water then add the rest of the liquid ingredients, the sugar and the salt.
With a wooden spoon, mix in about1 cup of the flour then add the grated coconut before slowly mixing in the next 4 1/2 cups of the flour 1/2cup at a time; you’ll probably need to abandon the spoon and use your hands after the 4th of 5th cup of flour. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it while slowly adding the remaining flour as needed to prevent the dough from becoming too sticky. Continue to knead the dough till it is smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl and let rise in a draft free place (a flash heated ovenworks great for this) till it has doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Deflate the dough and roll it to fit into two buttered loaf pans. Let the dough rise in the pans until the dough has doubled in bulk again, about 45 minutes. About 25 minutes into the second rise, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Slash a groove about ¼ inch deep, vertically down the tops of the loaves before placing them on the center rack of the oven. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the loaves are a golden brown.Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

I did the loaves twice. The first time I went and got 2 coconuts and pierced them to get the water out, and used that instead of regular water, but it was a lot of coconut left over for such an amount needed in the recipe.
The second time I used the same amount but used coconut milk instead, as well as the other installment of coconut milk.
The coconut flavor was not quite as strong in the first batch, but both times the texture of the bread was incredible. I had to stop myself from eating th whole thing fresh out of the oven. It was close and as good as a brioche but with less butter involved.
Because of circulation problems in my hands lately I did the first batch using my Kitchen Aid and letting it do the job.
The second time I wanted to see how the bread dough would perform in a bread machine and put all the ingredients in my bread machine and set it on the dough program (2 hours) and took it out, separated it into 2 and let it rise another 45 minutes. Worked just as good , though a little longer of a process.
This bread is definitely a winner!

Banana Nut Muffins

June 21, 2006

Sometimes you have to stick to the basics.... Ripe bananas, flour, sugar, vanilla, and voila...the perfect vessel to Coconut Honey Curd.
The recipe is one I use all the time, but I have tweaked it on numerous occasions to include fruits such as peaches, nectarines, pears and other fruits starting to look wrinkly on the fruit bowl. You can make loaves, squares or muffins, and different extracts can be used instead of vanilla (almond and pear, orange blossom and peach,...)

Here is the recipe from Cooking Light for the loaf version:
Mom's Banana Bread, adapted from CL
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light butter, softened
1 2/3 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
2 large egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda1
/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine sugar and butter in a bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add banana, milk, sour cream, and egg whites; beat well, and set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; stir well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beating until blended.
Spoon batter into 4 (5 x 2 1/2-inch) miniature loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Let cool completely on wire racks.

My variations this time: I used 1/2 cup of buttermilk instead of the milk and sour cream and added 1/2 cup of toasted walnut to the batter.
As soon as they came out of the oven I dipped them in melted butter and powdered sugar.

Note: can't seem to load a picture tonight, sorry.

Not Just Sweets

June 19, 2006

Braised Beef Short Ribs (no recipe, my own creation)

Vanilla Ice Cream and Macarons

Well, it was a really productive Monday in our kitchen! I volonteered to test Mrs.B.'s recipe for Coconut Bread and will report on it tomorrow. There was also a batch of mini ciabattas, a perfect batch of pink macarons (except that my almond meal was a bit too coarse), and a batch of vanilla ice cream. All these are up for upcoming posts, but to show you that we do not live on sweets alone, here is our dinner for tonight: braised beef short ribs, broccoli and cauliflower and gluten free spaghetti, dessert was ice cream and macarons.

Allright, nothing new to the recipe for ice cream, it starts with a simple creme anglaise, let it sit in the fridge until completely cold and churn it for 35 minutes. For the recipe I got my inspiration from Dessert First and her Roasted Cinnamon Ice Cream. I used one cup of milk and one cup of cream and no cinnamon, but vanilla sugar instead. It was delicious.


Waiting for Our Regular Programming

June 18, 2006

Tomorrow is bread making day: brioche, "pains au lait" for breakfast, ciabatta and I wanted to be ready to have something to spread on our breads when they came out of the oven. There it is: strawberry-rhubarb jam, blueberry jam and coconut honey (which separates while cooling, but is so good on croissants and such).

The recipe for the Coconut Honey comes from A Spoonful of Sugar and is really easy to make. The difference with hers is that I like to make mine on the stove and let it boil/cook for the same length of time. It is delicious.

Coconut Honey Curd:

2 x 400ml cans coconut milk
60ml (4 tbsp) fresh lemon juice
200ml carton UHT coconut cream
750g jam sugar (this is sugar with added pectin)

Place all the ingredients in a 2.25L bowl (I used a 3L bowl, I'd suggest using this size or larger as it will boil) and stir well. Leave uncovered and cook on full power (750 - 800W depending on your microwave settings) for 18 minutes. Stir four times during this cooking period.
Reduce the power to Medium (550W or as close as possible depending on your settings - I had to use 450W and extended the cooking time) and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring four times, until the mixture is thick and curdlike.
Allow to cool to lukewarm (it will thicken even more on cooling) and ladle into warmed jars. Top with waxed discs and leave until cold.
Cover with lids or cellophane and label the jars.
Store in a cool, dark place for up to three months. The curd may separate out into two layers on standing, but just stir it around before use and all will be well.

Can't have enough lemons

June 14, 2006

I love lemons the same way others love strawberries.
I have been playing around in the kitchen today, looking at my kitchen gadgets, my pans, my tools, thinking about what I could come up for a catering job I am hoping to get. The bowl of lemons was calling my name, and I had one last sheet of pie crust in the fridge.
The tiny tarts were tart that's for sure! I might add a dollop of whipped cream next time, but since you only 2 or 3 it's not that bad.

The lemon curd was taken from Alice Medrich's Chocolate and The Art of Low Fat Desserts:
You will need:
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 5 Tb. sugar
-1 egg
-1/2 tsp. vanilla (which I did not use)

In a medium saucepan, bring the lemon juice, zest and sugar to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until yolk and white are well combined. Slowly pour some of the hot lemon juice over the egg and whisk to temper, return the egg/juice mixture to the saucepan and stir constantly over low heat for 5 minutes or until thickened. Let cool and cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating.

As easy as 1-2-3 and it was enough to fill about 12 mini tarts.

Storm Food

June 13, 2006

I know, everybody's idea of stormy weather food is different. Some stock up on canned items, others cook up everything in the fridge in case they lose power and others like me stare at their pantry long enough to come up with only one thing: chocolate brownies.
I knew Alberto was only going to bring us bad rain and some wind, but it gave some members of my gym an excuse to postpone a workout and when they do that, our gym traffic slows down and for some unknown reason it makes me crave comforting foods like baked potatoes and brownies. See! It's their fault if I am now seated and blogging munching away on those delicious bites from Martha Stewart. Guess I'll do some extra cardio tomorrow...

I did the recipe as it was written except I added 1/4 Kahlua just for some extra flavor.

Chocolate Brownies, adapted from Martha Stewart:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup best-quality unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
( 1/4 cup Kahlua or strong coffee)
Vegetable oil cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Coat with cooking spray; set aside.
2. Melt together butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat. Stir until smooth; let cool slightly.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put eggs, sugar, and vanilla into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add kahlua or coffee if using. Add flour mixture; beat until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan, and smooth top with an offset spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownie between edge and center comes out with a few crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not overbake.) Let cool 15 minutes; lift out of pan, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely. Cut into 8 rectangles. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.


In Time for Lime

June 12, 2006

Lime Tart and Pineapple Sorbet

Well, limes and pineapples were on sale at the store this morning so here we are, another citrus creation. The lime mixture is quite tart so eating a piece of pie with a cool spoon of pineapple sorbet mellows the whole thing and brings in a tropical flair.

For the lime pie recipe I got inspired by two favorite bloggers of mine, Cream Puffs in Venice and Cindy's Kitchen. I cheated though I did not feel like making a crust so I used store bought and pre baked it.

For the pineapple sorbet: dissolve 200 grammes of sugar in 150 ml. of water on medium high heat. Cool the syrup a bit and puree 800 grammes of pineapple along with the cooled down syrup. Put in a ice cream maker and then the freezer.

Here is my adaptation of their Lemon Tart for a Lime Tart:


- your favorite tart crust, rolled and pre baked at 350 for 10 minutes

-3 eggs and 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup lime juice
- 2 tsp. lime zest
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Mix the eggs and sugar until pale. Add lime juice and zest, then the creams. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Testing to be held tonight.

Update: Mr.B said the tart was really puckery and he loved the sorbet to mellow it.

Note on a different topic: we headed down to Hilton Head for the day yesterday and did the Rachel Ray $4o a day thing, by having drinks at the Old Fort Pub overlooking the water. Romantic to the end...!



June 10, 2006

Tippy, our collie mix, on a sugar crash...
My first participation to Weekend Dog Blogging over at Sweetnicks.

Not too late for Pound Cake

June 9, 2006

OK... so I completely missed SGHF, but this is still enough summer looking to be added early June, even if it is a pound cake...triple ginger nonetheless.
Recipe coming this evening.

The First Nectarines

June 6, 2006

Nectarine Tarte Tatin...

I get excited when I see the first stone fruits of the season: yellow and white peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines. I am always eyeing those plump juicy Georgia peaches at the market. My mom always has a big fruit bowl around for dessert and the selection is always so great, winter or summer but I especially miss the big juicy melons, "brugnons", apricots and tiny gren/yellow plums.
The other night at the store I found a bin relocated to a dark corner of the produce section full of tiny bright red and incredibly fragrant nectarines, it put a big smile on my face, made my step lighter, my mood giddy and my husband happy...he knew ther would be pie on the menu...
Everybody seemed to go for the big and daring fruits and these were completely left alone. What a shame, they were so juicy and tasty, just about the size of small plums, I claimed about 20 and ran home!

I love to eat and to make Tarte Tatin, but I rarely do it the original way, with apples. I love mango, pear, banana, plum tarte Tatin. I was perousing the latest Cooking Light that evening when I came across the recipe for Nectarine Tarte Tatin, talk about fate!
Here is the recipe, with my variation in italics.

Nectarine Tarte Tatin adapted from Cooking Light
7 medium nectarines
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury) I used the other half of the Pate Sucree used the day before.

Preheat oven to 425°. I set mine for 350
Cut 1 nectarine in half. Quarter one nectarine half and the remaining 6 nectarines.
Combine sugar, water, and juice in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet. Cook for 2 minutes or until sugar is golden (do not stir). Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Let stand 3 minutes.

Place nectarine half, cut side down, in center of sugar mixture; arrange nectarine quarters, cut side down, around center.

Return pan to medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes or until sugar mixture is bubbly (do not stir). Remove from heat; let stand 3 minutes.

Roll pie dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough over nectarine mixture, fitting dough between nectarines and skillet. I used a nine inch cast iron skillet.

Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, and cool for 10 minutes. Carefully invert tart onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges.
I baked mine at 350 for 30 minutes.

Lazy Sunday

June 5, 2006

I have not been able to write anything at all last week. Did some baking but not much either, for some reason I kept being interrupted by job - related dare they?

Anyway, we took it easy this afternoon and I decided to go through my magazines piling up in the pantry and found an old issue of Martha Stewart's magazine with a dozen or so of the reader's favorite desserts. I made two of them tonight and here is one of them : Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart. My adaptation included the use of walnuts instead of macadamias and Cognac instead of Bourbon. We loved it! The dough is really good too, even with 2 sticks of butter (Yes! You read right)

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart

Makes one 11-inch tart

1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Pâte Sucrée

2 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon bourbon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter(1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 1/2 cups unsalted whole macadamia nuts(10 1/2 ounces)

1. Heat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll pâte sucrée into a 14-inch circle. Fit pastry into an 11-inch tart pan; trim dough evenly along edges. Use trimmings to patch any thin spots in shell. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and bourbon until combined. Whisk in flour, salt, and butter; stir in chocolate. Pour mixture into chilled tart shell. Cover top with nuts, pressing them halfway down into filling.

2. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, and continue baking until crust and nuts are golden, about 35 minutes. If tart gets too brown, place aluminum foil over top for remainder of cooking time. Cool on wire rack.

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