A Year In Posts

December 31, 2007


I always admire people who send out Christmas or New Year’s newsletters and tell you all the wonderful, funny or tragic details of the year past. I keep feeling nothing major happened in my life but I start thinking about things and quickly realize that I am far from the truth. Starting at home, there is never a dull moment, whether it be due to our different cultures and customs or whether it be because of our age difference, B. and I surely know how to keep ourselves entertained…!

Then there is this blog. It has given me so much in the past year that I wanted to remember the good and sad moments, the friendships and mind blowing events I have experienced. I did this post a little selfishly to have a reference of this past year but I also wanted to highlights for you guys the moments of 2007 that make this blog what it is today and I could not do it without your readership.

January 2007: After a wonderful 3 weeks back home in France it was hard to get myself back in the groove. I had tasted so many delicious pastries and foods that I felt kind of lame in my little kitchen. It made me miss restaurant work (and trust me I itch for it everyday but not in this town!). One way to quickly snap out of it was by making creamy delicious Chestnut Mousse.

February 2007: Month of all things Valentine reds and rosy pink, little did I know that by sending Ivonne a Valentine’s card that she would try to seduce me with a cake. Mr.Tartelette still does not quite get it! It was also the month I finally made the most fat laden lemon cream filling by bloggers’s sugar daddy Pierre Herme, and this most excellent Nutella Mousse with Macarons.

March 2007: It was “step out of your comfort zone” for me. First,inspired by Marce I had the brilliant (sarcasm) idea to put Dulce de Leche in brioche rolls…talk about gooey sticky mess all over my counter top, apron, and pan! I then experience with sweet avocado cream and meringue. I still can’t get people to trust me on that one, but one bite and they are sold. Then there was the Sunflower bread, time consuming but delicious. Lastly, I won my first “competition”, HHDD hosted by less evil twin Peabody, with a Japanese style cheesecake served with Salted butter Caramel sauce. Surprised, elated…happy ya’ll deemed it worthy!

April 2007: As the winner of HHDD I got to host my first blog event and what a thrill that was! I loved every minute of it, the energy and high of hosting! Then there was the ever notorious Daring Bakers’ Chocolate Cr(a)epe cake challenge. I got in touch with my inner caramel diva but the whole thing made me curse the Martha! Poor Brilynn for calming our frustrations! That month I also professed my love for another sugar daddy, Richard Leach and made my best macarons to date (according to the people who ate them) Blood Orange Macarons. I also started to give you guys serious hints about my love for verrines and all things that are small and can be put in a glass.

May 2007: Definitely a bittersweet month. By participating in the Livestrong event, hosted by Barbara, one of the nicest bloggers around (and she is so good to me) I experienced with a sweet creations while remembering the loss of my grandmother and brother to cancer. Blog surfing one day, I met Kate from Applemint and we realized we had the same birthday and decided to blog bake a cake for each other to mark the occasion. May was very related to home and family, clafoutis, ile flottante but I was obviously as serious with my ice cream making!! Oh, and more caramel by hosting my first Daring Bakers challenge with Anita, one of my first reads before I started blogging. Meeta also trusted me enough to ask me to write articles for The Daily Tiffin, and it is a pleasure to be able to motivate people.

June 2007: What did not start as great month turned out to be the one of the most heart fulfilling ones after all. Blogging friends came numerous to cheer me up after a loss in my family with notes, cards, emails, and presents, every single day there was something wonderful and magic at my doorstep. Celebrating friends’birthday or blogging event provided great times in the kitchen. Putting our favorite candy in macarons was also one of the highlights of the month. The other one being winning DMBLGIT for the first time with this spur of the moment picture.

July 2007: Finally meeting Lisa was definitely “it” in July. To put it in her words, finding this bestest friend was quite unexpected but fills me everyday with joy and laughter…oh boy do I hold my ribs when opening my emails! Thinking outside the box and using bubble wrap in unusual ways was also another fun moment that she pushed me to do when I was not sure it would turn out ok. Starting a fun world wide event with Hannah and her cutest crochet eggs (not bad for a vegan!) was a way to get more bloggers involved to reach across the miles…I am dying to know where are the eggs now!

August 2007: Definitely a family month for me. My goddaughter came to the US for the first time and we had a great time both in the kitchen and in the city. It made me realize how many American things and habits had become "mine" and how many traditions I still had from home. Macarons and cakes were made many times, as well as cute cupcake cones and delicious caramel chocolate tarts! I was the cool godmother, woohoo!!

September 2007: I became a Brownie babe, with a cool apron to show for it!! My parents came for a while and I had to adopt our favorite treat due to their diet restrictions, but this month was particularly enhanced thanks to gorgeous gifts from other bloggers dear to my heart. Mary and Elle, I cannot thank you enough for the boxes of Meyer lemons and quinces that helped me bake tasty treats for those around me. When the craziness of the holidays calms down a bit you’d better stay close to your mailboxes.

October 2007: Wow! Another DMBLGIT award and I have to thank my mom for that one because my Daring Baker’s sticky buns look much better with her frames as the background! I enjoyed playing with my blowtorch and pretend it was Fall while carving some pumpkins. I went to see Lisa for the second time, and was joined by Mary who really went out of her way with the flight situations. We had a wonderful time, baked up a storm and while I was there I copied so many recipes from a magazine Lisa had that I am surprised I only made this cake so far!!

November 2007: All about friends and pies and buns again! I tried new flavors and food, such as dried hibiscus flowers, but also reminisced about my late grandmother and her great tarts. Coconut cream pie looked mighty deconstructed and prettier thanks to a long time friend while cranberry and nuts tart became a new Thanksgiving favorites. The cross states cinnabon knockoff adventures made up a sick day turn into play day thanks to Mrs. Sassy herself. Then Tanna asked me to cover myself in sticky dough and I could not refuse!

December 2007: This month finally sealed my addiction for cinnamon rolls and unusual macaron flavors. It was also the month to celebrate other’s holidays as well as my own traditions. I was the lucky recipient of a pay it forward package and I am dying to send one to Sarah to continue the chain, as soon as I get her mailing address. It was all about the friends who become family and good times. Cream became the definite flavor this month and I might have a couple more up my sleeve to start the New Year. Stay tuned!

Well, there you have it….my blogging year in a nutshell. What a wonderful year 2007 was! I plan on continuing to share the love with you guys in 2008 and keep improving my recipes, pictures and writing. Thanks for your comments, questions and readership, they mean the world to me!

Happy New Year!
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Looks Like Santa Came By !

December 25, 2007


Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope your day is filled with laughter and good times with your loved ones.
Thank you all for your readership and support, this site would not be the same without you and your visits.
Cheers!
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Buches De Noel – Looks Like Christmas Is Finally Here!

December 22, 2007


Buches de Noel also known as Yule Logs were the challenge given by Lisa and Ivonne, founders and co-host this month of the Daring Bakers. I think they just had the perverted idea to see us buttered, creamed and rolled in light genoise, Swiss buttercream, decorated in meringue and flavorful Marzipan. You should not that when I talk in those terms it can only be because they gave us an awesome challenge! Did I mentioned I buttercreamed my hair? Hmm, yeah…what I thought was the first gray hair was just a streak of buttercream from picking up the phone, lifting my glasses up and frosting my hair with a fork full of buttercream. See, they even raise my blood pressure…those two I tell you!!

Buche de Noel is ancient tradition in my family, and I think for most European families as well. Wasn’t too long after I figured out how to make genoise that yes, it could be filld, and yes it could be rolled and “oh my!” before you know it I was making it for our Christmas dinner. Over the years, there were the traditional stump looking one, with flavors just as traditional: chestnuts, chocolate, caramel, coffee. One year I decided to make a pink and purple one to match the table setting (not Grandma’s favorite!). We also had the genius frozen one that required 6 hands and an electric knife for proper dissection! Yeah, not an event I wish to revisit. Buche de Noel, how do I love thee….well ask me next Tuesday when I am done making them for family, church, friends and strangers. Ok, so they pay me, still…I like when Yule Log season starts, I also like when it ends.

This time our instructions were to do a light genoise, fill and frost it with preferably coffee Swiss buttercream, so as to prevent any white/red/green/blue logs (how did they find out about my childhood one is still a mystery J) although options were given for those who did not like coffee. Requirements for decorations were either meringue or marzipan mushrooms.

It turned I needed two logs within days of each other so instead of visiting the recipe twice, I went ahead and made double batches of everything. I have long ago learned that December is the most hectic month of the year in which days are 12 hour long instead of 24…yep, really and although I am a night owl I have also seen too many sunrises this month with buttercream in my eyes? Did I mention I tried it as eye shadow one night I still had someone the back of my hand and went to rub my eyes?

So, here was my game plan and you can see executed in the pictures:
Log # 1: Coffee – Burnt Orange
- burnt orange genoise: instead of mixing orange zest in the batter, I scattered it on top and put the tray in a hot oven. The zest got darker but nor bitter.
- Once cooled, I brushed the cake with a Grand Marnier simple syrup
- Coffee Swiss meringue for the frosting where I dissolved the coffee with Grand Marnier instead of the brandy called for in the recipe. (French meringue is egg whites whipped firm with sugar, Italian is hot syrup drizzled over whipped egg whites and continuing whipping until is cools, Swiss is egg whites and sugar brought to 140F over double boiler then whipped until cooled)
- Filling: Orange Confit Coffee Mousse; part coffee buttercream, part whipped cream with added coffee and bits of orange confit scattered in it. Some broken meringue mushroom pieces for a crunch
- Decorations: Meringue mushrooms called for in the recipe and then I needed to challenge my sculpting skills so I made a marzipan teddy bear (Theodore), a red hatted snowman (Albert) and green hatted snowman (Truman). Lisa challenge me to a moose which turned out looking like a donkey so I ate it…I am evil, I know!

Log #2: Chocolate – Vanilla Crème Brulee – Chocolate Sauce
That’s where I challenged myself and the log almost won: I had the crazy idea that it would be cool to have a layer of vanilla bean crème brulee inside the Yule Log. How was I going to come up with that? I made a classic brulee batter, threw in some gelatin, poured it into a sheet pan and let it set in the fridge. Rolling that thing in the cake proved to be a challenge as the set batter had only one thing in mind, escape!! But I stepped away, took a deep breath and rolled again, tighter this time,and closed the thing shut.
- genoise was left plain, with some vanilla in there for good measure
- layer of chocolate ganache, layer of chocolate buttercream, layer of vanilla crème brulee
- chocolate buttercream to cover it all
- decorations: I drew rounds on top of the log with a glass and carefully spooned out some of the cream, filled the indentation was homemade chocolate sauce. That way the log comes with its own sauce and everybody get a little extra chocolate!
The final testing for that one will be Tuesday, for now it is parked in the freezer, well wrapped, hoping I don’t crush it with a bag of cauliflower! Did I mention I also buttercreamed my dog? My spatula was overloaded, he yapped, I turned abruptly and a big dollop landed on his snout. He spent ten minutes chasing it around, on its own nose…a sight to be seen!

The cake was light and airy and the buttercream smooth and oh so good sandwiched in between chocolate shortbread cookies! I had a blast, as you can see by the pictures and should you want the recipe, check either Lisa or Ivonne for the full lowdown. I am having issues with blogger so not posting the recipe just yet. Make yourself a good cup of coffee and check out all the beautiful logs out there.
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Sugar Cookies For A Good Cause

December 20, 2007


I often talk about my neighbor C. and her twin boys and how they are a loving, loud and buoyant pair. What I failed to mention so far is that about once a week, I "borrow" her boys for the afternoon. This expression started over a year ago when I kept the kids occupied one afternoon by teaching them how to make cookie dough while she was cleaning the house top to bottom and had no way of keeping them busy without supervision. They play a lot on their own but believe me we are still amazed at how they made it to seven so far without a broken leg or worse injury: fire, water, engine, anything that rolls, chops, cuts, explodes will find a way into their hands.

Having said this you might think I was crazy for volunteering to have them over. Well, when things start getting heated and borderline out of hand, I give them"the look". My grandfather Rene had "the look", piercing and serious enough to make you melt in your socks and I am glad I inherited that particular feature. One glance and the boys were playing somewhat in a quieter way but not entirely to make a studious afternoon: what fun would it be to make cookie dough without a little play, right? I was merely trying to keep the dough on the counter and not used as putty on the walls and grout on the kitchen floor. After that afternoon last year, their dad joked around and asked if I still wanted children after that experience and I joked "I'll just borrow yours for the time being", and that's how the expression stuck around.

Last Friday C. asked me to watch over the boys so she could pack the family's suitcases for their trip to North Carolina. I said "Great! Let's do A Drop In and Decorate Party!"...which was received with 6 incredulous eyes and a big "a what party?" I then proceeded to tell C. and the boys how crucial they were going to be in bringing some joys to less fortunate kids their age.
Every year since 2002, Lydia of The Perfect Pantry hosts a Drop In and Decorate Cookies For Donation. When I read about it in November I mentioned it to a few friends but we never seemed to be able to find a suitable baking day. Thus, when I was supposed to borrow the twins last week, it seemed like my last chance to bake for a great cause before the full blown crazy wind of the holidays.

Let's just say that I spend half my day saying "Don't touch that with your red hands! Step away from the wall! The first one to open the oven without me has to spell brother backwards, etc...." Interestingly enough, I never have to say these but a couple of times as they are completely into their task and they took their job of decorating for charity very seriously. They had a purpose, they were going to play Santa, they were going to make people smile. I love hanging out with those two because you give them the choice between a video game and piece of wood to go bang on something...they'll go bang and march down the street to get the other kids involved. But again, that might just be because C. is the coolest mom ever!!

We made a plain sugar cookie dough, rolled cut and baked about 8 dozen cookies, and iced them with an icing from Dorie Greenspan found on Epicurious. The best I ever worked with so far, smooth, shiny and spreadable, very easy for the kids to handle. They kept one dozen to give to friends at school, and I kept one dozen for friends too, the rest went to "Helping Hands" which provides safe shelter to victims of domestic violence and their children. Victims there are in immediate danger from verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse. I am familiar with the place as I go there about once a month for baking or cooking demo with another chef friend of mine and we teach women there how to come up with good and wholesome meals while on a tight budget and with minimal equipment. There are a lot of women and children who are so disheartened with the basic notion of love, self and kindness that I really wanted to help put a smile on their face. Saturday morning we dropped off all the cookies, trees, sugar men, snowmen and visited the shelter for about an hour...long enough for me to almost "lose" the twins who were busy outside making mounds of dirt for "make believe sleigh rides"...their words, not mine! Where do they get such ideas?!!! Anyways...mission accomplished. The whole experience was profitable to all on so many levels, so if you don't know what to do with the family visiting and all the kids getting in your way this weekend, sit them down at the kitchen table and make them decorate a bunch of cookies for a good cause. Chances are you will be visited by the Spirit of Christmas...

Basic Sugar Cookie Dough:

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 1/3cups sugar
1 egg
3 cups flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp. baking soda

In a large bowl, mix the flour,baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the utter and sugar until light and airy. Add the egg and whisk until well incorporated. Add the flour mix and whisk until incorporated.
Divide the dough into two balls, flatten them out and wrap them in plastic film. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight, until firm.
Remove one dough ball from the fridge and roll the it out in between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out as man shapes as desired. Reroll the scraps, and refrigerate that smaller dough until firm again. Work with the other dough ball in the meantime.
Bake the cookies until they just about turn gold around the edge,8-10 minutes at 350F. Let cool completely before icing.

Royal Icing, adapted from Dorie Greenspan,via Epicurious:

3 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 large egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
Assorted food colorings (optional)
Makes about 2 cups

Using electric mixer, beat the powdered sugar and egg whites until thick and shiny, adding more powdered sugar by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too thin to spread, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Add more powdered sugar if the icing is too thin for your taste. Divide icing into portions. Add different food coloring to each,according to what you plan to decorate. Cover until ready to use. You can refrigerate the icing for a couple of days if necessary.


Meeta's Monthly Mingle this time around is centered around the event created by Lydia, so the cookies in the above picture are also virtually going to Germany!

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Coconut Creme Brulee And Coconut Sorbet

December 18, 2007

I am sure your holiday baking is full of cookies and cakes and after spending a lot of time in the kitchen, the last thing you think about is more desserts. Well, what if I were to bring you these two-bite coconut creme brulees and coconut sorbet? Do I see a sparkle in your eyes again? Granted you have to like coconut to begin with but knowing you can keep the cremes plain or flavored to your taste is always a good thing.

Since the weather had been so nice and it felt more like a cool summer day than early December, I brought these along to our weekly get together with the neighbors. We were trying to get in full Christmas mode decorating C's trees (the party was at her house), drinking egg nogg while the kids were making sandmen instead of snowmen outside. Yet, no one was in the mood for fruitcake, pumpkin roll or chocolate cake. I had just finished a batch of macarons for gift giving and was facing an evil amount of egg yolks, so creme brulees were the obvious choice.

My dear B. hates coconut with a vengeance, not the flavor but the texture, what he calls those gritty shreds, while I on the other hand love it...and love seems like a small word: the scent, the texture, the flavor...everything! I will always remember the day my dad brought a fresh coconut back to the house, piercing holes in it, the juice dripping down our chins, and cutting it open chopping its flesh out...nothing like what you find at the stores in pretty blue packages these days. The opening of the coconut was something of a ceremonial, much like the day he brought home papaya, scooped the seeds out,drizzled it with lime juice and handed a half to each of us...the best moment in a girl's life: eating with my hands, with juice and fruit all over and not a care in the world!

Back to the creme brulees though. Since I had some coconut texture haters in the group,I decided to infuse the milk with the flesh ad pass it through a sieve prior to baking. The only shred of shreds (no pun intended) is the toasted coconut on top of the sorbet which you can omit if necessary. I used what C. had on hand, sweetened coconut so I reduced the sugar in the creme brulee batter and since it has caramelized sugar on top, I think you won't really miss it either. The sorbet is a simple syrup mixed with coconut milk and processed in a ice cream machine but you can achieve a nice sorbet by doing as follows: freeze the mixture for a couple of hours, take it out and whip it in your mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand held mixer. Repeat a couple of times.

Coconut Creme Brulee And Coconut Sorbet:

Serves 4

For the Creme Brulee:
1 cup egg yolks (between 6 and 8 depending on the size of your eggs)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup grated coconut (increase sugar to 1 cup if you use unsweetened coconut)
1/4cup brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup white sugar for brulee topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 4 ramequins inside a roasting pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. Add the coconut. Heat the cream until scalding hot. Slowly whisk it into the egg yolk mixture, mix well,but ot too vigourously or you will add toomuch air. Pour into a container and let cool to room temperature,skim off the top foam if necessary. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the coconut and divide among the 4 ramequins. Pour water to about halfway up the sides of the ramequins and put the pan in the oven. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the mixture appear almost set,it should stillwiggleabit in the middle. It is ok to remove the pan from the oven at that point as the custard will continue to bake and set.
Let cool to room, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Right before serving: divide sugar on top of each custard and use a blow torch to caramelise the top or put the pan under the broiler.
A good creme brulee is hot on top, room temp in the middle and cold at the bottom.

For The Sorbet:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 can coconut milk

In a saucepan, heat the water with the sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add to the coconut milk.Let cool to room temperature and process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions, or use the hand held or mixer method described above.
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Swedish Cardamom Rolls

December 15, 2007

You might be thinking that Tartelette has gone off the deep end, obsessed with cinnamon rolls. Well, obsessed might be a bit big, "me likey some cinnamon rolls" although not grammatically correct would be more appropriate to label my affection for fluffy dough rolls filled with spices. First there were these, then these yummy knockoffs and now these inspired from Anne from Anne's Food.

During our September Daring Baker challenge, she mentioned Swedish cinnamon buns and I instantly remembered the ones my mom used to make during the winter. She had been given the recipe by a Swedish friend of hers, except that Glenna called them "Bole" or something like that. I did not know any other version while growing and fell in love with them the minute my mom pulled them out of the oven. The scent of cardamom wafting through the house was powerful and magical. Cardamom and cinnamon together in the dough is one of the differences with the American type cinnamon rolls, the other one being that each roll is baked in its individual casing (shorter in Europe, I used muffin paper cups) for a shorter period of time.

Within a few hours I was sitting at the kitchen table with a roll and a cup of tea, my eyes closed...and I was back in time 15 years ago listening to my mother and grandmother talking about our Christmas dinner, the food, the table setting, the linens, the decorations, etc...I felt empty and content at the same time. As children, our games and hobby were held in the kitchen or not very far from it (except on holidays where we were outdoors all the time), and little did they know all the wonderful memories I now have of these days of leisurely baking and chatting.
Now grandma is gone and I religiously make her truffles and cake for Christmas, and mom cannot always come and visit as much as she would want (every weekend :)), but there is one thing that I will never forget to make from now on : Swedish Cardamom Buns.


Swedish Cardamom Buns, adapted from Anne whose is based on a recipe from Bara Bullar of Åsa Swanberg

Makes 24

Dough:
2 packs active dry yeast (yes 2, you can't taste the yeast once baked no worries)
1 eggs
2 cups finger-warm milk
1 pound all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 stick butter, softened
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cardamom

Filling:
3/4 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 Tb ground cinnamon
1/2 Tb ground cardamom

Decoration:
1 egg, beaten with 1/2 tsp water, and a tiny pinch of salt
pearl sugar

In a bowl, dissolve the yeast with some of the tepid milk. Add the rest of the milk, half of the flour and the egg. Leave to proof, covered, for one hour.
Add the rest of the flour, the sugar, salt, cardamom and butter. Work into a smooth and silky dough. Here's when you might need a bit more flour. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover and leave to proof for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into two. Roll out each part to a large rectangle. Spread with butter, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll each rectangle into a tight roll, starting at the long edge, and cut each roll into about 10-12 pieces. Place each piece in a paper cup on a baking sheet (covered with parchment paper so you won't end up with a mess), cover and leave to proof for 30 minutes.Beat the egg with a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp of water, and brush this carefully on the buns. Finish by a light sprinkling of pearl sugar. Bake at 450°F for 6-8 minutes, until they're as golden as you like them.
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Pistachio Cocoa Nibs Cookies

December 12, 2007

Are you ready for Christmas? I am not, but my kitchen is! My oven has been rehearsing its favorite carols and humming a happy Christmas Cookie song. You don't know the Christmas Cookie song? Goes something like this:
"99 Christmas Cookies in the jar, 99 Christmas Cookies in the jar. Take one down and pass it around, 98 Christmas Cookies in the jar.
98 Christmas Cookies in the jar, 98 Christmas Cookies in the jar. Take one down and pass it around, 97 Christmas Cookies in the jar.
.....
No Christmas Cookies in the jar.
Crank the oven on and bake some more, 99 Christmas Cookies in the jar."


And now you know how I get through an entire weekend of baking for us, the neighbors, the family, the friends, clients and patrons. Cookies, macarons, truffles, you name it. My fridge and freezer look like some kind of nut case replaced all food groups by just one, sugar. It leans towards that trend the other months of the year, but really I had a chuckle earlier when I reached for the veggies I needed to make ratatouille. I need to start making my holiday boxes and deliver/mail them soon or I am going to break down and start eating them all!

I like to include a variety of down home treats like chocolate chip cookies, marshmallows, biscotti, and more delicate things like truffles, macarons, madeleines, etc... I like bringing my heritage into a bit of everyday style baking. I know I am not the only one and I love all the family recipes popping around on blogs during the holidays. I am learning so much about holiday traditions from other countries and other people. It's like food traveling somewhere new everyday. Thanks to all of you out there sharing with me/us. And if you wish to find a list of tried and true Christmas Cookie recipes, visit Susan's Food Blogga blog where these Pistachio Cocoa Nibs ccokies are heading for her Christmas Cookies From Around The World Event.

Now here is a recipe I tried recently that I think will become a regular in the Christmas cookie repertoire. I found it while reading one of my favorite blogs "Cake On The Brain". Her posts are funny, from the heart and always challenging her self and the way I think about things I deal with everyday. Sometimes I feel jaded by the world I bake for: catering, restaurant, private parties,etc... Her fresh and vibrant perspectives recharge my battery quite often. Go look at her latest macaron creation...with grated dried raspberry on top...how ingenious!! The original recipe is from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet calling for pecans, cocoa nibs and bourbon, which she adapted and which I adapted a little also by using pistachios and Cognac. The result, a delicate crumb, a punch from the cocoa nibs (thanks Lisa for the stash) and a little flavor from home with the Cognac.


Pistachio Cocoa Nibs Cookies:

Makes about 2 dozens

1 cup raw skinned pistachios, finely chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tb. Cognac

Combine the butter and sugar, in bowl of electric mixer and beat on high speed until smooth and creamy (1 minute). Add the vanilla and Cognac. Beat in the pistachios and cocoa nibs. Add all the flour at once. Beat on low speed until flour is incorporated.
Form dough into 12-inch log about 2 inches thick. Wrap in parchment and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. At this point you can freeze the log for up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges. Let cookies firm up on the pans for about 1 minute before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Try to save some for the day after, they taste even better 24 hours later. The cookies can be stored in airtight container for at least 1 month.

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Two more very important things:
The first one is a shameless plug for a friend: Hannah from Bittersweet just published her first book, My Sweet Vegan.

I am among the lucky few to have received a preview copy and I have to tell you to run and get it, regardless of your dietary preferences. I am not a vegan and yet I am wowed by the delicious recipes she wrote. I made her Lemon Lime Sunshine Bundt cake last night and could not stop nibbling on it all day long. Congratulations on your first book Hannah and I can't wait to see what is up next!

The second one is to tell you about Menu for Hope. Although I realised too late the deadline to send in a participation item, I still urge you to go and donate. The amount raised will go to support the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa.

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White Chocolate Pudding - Sugar High Friday!

December 10, 2007


I already wish it were Friday... any Friday for that matter. The week is always better that day don't you think? Well, I am anticipating a very sweet one by virtually sending these to Zorra who is hosted Sugar High Friday for December, dedicated to puddings : "baked, steamed and boiled puddings or the creamy ones".

I have to admit, I did not jump up and down when I read the theme since I will take tarts,cookies,cakes over puddings any day of the week. Although, come to think of it, I like panna cottas and creme brulees, which are also forms of puddings. Ah! Who am I kidding?! I had the chance to stir some sugar, eggs and cream together, and that is enough to make me happy!

B. on other hand, as a good Southern boy, loves his custards and puddings, so he started bugging me early on last week: "Have you decided which one you will make?" - hugh...no. "What about my mom's banana pudding?" - hugh...no again."What about steamed pudding like the ones I used to eat in England?" - hugh ...still no. Nothing against steamed pudding, which I like, but not my fancy at the present time since it is around 80 outside and close to 85-90 with the oven on. How far is Australia again? Because right now, it might as well be in my backyard!!

So.....after searching for something refreshing and on the lighter side (if eaten with moderation) during this trying time of holiday parties and cookie making, I settled on two of my favorite tastes: white chocolate and pomegranate.
I loved this one: the creamy satin mouth feel of the white chocolate is really accentuated by the juicy and tart explosion of the pomegranate seeds in your mouth. (sounds good right?!) I made just enough for four, but I wish I had enough for 10 more...for me! I searched books and Internet sources for white chocolate pudding recipes but was never satisfied so I adapted the one I have come up with over the years for a vanilla based one. I will always remember the two lessons my grandmother taught me in the pastry kitchen: If you fail your creme anglaise, add cornstarch and make it a pudding. If you fail a cake, turn it into bread pudding.... I guess, puddings do make the world go round!!

A lot of you have asked me about the different dishes and cups I use. The small dishes are purchased at stores like Tuesday Mornings( like these), Pier1, or at restaurant when I am wowed by the presentation (like these). The square glasses, lantern glasses and the small ones (about 1/2 cup capacity) today are actually....votive candle holders... Tada!! You know one of my secrets. Allright I am in a particularly nice mood tonight (Pay It Forward Winner below) so I will give you my other secret: my best sources are the Dollar Store and the sales rack of Kmart or Lowes, in the garden and candle sections. Always look beyond the expected and you will be rewarded...all right so all that wisdom has left me hungry for some pudding...


White Chocolate Pudding :

Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 cups milk, divided
Pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz (1/2 cup) white chocolate chips or chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Heat 2 cups of milk, but do not boil. In a bowl, whisk the sugar and the egg yolks together until pale. In a separate dish, dissolve the cornstarch with the remaining 1/2 cup milk. Add to the egg yolks mixture and mix well. When the milk is hot,slowly pour it over the eggs,a little it at a time so the eggs don't start curdling on you. Return the whole thing over the stove and cook on medium low heat until it starts to thicken up. Add the white chocolate and stir until it is completely smooth. Strain if necessary. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature, covered with plastic wrap punctured with small holes so the pudding does not form a skin while cooling. Pour into dishes and decorate with the pomegranate seeds or eat it straight from the bowl.

Now....one more fun thing to do: announce the Pay It Forward winner. Congratulations to Sara from Ms. Adventures In Italy. So, a litte of France via South Carolina is going to find its way to Italy...pretty cool eh?!! You guys came in mass and I wish I could send you all a little something, I really do, but alas I am not married to Santa!
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Paying It Forward: You Might Be The Lucky One

December 8, 2007


There is a game going around the blogosphere these days called "Pay It Forward". It looks like it started as craft exchange and slowly made its way into food blogs. Last month Graeme from Blood Sugar found himself the lucky recipient of a goodie package from Fanny and decided to pay it forward by having a little drawing of his own, and my name got picked...Yeahhh!!! On a side note, if you have never visited his blog, run to it people: amazing photography, delicious recipes and a wicked sense of humor!

I received my package last Thursday and dare I say we already made a good dent in it! While exchanging emails with Graeme, I heavily hinted that I had a thing for Flake candy bars crossing my fingers that he would include one in the box. Lucky me, he put two: one praline and one dipped. There 's one missing in the picture, I know, talk to my stomach about that one! He also included a jar of onion confit that was delicious with roasted pork tenderloin last night. There was also a little square of tahini based "halva" . Seems like the lady in the shop where he was would not let him leave without it, and it turned out to be pretty good. B's favorite was the foam shrimp candy, it reminded him of the foam peanuts of his childhood, and I believe I only had a couple before the bag found its way into his desk drawer...hugh...!
Last but not least, he included two very cute wooden cats, labelled as "ring holders' from his mother's favorite craft shop. What a sensitive guy!

Thanks Graeme for everything. There is something really heartwarming about receiving a package whatever the content may be,unless it is a bag of coals from Santa! Now it is my turn to pay it forward.

So here it is folks: all you have to do is leave a comment on this post and Monday night I will pick, at random, one person to be the lucky recipient of a box of handmade/homemade and favorite goodies from Tartelette's kitchen.
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Sufganiyot - Jelly Donuts - Beignets Confiture

December 5, 2007

Ah...Christmas...!! If I close my eyes real well and stand in front of the open freezer I can even almost pretend it is cold enough for Christmas. I don't think I'll ever get used to spending Christmas in a tee-shirt. Sorry if you are drowning under many inches of snow right now, but I envy you...Really, I do. It's not cold enough for soup, eggnog and stuffing and the small tree we put on the porch looks slightly out of place.

Proof to this madness: I had to stay home and have a mini baking marathon on saturday and around 5pm, I could not take it anymore and had to crank the AC on again...with the oven and the stove on!! Oh yes, the electricity company loves me!! Last night we decided to pretend it was December and used the fireplace...for a total of an hour because it got so hot. Crazy...

Even crazier, when I decided to help some friends celebrate their tradition and stood in front of burning oil and fried sufganiyot for an hour. When I dropped by C' house with a plate full of them and a bottle of eggnog, it was finally starting to feel like the holiday season. I am not Jewish, but C. is and so are other friends around us and since they make sure to wish us a Merry Christmas, I wanted to make something in their honor during this year's celebration of Hanukkah. She often mentioned the jelly donuts her mother used to make during this holiday and since a sufganiyah is a donut is a beignet, well there was no way I was going to say no, eheheh!!! Hanukkah,the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees and the re dedication of the Jerusalem Temple. It also commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for 8 days. Serving jelly doughnuts at Hanukkah, which are fried in oil symbolizes the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days instead of one.

There are numerous recipes for them online but I wanted to give dear Ole' Martha one last shot. It's no secret among the blogging community that we have issues with her recipes as written and we end up tweaking them to make them work. I settled on one of hers for the donuts and from a first glance at it, it seemed that the proportions of liquids to solids might work, so I played along. However, I had serious doubt things would work after mixing the dough as it seemed really really soft. But I trusted Martha and after the first rise, the dough was very supple and yet very easy to roll out and proceed with cutting out the sufganiyot.

I know you can't tell from the pictures, and that is because I did not have time to take proper shots while the gluttons were devouring these, but they are filled with raspberry jelly. I used a homemade one but feel free to use the one you like. Don't be afraid of frying either. I do not have a deep fryer so I use a cast iron pan with about 2-3 inches of oil in it. The only thing I have added was a tablespoon of orange flower water to the dough. It makes fried doughs that much better...

It was a pleasure to see C's and the kids' face when I dropped these off. I shared some eggnog and coffee with them while listening to family stories and traditions. I also enjoyed reading more about this holiday that although not completely foreign to me, had not been explained in details and researching recipes as well as history was a fantastic part of blogging. This is my entry to Meryl's Joyous Jumble, an event meant to discover other cultures' holidays during the month of December.


Sufganiyot, adapted from Martha Stewart:

Makes 20.

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water, (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
1 Tb. orange flower water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 cup seedless raspberry jam


In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, orange flower water, 1/4 cup sugar, butter, nutmeg, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms. On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft, and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a #4 tip with jam. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, make a hole in the side of each doughnut. Fit the pastry tip into a hole, pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.
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Gingered Peanut Macarons

December 2, 2007


"Hein! Des macarons aux cacahuetes..?! Ca va pas la tete Tartelette?! C'est pas des vrais comme Pierre!"
"What? Peanut macarons? Did you lose your head Tartelette?! There are no the real thing like Pierre's!"

Yes well, who said that macarons had to be 100% almond based? Not the pastry shops selling pistachio ones! Necessity is the mother of invention and that proved to be especially true last weekend when these little peanut macarons with a cream cheese buttercream and crystallized ginger center came out of my kitchen.

I had just finished an order for deep red and deep green holiday inspired macarons with traditional fillings and almond shells when I found an extra bowl of buttercream in the fridge, and plenty of ripe egg whites. Since I was on the macaron making train, I decided to make one more batch for us and the neighbors. When I went to weigh the almonds, I had half of what I needed...darn...out of pistachios too and the walnuts were going in cookies...but eh! Peanuts were sitting quiet and pretty on the pantry shelf so why not?! What do I have to lose? Flat macarons, sticky macarons, cracked macarons? Not a problem! They could always find their destiny in ice cream!

Really, what would be the big deal by replacing half the almonds with half peanuts? Peanuts are more oily than almonds but there would only be half the amount in the batter, not enough to make a big difference. I should be ok...and might as well pray too. A conversation with Veronica reinforced my belief things could get pretty tasty. I don't want to be stuck with eating macaron shells. Remember I am the one who loves making them but not that much eating them. Now is my time to fess up: I have already had six. That little surprise of ginger inside combined with the peanut taste and not too sweet filling is just sinful.

Another issue that afternoon was that I was running out of powdered red color so I knew these would not be as red as Christmas inspired ones. Oh well, there will just be as tasty, especially with the cream cheese buttercream filling, which is nothing more than a basic cream cheese frosting but a little less sweet. The crystallized ginger piece in the middle is completely borrowed from Karen's fabulous macarons creations which you can go admire on her blog Mad Baker. Go check them out, I'll wait....

You're back? Then let me give you the recipe for these:

Gingered Peanut Macarons:

For the shells: (Makes 35 halves)

225 gr powdered sugar
60 gr almonds
65 gr unsalted roasted peanuts
3 egg whites (about 100gr)
red food coloring (powdered is better)
25 gr granulated sugar
small pieces of crystallized ginger

In a food processor, run the nuts and powdered sugar until the nuts are finely ground. Run through a sieve if needed.
Whip the egg whites until foamy, slowly add the granulated sugar, until they are glossy. Add the red food coloring.
Slowly fold the nut/sugar mixture into the whites with a wide spatula. The mixture should remain shiny and flow easily.
Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets.
Let the macarons rest for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 315 and when they are ready, bake them for 12-15 minutes.
Let cool, remove from the paper and fill with the buttercream, add a piece of ginger and top with another macaron shell.

Cream Cheese Buttercream:

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 stick butter (55 gr), at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar

With a stand mixer and the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, give it one more whirl to incorporate everything. Fill a pastry bag with the mixture and fill the macaron shells.





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Spiced Pumpkin Mascarpone Cupcakes And A Housewarming Party

November 29, 2007


Let me start this by a little clarification. On my previous post about the Daring Bakers' Potato Bread challenge, I said that Tartelette was anti-carb....followed by a big "Yeah right..."! Obviously my sense of humor does not translate very well in writing because I am 100% "Pro-Carb". Trust me!! This said...

This week is just flying by....started slow for, about two hours and then I got bombarded with training requests and baking orders. Small things taking a long time and I was started to wonder if I was going to post these on time for the party. What party? My baking pal, Peabody is hosting a virtual housewarming party at her new and gorgeous abode next week.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to bring. Needs to travel easily (which can be easily done with this), needs to feed a bunch of people because from the look of things we are going in numbers, but most importantly I wanted to make something for her. Although she never fails to surprise me, I think pumpkin and mascarpone are sure values with this lady. Since we also seem to share a love for all things small, cupcakes seemed like a good way to combine both in one sweet treat.

I wish I could say I went and bought a fresh pumpkin, gutted it out and used the flesh in the cupcakes...that would be like telling you I went and milked my own cow and waited patiently on the milk creaming process to make mascarpone...that would be a lie. If one Mrs.L is cool enough to put that pumpkin in the can, then I am cool enough to use it. The week is flying by remember...and I still need my four-five hours of sleep! If, on the other hand you are opposed to the idea, by all means, go ahead and use fresh. Sara, from I Like To Cook has great instructions for it here. If you can't find or don't like (crazy you!) mascarpone, by all means substitute cream cheese in the frosting. Feel free to decorate the cupcakes any way you like. I used hard candy pebbles for these for a more winter look but feel free to use other sprinkles or candies, or keep them plain. The recipe is a combination of several I have tried over the years and I am now finally happy with all the ratios, fat, pumpkin, spices, flour, etc....



Spiced Pumpkin Mascarpone Cupcakes:
Makes 24
3/4 cup butter softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 cup milk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place baking cups in muffin pan.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine pumpkin, vanilla extract and milk in a separate bowl. Mix flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add to butter/sugar mixture alternately with pumpkin/milk batter, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Divide evenly among the cupcake liners and bake 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Mascarpone Cheese Frosting:
16 oz mascarpone cheese (1 pound), at room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add more sugar, little by little until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like. If the frosting gets too stiff, add some milk, one teaspoon at a time.
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A New Bready Bunch: The Daring Bakers' Tender Potato Bread

November 26, 2007


Braid or Couronne

What if I were to tell you I am anti-carbs?....Ahahahahah!!! Well, you reacted the way I expected: a big loud laugh instead of throwing me a stone. Yeah, because let’s face it, telling you that Tartelette is a blog sans carb would be telling you it never snows in Ohio. Where am I going with this? To the latest Daring Bakers’ Challenge, Tender Potato Bread, chosen by this month host, Tanna from My Kitchen In Half Cups.

Bread….Oh there is home made bread here at the house, surprise, surprise! We love bread and are always looking for the next best loaf and now we want Tanna to live on our street too. (gosh, there is a whole lot of bloggers I want as neighbors I just realized!!) Not only can the woman bake but she also knows to pick a very fun challenge. I know for some I am the weirdo down the street who likes to get hand deep in dough and make bread, 4-5 loaves a week...and there are just 2 of us (oh yeah, B. adapted the bread – cheese - salad dinner of the Mrs. without a complaint!) : dried fruit bread, brioche for our breakfasts and a couple of other breads like multigrain, rustic, artisan or European breads. There are a couple of starters in the fridge, in marked containers : Gertie is purple lidded, Bob is green. Gertie, my potato sourdough starter gives me the best bread ever so I was really thrilled to be able to play with another potato bread recipe this month.


Fougasse

Play is the word: sticky dough up to my elbows for about 15 minutes….now talk about some spa treatment!! The recipe calls for 8 to 16 oz of potatoes, the more potato the stickier the dough and mine was about 12 oz raw. I ended up using 7 cups of flour (6-8 cups were suggested) and boy was B. in for a treat of severe looks and mild curses. I know I appear all cool collected and calm on my blog but Lisa will tell you that when I get aggravated well, all that Southern cool goes out the window. When the boy asked if dinner was ready, I think the look I gave him was enough to sent him back to his garage to play or organize or bang on something because I was in the middle of pure sticky heaven. Don’t get me wrong, that was not challenging in itself. The challenging part was to keep everything I touched free of bread goo….I started to wonder how the dough would behave upon shaping.

Tanna gave us a lot of playroom with the shapes and flavors we could give our breads. I decided to go for a French shape first, a fougasse, filled with fresh oregano, a braid, and a fig and feta boule. The epis I made got eaten before I could take pictures so we’ll just have to imagine that one or wait until I do the challenge once again. The beauty of such a sticky dough is that if you mess up while shaping there does not seem to be a problem of over kneading. I think I played with the braid shape three or four times before I was happy and it still turned out tender. The only drawback we had with this recipe was that the bread turned a little tough after it was frozen for a week or so. Ah, what am I saying? It made great toasts, so I guess there isn’t anything bad with this bread.

I want to thank Tanna for choosing such a high quality recipe and being such an awesome host, responding promptly to all Daring Bakers’ inquiries, issues and troubles. Hats off to you!! You make the group proud! Check out the other 300 other Daring Bakers by visiting our blogroll. Thank you Ivonne and Lisa for making it as much fun for me every month!

Fig and Feta Boule

Tender Potato Bread, From Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold (8 to 16 oz)
4 cups water (See Note)
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender. Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed to make 3 cups). Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread in – directions will be for by hand. Let cool to lukewarm – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.
Mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes.
Then mix in 2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix. Allow to rest several minutes.
Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes. Sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated. At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe. Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.

As a beginner, you may be tempted to add more flour than needed. Most/many bread recipes give a range of flour needed. This is going to be a soft dough. At this point, add flour to the counter slowly, say a ¼ cup at a time. Do not feel you must use all of the suggested flour. When the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky, it’s probably ready.

Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.
The dough is now ready for you to shape your breads in many different ways:

Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.
To shape a large loaf: Butter a 9X5 inch loaf/bread pan. Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.
To make a small loaf with the remainder:Butter an 8 x 4 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.
To make rolls:Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.
To make focaccia:Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a baking/sheet (no edge – you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C. Bake the flat-bread before you bake the loaf; bake the rolls at the same time as the loaf.If making foccacia, just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven.
Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.
Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes. Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes. Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Let breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.

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Cinnabons - A Tasty Knock Off - Priceless Friends

November 24, 2007

I will be the first one to say that one can never have too many cinnamon rolls! When a sweet somebody suggested after the September Daring Bakers' challenge that we make a go at a recipe for Cinnabons, guess who answered the call of more butter, yeast, dough and cream cheese...and more butter? Yes, your truly as well as Marce, Kelly, Mary, Sara, Laura Rebecca and Chris.

There were a lot of events and gathering around the house that particular weekend and I had to start my dough at the ungodly hour of 5am just to make sure I'd have a chance to get it done that day. Add to the equation a sick dog and a sick Tartelette, and you have me passing out on the couch around 9am while everybody else is gearing up and meeting on Yahoo Instant Messenger to share the fun. When I finally woke up Marce kept trying to invite me to a conference chat and I kept clicking to no avail....I was stuck on my southern side of the world....hate being left out. I IMed my tech guru, while at the same time conversing with Kelly and trying to get her set up.

Now if you know me at all, you probably figure that I can juggle 3-4 desserts going on , at once in the kitchen while entertaining the neighbor's twins. And if you know me just an ounce, you probably realise that at that point my coughing and sneezing self had 3 Yahoo windows open, emails just in case and everybody typing faster than me. I had the biggest laugh of my life when Lisa asked me to take Kelly through a Yahoo IM set up...me?!!! ahahah!!! Thank god for cutting and pasting her instructions!!

Not to lose her beautiful sweet cool, Kelly had the smart move to quit trying and set up her UStream show, which was a blast by the way. I have a laptop on the kitchen table , you know for when I see a recipe and I have to try it right then and there.... I had Kelly keeping me company while I was baking and decorating cookie trays for a party.

Now that you get a feeling for the ambiance of the day, let's talk about the real issue here: how did the Cinnabons do compared to Peter Reinhart's? Both doughs were a pleasure to work with and although Reinhart's was much softer than this one, they both had a good rise and were easy to roll out. We liked the flavor of Reinhart's buns over the Cinnabons, something to do with the lemon extract in the dough I am sure. We preferred the texture of the Cinnabons though. The dough remained very tender, a little gooey in the center which I like, a lot. And that filling...hmmm butter/cinnamon/butter/cinnamon...oh yeah and sugar with that butter!

The icing on the Cinnabons really put it over the top, but that had to be expected since I don't think anything can beat cream cheese frosting. Do you? Then stop reading because you are about to read about a sweet fattening snafu. Since my head was not totally there (cold) I think I got cross eyed for a split second while reading the instructions and instead of 1/2 a stick of butter, I used a whole one! Paula and Lisa would be so proud of me!!!
Since I realized my error before frosting the second pan, I quickly rectified my shot and made the "proper" one. Guess which rolls got devoured first? We are so butter easy !!

Which recipe will I make again? I am pretty sure it will be the Cinnabons but with a little lemon extract in the dough.


Cinnabon™ Knock-off Cinnamon Rolls

Rolls:

1 pkg. active dry yeast (1/4 oz. size or 2 1/4 tsp.)
1 c. warm milk (105º to 110º F.)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. margarine, melted (used butter)
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
4 c. all-purpose flour

Filling:

1 c. packed brown sugar
2 1/2 TBS. cinnamon
1/3 c. margarine, softened (used butter)

Icing:
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) margarine, softened (used butter)
1/4 c. (2 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 TBS. whole milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. lemon extract

For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl
Mix together the sugar, butter, salt & eggs. Add flour and mix well
Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands lightly dusted with flour. Put in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough flat until it is approximately 21 inches long and 16 inches wide. It should be about ¼ inch thick.
Preheat oven to 400º F.
For the filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar evenly over the surface.
Working carefully from the top (a 21 inch side), roll the dough down to the bottom edge.
Cut the rolled dough into 1 ¾ inch slices and place 6 at a time, evenly spaced, in a lightly greased baking pan. Let the rolls rise again until doubled in size (about 30 min.). Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden on top.

While the rolls bake, make the icing by mixing the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, then add the milk and flavorings. Mix on high speed again until the icing is smooth and fluffy.
When the rolls come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes, then coat generously with the icing.



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Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts

November 21, 2007

Instead of pumpkin or pecan pie this Thanksgiving, we are going to have these little beauties: Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts....Oh Yeah!!! Cranberries, pistachios, almonds all stirred in a creamy caramel and baked in little shortbread tart shells. Not that we do not like a little pumpkin or a little pecan here and there, but these we could have over and over and more...
Not only are we going to enjoy warm out of the oven, but I am also bringing them to Jeanne, who is hosting this month Waiter There Is Something In My....Tart!

I made these for the first time years ago at the restaurant a few days before Thanksgiving. I had to make the usual required pies for T-Day but I was really itching for a change. Everybody was getting in the holiday mood and I thought a little cranberry dessert would be a good idea. For some reason, our produce guy had misunderstood our order and we got twice the amount of cranberries we needed. The chefs dropped off a box by my pastry kitchen with a little "Have Fun!" sticky note on it. Their idea of a good time...ahahah!!! Same guys who loaded me with two crates of pears one day and I ended up re-writing the book on pear dessert! I digress, sorry.

Well, I looked around the kitchen, closed the door behind me in the walk-in cooler for a few minutes (my best thinking place), and took out the shortbread tart dough I had made that morning and figured I would make a tart with them. Question was: which one? Can I be trusted with cranberries? After all they were not part of my culture growing up and I had only had them in cranberry sauce with turkey. Mmmm...I emerged from the walk-in and found a book on my prep table with another sticky note, this one from Old Chef "It's in here and it's good". Got to love those guys! He knew I was starting to struggle with the "Tart of the Day" on the menu. I thought I had a brilliant idea with that one: using only fresh produce to come up with a different tart every time. Different doughs, fillings, fruits, toppings, but other time consuming desserts on the menu were taking my attention away from the tart. The book in question was appropriately named The Book Of Tarts by Maury Rubin, and I believe it saved me from boredom and a few of our regulars from another Pear or Banana tart! The book is a treasure trove of tarts, tartlets and other inspiring recipes.


The recipe in the book uses sliced almonds but I wanted little festive look and used half the amount in pistachios and the rest in slivered almonds (what I had in hand). Feel free to use your favorite nuts, I have tired several combinations over the years and they never turned out bad. The caramel part can be a little tricky for new bakers but if you watch your pot carefully there should not be a major need for firefighters. It starts with a dry method caramel in which you had cream and butter. Baby your sugar so that it does not burn and be careful of splatter and bubbles when you stir in the cream and butter. If the mixture does not appear smooth, put it back on the stove and stir slowly until it becomes smooth.

Cranberry Nut Caramel Tarts, adapted from Maury Rubin.

Makes 8-10 3 inch tarts or one 9 inch.

Shortbread Dough:

13 tablespoons (1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Let the butter sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until malleable.
Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Using a paddle attachment with a standing mixer, combine the sugar and butter at medium speed, until the sugar is no longer visible.
Add the egg yolk and combine until no longer visible.
Scrape down the butter off the sides of the bowl. Add half of the flour, then begin mixing again until the dough is crumbly. Add the remaining flour and then the cream and mix until the dough forms a sticky mass.
Flatten the dough into a thick pancake, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before preparing to roll out the dough.
Roll out the dough and cut out 8-10 6inch circles, fit into your 3 inch tart molds (or 9 inch tart pan), trim away the excess. Line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Filling:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
1 cup slivered almonds

Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.
To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.
The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added. If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.
Stir the cranberries and the nuts into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart shells mounding toward the center.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour.


Although Thanksgiving is not a holiday I grew up with, I wanted to write down a few things and people (you know who you are. I am probably IMing with you too) I am thankful for.
* I am thankful for my family, who often times closes their eyes on my silliness and loves me no matter what.
*I am thankful for love, the kind that gives your step a skip and makes your hiney tingle at the same time.
*I am thankful for my friends who accept me with all my sensitivity and dorkiness and have stopped correcting my pronunciation of certain English words ("iron" being one of them)
*I am thankful for my health (beside a tooth that needs fixing), which helps me push the envelope a little more each day and discovering that I can put my body through 2 hours of BootCamp training and still have enough energy to make a cake and dinner.
* I am thankful for my readers whose words are not received as praises but encouragement that I am writing in the right direction, that I am on the right track in telling them to get in the kitchen and bake! Thank you all for all your emails, questions, keep them coming eve if sometimes it takes me a long time to reply.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!
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