Meyer Lemon & Sour Cream Donuts

91

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meyer Lemon Sour Cream Donuts

Lemon and sour cream donuts. For breakfast. For his birthday. For dessert too!

When I asked Bill what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he said he'd rather have several of his favorites rather than just one cake. At the time I thought that was a splendid idea except that by saturday night things had begun to pile up and I was starting to look at him sideways. I had to have a good reason to get up early on monday and make these because my night had been short on sleep and full of work and my back was (and still is) feeling pretty broken that morning. Love will make you do funny things. Donuts especially!

I am not going to play it all "no, not me, never" card on you with these: I wanted them too. Oh yes! I would have to be in a body cast to refuse to make or eat plenty of one of them. We like them so much that I doubled the recipe for the party later that evening and when the rain pushed us inside from the back porch, we all gathered around the island and took turns frying these pieces of lemony goodness.

After the recent couple of posts featuring Meyer lemons, some have wondered where the heck I was finding Meyers this time of year in SC. Well, I don't. I've got connections. Sort of. One of the greatest things that come from blogging is not only the opportunity to do something you love but all the wonderful people you meet, whether virtually or in real life. My blogging friend Mary has a very fruitful Meyer lemon tree in San Francisco and she generously sent Veronica and myself a box full. I am holding on tight to the last eight, scheming yet another dessert. Ehehehe.

Meyer Lemon Sour Cream Donuts

I think lemons are to me what salt is to others. I have no idea where that came about but where I might forget the salt, I never forget the lemon, either when baking or cooking. I am even more fascinated when it comes to Meyer lemons as everyone picks up different scents and undertone. I always think of mild rosemary when I slice into one. One reader asked what would be the equivalent in France and as far as taste is concerned, I don't think there is one. Now, as far as finding an equally praised citrus, the "citron de Menton" would surely be it. It even has its own festival people!

These donuts are so easy to make it's a crime well, not to make them. Seriously. Wet ingredients, dry ingredients, stir, rest and fry. Tada! These are a real treat as we don't usually eat fried anything but if there is one thing I will not compromise about, it's properly fried lemon and sour cream donuts!

You don't even need a deep fryer to make scrumptious donuts like these! I actually prefer to use a 9-inch cast iron pan for frying. Make sure to bring your oil to the proper temperature and do not overcrowd your pan with too many donut pieces. It brings the oil temperature down and you end up with soggy drippy oily donuts. I like to use a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop for these but 1/4 cup or a 2 spoons will do the trick too. We like to eat them with an extra squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of powdered sugar. Not that I never thought of dipping them in a lemon glaze before, hmmm...

Meyer Lemon Sour Cream Donuts


One year ago: Cracked Pepper Mint and Strawberry Macarons.

Meyer Lemon And Sour Cream Donuts

Makes about 20

1 cup (125gr) all-purpose flour
1 cup (140gr) cake flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
4 oz (120gr) sour cream
2 large eggs
zest and juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon (15gr) olive oil
canola oil for frying (about 1 cup or 250ml)
Powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Reserve.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, sour cream, eggs, zest and lemon juice, and the olive oil, until smooth. Add the reserved flour mixture, and stir with a spatula until the mixture is smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for about 1 hour.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed cast iron pan or Dutch oven until it reaches 325F. Scoop the batter using either 1/4 cup full (you will get less donuts) or a two-tablespoon ice cream/cookie scoop like I did and fry 4-5 at a time without overcrowding your pan (turns the oil temperature down which makes your donuts greasy). Fry each batch for 4-6 minutes, occasionally monitoring the temperature of the oil.

Daring Bakers Do Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies

143

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mallow Cookies

Happy birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Bill! Happy Birthday to you!!

I know today is the Daring Bakers' challenge reveal but it is also my better half, the pepper to my salt, the flour to my sugar and my favorite Cookie Monster's birthday today! The man should clearly enter cookie eating contests. I have never seen him shy away at the idea of eating a dozen, straight up with a glass of milk. That's why I waited until the last couple of days before the challenge reveal date to make these Mallow Cookies. Just for him.

Well, not really. Where there is shortbread cookie, there is Bill. Where there is marshmallow there is me. And where there is chocolate there is us. Hmmm, let's start over. Where there is a shortbread cookie, there is me. Where there is marshmallow there is Bill and where there is chocolate there is us. Ha! Obviously these Mallows did not stand a chance with either of us.

Ok, so I won't go as far as putting a red bow around a few or stick a candle in one of them but they will be part of the mini dessert bar/table I am putting together for dinner. Nothing lavish, just a few close friends, good wines and good cheers!

Mallow Cookies

I must say that this month challenge was actually two in one: either make the Mallows or Milanos cookies or make both. I did make both and tossed the Milanos to the birds (hence the lack of pictures for those). We literally looked at each other and said "not worth it". To us, it was a waste of ingredients in a cookie that had neither texture nor taste to show for it. Now, that's only our opinion (we like having one) and some Daring Bakers have enjoyed their cookies just fine. I'd say make half the recipe once to decide if it's worth keeping in your repertoire.

So, the Mallows. Good. Even better with a layer of peanut butter sandwiched between the cookie and the marshmallow for some. I kept the dominant flavor simple because I was waiting on Bill to decide what he really wanted (birthday boy also had a weekend pass!). We didn't stray too far from that, using Mexican vanilla which has slightly spicy undertones and worked well to play ying to the yang that was the chocolate.

While I was making the Mallows I decided to keep half the cookies as described in the recipe and made square shapes with the other half both with the cookie dough and marshmallow which I poured in a small square dish before it had time to set. Once "cured", I cut square shapes the same size as the shortbread bottoms, spread some peanut butter, topped with a square of marshmallow and dipped the whole thing in chocolate. I also saved a couple and made a deconstructed Mallow with each component laid out separately on a plate.

Mallow Cookies- Peanut Butter & Vanilla

Oops, except I did not dip. There were so many cookies that I placed them on cooling rack over parchment paper and poured the chocolate right over them, gave them a rattle and a shake and left them to set before refrigerating. I am all about better time management lately and that saved me a good bit of time instead of standing in front of the island dipping. And it's summer, it's hot and birthday boy wanted to go to the beach!

Would I make them again. Maybe. Probably. Why not? With friends, around a hot cup of cocoa in the winter most likely.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.



Deconstructed Mallow Cookies

One year ago: Daring Bakers Nut and Chocolate Gateau.

Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies), adapted from Gale Gand, from Food Network website

For the Cookies:
3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
3 eggs, whisked together

For the marshmallows:
1/4 cup (60ml) water
1/4 cup (60ml) light corn syrup
3/4 cup (170 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 whole vanilla bean, split open and seeded

For the chocolate glaze:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil
(I used 2 pounds of chocolate and 2 tablespoons shortening)

Prepare the cookies:
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy. Add the eggs and mix until combine. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

Prepare the marshmallows:
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites. Add the vanilla seeds and continue whipping until stiff. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Prepare the chocolate glaze:
Melt the chocolate and shortening together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

To assemble:

Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the warm chocolate glaze. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.


Weekend News Bulletin With A Scoop Of Ice Cream

40

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cover Girl

This is just a quick news bulletin of sort as I have been busy preparing plenty of sweet treats for Bill's birthday. It's not until Monday but we are celebrating all weekend. The man deserves it!

First, you might want to update your readers, feeds, urls, links, etc...as Tartelette is now a .com, as in www.mytartelette.com , complete with a new header. Woot! I have confirmation from my team of engineers that all the redirects are working fine but might as well update the link.

Now, if you are looking for great and tasty recipes to make this weekend, check out the latest issue of Desserts Magazine. Inside the online magazine for which I photographed the cover picture (shameless note to make my mom proud!), you will find a plethora of recipes for all things chilled, cold and frozen. I have already bookmarked a dozen and the ice cream maker is ready to roll.

The ice cream on the cover shot is a tasty strawberry vanilla ice cream I made a couple of months ago that is now on rotation at the house. We just can't get enough of it but here is the recipe in case you get sidetracked flipping through the magazine! Hope you enjoy it too!

Have a wonderful weekend and I hope you will join me on Monday to wish Bill a very happy birthday and maybe help me convince him to shave the beard he decided to grow this summer!!

Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream


Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream:

4 egg yolks
1 cup (100gr) + 2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar
2 cups half and half
1 vanilla bean, split open and seeded
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and one cup of sugar until pale and thick. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the half and half and vanilla bean to a simmer, without letting it come to a full boil. Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks mixture while whisking to temper the egg yolks. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. It should register 170F on a candy thermometer. At this point you have made a custard sauce, also known as "creme anglaise". Let cool completely, strain and refrigerate until cold.
While the custard cools, prepare the strawberries. Place the quartered strawberries and the remaining measurement of sugar into a small heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook just long enough for the strawberries to soften and to release some juice. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once both the fruit and the custard are cold, process the custard first according to your ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions and toward the end of the churning period, throw in the strawberries.

Meyer Lemon Sorbet Baked Alaska

55

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lemon Sorbet Baked Alaska

It's completely cliche but it's always good to do as much as you can when you can so that when the unexpected strikes, you can let it ride and take a breather in a way. I started this post about Meyer Lemon Baked Alaska at the same time I was publishing the last one thinking I was just going to write down the recipe while it was fresh in my head and finish it later, probably on Monday or Tuesday. I should have listened to my brain screaming "Murphy's Law" loud and clear while I turned on the radio instead.

Of course the unexpected happened. A spider found my right eye very appetizing one night and decided to have a go at it. I am allergic to spider bites. I know, it's not a life threatening disease and the Earth did not shake when it happened, but eh! that's my latest adventure!

When I mean "allergic" I am not exaggerating. Ask my friend Jen about the last time I got bit. We were emailing back and forth and I got back from walking the dog only to discover 30 minutes later that my ankle was 3 times its original size. I was home alone and she kept checking on me although it was getting late. She is the best emergency nursing blogger out there! You can imagine that when my eye saga started on Sunday, she was not really shocked to find out it was another spider bite: "aaaah, a spider bite. those little jerks. they LIKE you :)"...Nice.

Lemon Sorbet Baked Alaska

The eye doctor said that it was probably because my blood was pure sugar by now. If he was trying to score a box of macarons, he was seriously out of luck! So short of working/baking/typing/working, I was just enjoying digging my spoon in Meyer lemon sorbet in baked meringue goodness. At least my fingers weren't busy thinking about rubbing my eye and I occupied them with another much more fun activity like eating. Nah! (no worries, it's all getting better now)

I don't usually make Baked Alaskas for us but a former patron asked if I could come up with a dessert for a small gathering of international students she was hosting. When someone hires me for an event, whether big or small, I do a little bit of research before suggesting a few options. Beside the total number of guests, I like to know about dietary restrictions, likes and dislikes and especially countries of origins and different cultures if any.

Why? I find that it brings a smile on people's face a lot more times to eat something that makes them jump in a "Oh my! It's been ages since I have had this". They also love to share with their neighbor or the whole table some family stories or cultural differences. This, to me is a job well done. No one just ate desserts but there were memories associated with it as well as the sharing of information and personalities. Listening to the person next to you is such a personal enrichment at the same time. I am a geeky research freak, what can I say?!

Lemon Sorbet Baked Alaska

So why, with a group of international students did I chose to make Baked Alaskas? Well, thanks to Wikipedia which pointed it out in better terms than I could: no one knows for sure its country of origin. China? Scandinavia? Norway? France? Perfect to serve to a multi national bunch of hungry students!


I went with lemon sorbet instead of ice cream because I knew the rest of the meal was rather on the heavy side (huge spread of small bites from all over the world). To keep homemade sorbet from getting icy and retain a velvety texture after a couple of days in the freezer, I add some simple syrup or honey to the base before churning it. Does its magic trick every time! The baking part of the meringue once each cake is covered with it can be done in the oven but it was pretty hot at my friend's house that I used a blow torch instead of turning the heat a notch higher.

One year ago: Cassata Sicilian

Meyer Lemon Sorbet Baked Alaska:

Notes: prepare the cake and sorbet in advance as you will need to use the Italian meringue fairly quickly or it will tend to look "gritty" if applied later. You can apply the Italian meringue and freeze your cakes until ready to use your blow torch or oven (no longer than a day or two otherwise the Italian meringue has a tendency to start "liquifying").

Makes 8

For the lemon poppy seed cake base:

1 1/2 cups (185gr) all purpose flour
1 cup (200gr) sugar
1 tablespoon (14gr) baking powder
1/4 (1.5gr) teaspoon salt
1/2 cup egg whites (about 3-4)
3/4 (175ml) cup milk
1/4 cup (62.5ml) lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon (9gr) poppy seeds
2 oz (60gr) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 oz (60gr) extra virgin olive oil (the fruitier the better)

For the Meyer lemon sorbet:
2 cups (500ml) freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or regular)
1 cup (100gr) sugar
4 cups (1 liter)water
2 tablespoons mild honey

Prepare the cake base:
Preheat oven to 300F and position a rack on the center. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the cake. Set aside. In a separate bowl combine the egg whites and the milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and slowly add in the egg white mixture while stirring with a whisk. Add in the poppy seeds, the melted butter and oil. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Line a quarter sheet pan or a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper, lightly spray with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean. Let cool completely.

Prepare the Meyer lemon sorbet:
In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the honey and let cool to room temperature.
Pass the lemon juice through a sieve to remove the pulp and add it to the sugar syrup, stirring well to blend.
Pour into the container of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a container and freeze until firm before serving.

For the Italian Meringue frosting:
1 cup (200gr) sugar
2 tablespoons water
100gr egg whites (4 to 5)

Place the sugar and water in a heavy medium saucepan over high heat and let the sugar dissolve and boil to 238F. In the meantime, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks on medium speed. Once the sugar syrup is at the right temperature, slowly pour it over the beaten egg whites on medium-low speed. Increase the speed to high and let the meringue get glossy and completely cooled before using.

To assemble:

Cut out eight 3-inch rounds to fit your cake rings. Cut each cake round in half horizontally. Line 8 cake rings with parchment paper or rhodoid (pastry film, but cut sheet protectors work well too), and place one half cake base at the bottom. Place the cakes on baking tray. Fill each cake ring with about 1/2 cup of lemon sorbet and top with another round of cake. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before applying the meringue. When ready, unmold and frost with the meringue.
If you do the "baked" part in the oven: set your oven on broil at the highest setting and watch carefully.
If using a blow torch: well that's easier but make sure to have a clear area to work with to prevent burning other things on your countertop (and this is experience speaking!).

Meyer Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes

86

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Meyer Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes

I was sketching desserts and jotting down recipe notes the other night when I asked B. if he had any more suggestions for the box of Meyer lemons we had in the fridge. A whole box! Thanks to my dear Mary of Alpine Berry I am now host to a whole crisper full of gorgeous homegrown Meyer lemons from her tree. I had just finished churning lemon ice cream and lemon sorbet but his eyes lit up and he exclaimed "Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes, please!" To which I reply "Sacre bleu! You want me to turn zee oven on?!". But he'd been really fantastic with these lemons that I had to cave and make him cupcakes.

The lemons arrived while I was visiting Veronica (I will put a page up soon on how to get your own Pastry Bootcamp) and I had completely forgotten to warn him. When I finally remembered, some of them were already showing a sad face. You'd never believe what my man did: he washed each and everyone of them, dried them, segmented the ones that were going bad, saved the good parts, placed the others in the crisper by order of ripeness, the sad ones toward the front, the happy ones in the back. Now you have to understand that this was coming from a guy who does not bake or cook, rarely steps foot in the kitchen unless he is on dishes duty. Bless his heart! You rock Bill!!

So, you can imagine that when he asked for cupcakes, I could not say no even though they are not part of my usual baking repertoire. It's a French quirk nothing more. The addition of my homemade Limoncello is purely because we have been enjoying remembering family stories while sipping on the liquor. The more we sip, the more details we seem to remember about a particular afternoon spent with my uncle Jacques one winter. If you have ever had homemade moonshine, this will sound all too familiar, if not, well, give it a try. You'll have something funny to tell your kids.

Meyer Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes

Whenever we go home to France to visit my family, we have to do "the rounds". Lots of uncles, aunts and cousins inviting us to lunch or dinner around a lot of food, good wine, tons of stories and an obligatory after dinner "digestif" (an alcoholic sip to help with your disgestion). A nice sip of cognac or Grand Marnier alongside a steaming espresso. Over the years, Bill has become very fond of this tradition and was looking forward to the much talked about "Jacques' moonshine". After lunch, my uncle prepped coffee and pulled out from the liquor cabinet a bottle of Perrier, popped it open and set it in front us. Bill looked surprised until a waft of it came to tickle his nose. This was no Perrier alright!

We drank our espresso and my uncle leaned towards Bill to fill his cup with moonshine. B. got concerned that there was still a small stain from the espresso at the bottom and asked if it would not be best to wash it out first. We *all* looked at him and giggled. Jacques, in his usual prankster's way, told Bill to look very closely while he poured. At the first drop, all remaining coffee stains disappeared. "See, just like bleach!". Bill got this extremely worried look on his face and I knew exactly what he was thinking "Oh dear God, these Frenchies are trying to kill me!" We all raised our cups, toasted the newcomer to the family and drank our moonshine straight. Silence followed. Then Bill coughed and exclaimed "works your intestines like bleach would too!" to which we replied "well yes, that's our interpretation of digestif!".

When we first had a taste of the Limoncello I made, we both squinted and remembered the day my uncle tried to bleach Bill's stomach with homemade moonshine. I had made it very very strong. But what can you expect when the recipe came straight from an Italian boat captain shoving a bottle of his own 180 proof alcohol in my basket?! Ha! Good thing I had planned to dilute it with lemon juice and more sugar! Still...way way strong to be sipped easily so I have used it as a soaking syrup for cakes a great deal and made us a little tipsy on more than one occasion!

Meyer Lemon Cupcakes

These cupcakes are clearly on the adult side with Limoncello in the batter and cream cheese frosting. I do make an unconventional lemon curd as I don't use a whole lot of eggs and no butter. This one was on the (very) tart side with a lot less sugar than most recipes call for. I love a good Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream on my cakes but since they were per Bill's request, I went with his favorite, cream cheese frosting with Meyer lemon zest and liquor. I topped each one with redcurrants because we love to eat them fresh. Tart on tart! Now that's my kind of Happy Hour!


Meyer Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes

One year ago: Maple Cardamom Mousse and Strawberry Tarts.

Meyer Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes:
Makes 12

For the cupcakes:

2 oz (60gr)unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz(60gr) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (200gr)sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons (30gr) limoncello (see here or here for possible recipes)
1½ cups (190gr) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup(125ml) buttermilk
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
zest of one Meyer lemon

For the Meyer lemon curd:
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

For the cream cheese frosting:
2 oz (60gr)unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces (120gr) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15gr) limoncello
1 cup (115gr) powdered sugar, sifted

Prepare the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat an extra minute. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively to the butter/eggs mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add the lemonjuice and zest. Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Prepare the Meyer lemon curd:
In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon zest, juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, beat the egg and egg yolk to break them up. Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes. Remove the curd from the heat, let cool completely.

Prepare the cream cheese frsoting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the limoncello and beat an extra minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

To assemble:
Cut a whole into each cupcake with a melon baller or the back end of a large pastry tip. Fill each cavity with the lemon curd. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the cream cheese frosting and pipe onto each cupcake. Decorate with berries if desired.

Notes: I recently found out that the newest Wilton nut cups I previously used for baking cupcakes had been changed and now came with a warning that the new coating was not fit for baking. I baked one batch with the cupcake liners lined with parchment paper inside and one set without. I also put an empty liner in the oven to see what the coating would do. Nothing happened to the coating in all three experiments but use your own judgement/preference as far as liners go.

Ginger Fig Streusel Tarts With Honey Lavender Ice Cream

72

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FigTart4-2

Thank you guys for toasting Barbara with us in my last post. I know it meant a lot to her and it did to me. (And yes, those were my feet!). It's been a tough journey for her and I often told Bill I'd give my last shirt to get on a plane and try to be of some help (laundry, groceries, you know the drill), crack up some stupid joke or just hold someone's hand. He understands. He also adds that he doesn't like when I travel, saying that I always prepare some good dinners for him to eat while I am gone, I rarely leave dessert. Wrong. Cookies, I always make cookies.

This past weekend however, when I went to Veronica's in Virginia to teach what we now call a Pastry Bootcamp (a nice one), leaving four of these Ginger Fig Streusel Tarts with some Lavender Honey Ice Cream. He ate the coffee-chicory macarons. Go figure. He actually did it (unknowingly) right as we had plenty of the tarts to celebrate our 11th anniversary. Still feels like we are within the first 5 years. Very much loving having such a fantastic partner. Very much digging this whole marriage thing. Very much looking forward to the next 11 by his side.

Teaching Veronica was great fun and even if there was a lot of information shared in a short amount of time, she knows that the pastry course comes with a lifetime warranty and free upgrade to the baking 101 hotline! I am very glad to have a couple tarts left still as it makes catching up with laundry a whole lot easier. Not to mention getting caught up with work a whole lot sweeter!! How can one's inbox get so full in 4 days away?! Even the puppies seem to have grown!

Figs and Lavender

The tarts were inspired from the last dessert we had in Asheville a few weeks ago before getting on the plane. The original was an apricot ginger tart served with a scoop of honey lavender ice cream. I changed it around a bit as apricots here are not fully seasonal and a bit on the bland side and a friend had just dropped figs from her tree. I love figs...It's a childhood thing. It's a childhood story actually but I'd need another three paragraphs so I'll wait for that one!

I could wax poetic about figs for hours (no surprise there) but let's get to the essentials. The crust is a simple pate sablee with a little vanilla bean seed for extra flavor. I know vanilla beans are not cheap and I am lucky to get supplied by my mother but I have to tell you that even 1/4 bean makes a huge difference in a recipe. When it comes to figs, I like them grilled, roasted or fresh so I pretty much left them as they were and layered them with some streusel spiked with crystallized ginger, added a drizzle of honey and hop! in the oven they went. The honey ice cream is just the perfect hint of sweetness and bonus flavor to bring the tarts together. As Bill put it: it's Provence in a tart!

Before I leave you with the recipe, I just want to thank my friends Todd and Diane from White On Rice Couple for kicking off their new feature series, Portrait of A Gourmand by starting with me. I am honored. Gourmande I am that's for sure!

FigTart3

One year ago: Berries and Cream for Bastille Day.

Ginger Fig Streusel Tarts With Lavender Honey Ice Cream:

Makes four 3-inch tarts

For the lavender honey ice cream:
1/2 cup (125ml) lavender honey
4 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk
1 1/2 cups (375ml) heavy cream

For the pate sablee:
2 tablespoons (20gr) slivered almonds
1/2 (60gr) cup powdered sugar, unsifted, divided
1/2 stick (56.5gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 vanilla bean, seeded
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (90gr) all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk

For the filling:

2 oz (60gr) all purpose flour
2 oz (60gr) sugar
2 oz (60gr) very cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
12 fresh figs, quartered
4 tablespoons lavender honey (or the one you prefer)

Prepare the ice cream:
In a large bowl, beat the honey and egg yolks until light in color. Heat the milk and cream to a bare boil in a large heavy saucepan. Pour the mixture over the eggs and return the mixture to the saucepan and gently heat (do not boil) until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions

Prepare the pate sablee:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place almonds and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, vanilla bean seeds, ground nuts and salt on medium speed until well-combined. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar and flour and mix well. Add the egg yolk and mix until incorporated. Shape dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out four 5- inch rounds and fit them inside four 3- inch tartlet molds, patting the dough in with your fingertips if it breaks on you as you transfer the rounds. Gather the scraps and set aside.
Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper inside the tart shells, fill with beans or pie weights. Bake the shells for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. Keep the oven running at 350F.

Prepare the filling:
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and sugar. Add the butter and ginger and quickly mix with your fingertips until you get pea sized pieces. Layer 3/4 of the streusel at the bottom of each tart shell. Divide and arrange the quartered figs evenly on top and top with the remaining streusel. Drizzle with the honey and bake an additional 20 minutes or until the streusel is baked and the figs are slightly roasted. Serve with the ice cream.

Celebrate!

47

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reach

There are times blogging is not about food, travels and the pursuit of all things sweet. It's about the people. How they come to have a special place in your heart no matter how far away they are or how frequent the interactions may be. Yes, I will post plenty of sweet recipes next week but today I want to stop and celebrate.

The picture above is dedicated my dear friend Barbara of Winos and Foodies to celebrate the end of her chemotherapy. I've entitled it "Reach". A couple of years ago, Barbara posted a picture of her dancing shoes on New Year's Eve and these words "Dance like no one is watching" while she was still going through life with cancer, its ups and downs and all that it affects. It inspired me. It moved me. It was "so Barbara". Strong, funny, witty. I shot this one thinking of her dancing shoes. She inspires me to stay strong, focused and to try to reach new heights everyday.

Today a few of us are also reaching out beyond our screens to extend a virtual hug to Barbara and toast her to life, to health and to her family and friends. Yeah baby!

I have had the priviledge to laugh, cry and get hungry with Barbara over the past few years in the emails we shared. Her ability to see things so clearly was painful to me sometimes. Raw. Reality. Fear. Pain. Sadness. Hope. I'd share my miscarriages and she would share her cancer. Not fair, eiher way in their own ways. I had it easy compared to the hell that she was going through. That's Barbara. Grace and generosity. Class and moxie.

Barbar, my friend, cheers to you and your wonderful family! Reach for the moon my dear!




Snickerdoodle Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches - Asheville Part III

54

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Snickerdoodle Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches

More on the CSA Cook-Off I mentioned in my last post: Diane and Todd of White On Rice Couple posted a wonderfully illustrated account of the experience. I just laughed my little derriere off all over again reading it!

I am going to be put to the task of interactive baking and cooking again starting tomorrow. A good friend and fellow food blogger is flying me to Richmond where I will be teaching her the ins and outs of a few pastry items and techniques. So forgive me if there are even less replies to your emails and comments until the end of the weekend. I hear we'll even have time to take some margarita breaks, now that's the cherry on the cake, wouldn't you say?

I started this post on Monday night. It is now Thursday and I am finally done selecting my favorite pics to illustrate Part 3 of our adventures in Asheville. That was a tough job. Seriously. More tasty locally grown foods, more talented people and artisans. Colors and stories to awaken all your senses.

On the other hand, an easy thing to do was to work on today's post while eating a couple of these Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches inspired by the dessert we were served at lunch that day. I don't have pictures for what happened half the day (camera battery spare in hotel room, classic) but hopefully some of my fellow food bloggers do(hint!).

If Tuesday ended with the King of all gourmet meals, Wednesday was all about the people who thought it through and made it happen. I am just as happy putting on a pretty dress and sit down to a 6 course meal as I am an apron and help milk some goats. I do know how to but I am glad they never asked. It's been a while and it is nothing like riding a bicyle, trust me.

Sunny Point Cafe

Interestingly enough, we woke up Wednesday morning without major pains (sake does have magic powers), and the general consensus was definitely to try to pace ourselves given the day's planned activities. Thought quickly abandoned upon sitting on the patio of Sunny Point Cafe and perusing the menu. Funny how a tall and super fresh Mimosa makes you wish for a nibble. I am not a breakfast person but I sacrificed my habit in the name of research again and devored a plate of peppery salad greens, popping under your teeth grape tomatoes, and smooth scrambled eggs. Oh yeah, still not liking breakfast unless I have this everyday!

Sunny Point Cafe

If you are cook, Sunny Point is the kind of place you want to work for no matter how hard the job. As a customer, you know you can meet up with friends, have a cosy moment with your moment, knowing that you will have the same consistent quality dishes after dishes (I did ask the locals sitted next to me!).

Sunny Point Cafe

Why? When a bubbly, tatoo-bearing chef takes you to the garden and pulls out some squash blossom with a smile as big as the moon going down the list of possibilities for dinner, it just becomes contagious. You simply want to start pulling weed with the staff or rush home and water your potted herbs. Indeed, the vegetables on your plates are straight from the adjacent garden, cooked just right in the restaurant kitchen and perfectly matched with fresh homemade breads.

Artisan Bread

After a thorough tour of Sunny Point's garden we headed to Wake Robin Farm, on the outskirts of Asheville. I know that meeting Steve Bardwell became a strong point of our trip. We quickly named him "Steve The Bread Man" and literaly drank the passionate words coming out of his mouth as he explained his baking process and ideas. Some of us even swooned. Or was it the tray of pastries brought over by David Bauer from Farm and Sparrow? Flaky croissants and danishes but I had to pass, entirely motivated by distand visions of antacid pills and Tylenol and the desire to enjoy the rest of the day food fest.

Steve The Bread Man

Steve loves his craft. He knows it. He understands what it takes to make good bread. Dedication, great ingredients and of course, a kick-ass oven like the one built right outside the house. I was checking out the pans, breads displayed and work flow of the bakers while Brian noticed a few details that escaped me that day. One thing for sure is that we all left wanting a wood burning oven just like his and some of us have already made it their summer project.

Wake Forest Farm Breads

The scenery at Wake Robin Farm Breads is absolutely gorgeous but Spinning Spider Creamery was next on our list and I was ready! I had tasted goat cheese from The Owen's creamery on a previous visit to Asheville and was looking forward to meeting the people and structure behind it.

Spinning Spider Creamery

Goat cheeses are among my favorites and I am thrilled when friends discover that it goat cheese making goes far deeper than the fresh logs you find at the supermarket. My childhood favorites were hard rock little crottins that my grandmother would age on top of the fridge or the ash covered goat pyramid she would make me choose from the cheesemonger's stand at the market. I could have listened to Chris, the cheesemaker for hours as she explained the creamery's process and history. I want to thank her for taking the time to humor my questions about the ash covering process on the logs and pyramids. Maybe one day when I get a goat...

Spinning Spide Creamery

Happy goats, quality ingredients and obvious care. It really shone in the vast array of cheese we sampled (with Steve's bread!), from fresh to hard goat cheese, mild or pungent. I think we all found our bit of happiness that day! One thing I did not expect was to meet a young lady I sort of knew through her writing. Standing in front of me, beautiful and serene in her green shirt and perfect porcelain skin was hard working Megan from The Importance Of Being Sentient. She loves the mountains and all that surrounds her as much as I loved the ones from Provence. Such a quiet person and yet you sense how much she wants to shout Carpe Diem out loud on all the rooftops of the world. Well go ahead girl and never ever stop!

Spinning Spider Creamery

We were deep into our cheese tasting that Dodie ushered us to meet Jamie Ager from Hickory Nut Gap Farm who purveys Asheville's restaurant with some of the tastiest grass fed beef and pork I have tasted. And that's when my battery gave out. Right as we were about to have another fine feast laid out for our tasting pleasure. Jamie is a riot. His sense of family and partnership extending to his cousin who provided the vegetables for lunch as well as his good friend from The Corner Kitchen who prepared the feast with his chef de cuisine.

You are just have to trust that the pork belly salad we started with was mighty fine with the perfect ratio of meat to fat, that the grass fed beef absolutely knocked my socks off, and that my truffled potato salad did not mean a drizzle of truffle oil but a giant slice of black truffle (I think I had a slice and a speck but I horded that one!). And when I thought I had no room left for dessert, I quickly changed my mind at the first bite.

You would too if you had Lemon Ice Cream from Ultimate Ice Cream paired with The Corner Kitchen's Snickerdoodles and a few blueberries for good measure. I could have had a vat of it and still wished for more. We did have quite a bit of ice cream on this trip but I will never be one to object. Quite perfect to end such strong meals. I begged (again...completely shameless when it comes to you and desserts!) and both Joe and Kevin kindly provided the recipes that have made Bill and I say "oooh this is so easy and good!" for the past 3 days. Thank you gentlemen.

Snickerdoodle Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches


Snickerdoodle Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches:

For the snickerdoodle cookies:
½ cup each butter and shortening, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

Beat butter, shortening, sugar and eggs together until creamy. Add cream
of tartar, baking soda and salt. Beat until smooth. Add flour and mix well.
Chilling overnight is preferred; otherwise at least two hours.

Topping:
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Combine topping ingredients in small, shallow bowl. After chilling, roll out to 1/4-inch thick in between sheets of plastic wrap and cut out desired shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheets, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F and position a rack in the middle. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely before filling them with the ice cream.

Ultimate Lemon Ice Cream:

Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar or 2/3 cup agave nectar
4 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream

In a non-reactive bowl, mix the lemon zest, juice and sugar (or agave nectar). Refrigerate one to two hours to blend flavors
In a large bowl, slightly beat the egg yolks to break them up. Heat milk to a bare boil in a large heavy saucepan. Pour the milk over the eggs and return combined mixture to the saucepan and gently heat (do not boil) until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Combine milk mixture with heavy cream and lemon mixture. Spin in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions

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I also want to extend a huge Thank You to Holly of Decor8 for featuring my pictures in her "8 Inspiring Photographers, post. I am blushing.

Asheville Trip To Foodtopia - Part II

48

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Chocolate Torte, Caramel Ice Cream and Chocolate Sorbet

Day two of our trip in Asheville had us move around a bit less but was just as intense, keeping us on our toes until bedtime. Or was it until we all rolled, stumbled, fell, crashed on our beds?! Ha! Yes, we can blame it on all the tasty wines, succulent dishes, intense Iron Chef competition, culminating with an outstanding dinner at Horizons in The Grove Park Inn.

The 4 Diamond restaurant gathered us around one of the best meals I have had in my life, ending in the most perfect sweet note: a chocolate and caramel tasting executed by Pastry Chef Laura Bogard. Before I could even ask our hosts if Laura would be kind enough to share a couple of the recipes, I was graciously handed a print out of all the components of our plate. Once back home in SC, I decided to put my own spin on it and make this Chocolate Torte topped with Caramel Ice Cream and Chocolate Sorbet, inspired by that evening. But let's talk about the day first...

We started with a visit to Sunburst Trout Farm outside of Asheville. I was really looking forward to it for the simple reasons that I used to go trout fishing all the time as a kid and I fully support trout farming when done with sound ecological practices. I was thrilled to meet Sally, her family and her staff after I had read more about them and their operation. They confirmed every thought I had already formed in my head: happy trout, careful workers, quality products.

Sunburst Trout Farm

Before meddling with the trout we were treated to a scrumptious breakfast smorgasbord of trout dishes, carefully prepared by their research and development chef, Charles Hudson. Trout dip, trout omelette, trout gravy and biscuits, hot smoked, cold smoked...you name it, we probably had it. All accompanied by fresh and pickled vegetables from the chef's garden. A feast. We had to draw the line and think about the next round of food aventures and skip lunch.

Food bloggers skipping lunch? Ah yes. We had to keep ourselves sharp and moveable for what was awaiting us next. A full blown, very serious and incredibly fun CSA Mystery Box Iron Chef Competition held at AB-Tech Culinary Arts Center. If I were a student looking for a culinary college, I would, hands down, apply there first. Everything there is made to teach and practice without being stale or stuffy. Me? I was trying to contain that beaming smile of being back on the familiar grounds of a professional kitchen.

I wish I could have combined my two loves of cooking and photographing but I was about to get my hands chopping and my apron dirty. Diane of White On Rice Couple was our full-on photography journalist that day so I will be sure to update you when they post about it. We all had such a blast that I can't wait to see it in pictures!

Each blogger was paired with a local chef to create two courses using the content of CSA boxes provided by The Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project, as well as the trout we had filleted that morning and extra ingredients provided by Blue Ridge Food Ventures (love that project - please take the time to click) and our own chefs.

Team France: Chef Michel Baudouin - Tartelette
Right photo courtesy of Diane at White On Rice Couple.

Meet Team France! Yes. Could there have been a better pairing than this? I think not! Indeed, I was teaming up with Chef Michel Baudoin, owner and chef of Bouchon . I have to say that the first thing I told Dodie was "Oh sh!t (!) you know that two French chefs competing together is more explosive than them competing against each other, right?!" She mentioned Michel had a similar reaction, eheh. Ah yes, that's us French peeps. Bill says we take out our swords first and talk later. Very right. But in this case, very wrong.

We had a blast! Talking and yapping away in French. Chopping and dicing while coming up with our competition dishes. We were supposed to make only two dishes, but I guess you will not be surprised to hear that we made three. See! It's not only me during Daring Bakers challenges! It's genetic!! We started off with a fennel and zucchini tart, topped off with chorizo crumbles. Our main course was a Sunburst trout fillet stuffed with local goat cheese, baby turnip filled with purple potato puree. (picture here)

Michel is so low key and humble, I just had the greatest time cooking with him and talking about our experiences with food, cultures, restaurants, etc...I previously had dinner at Bouchon a few years ago and I am looking forward to returning to Asheville just for that!

Dessert was my grandmother's vanilla apple compote served with pecan shortbread cookies. My biggest fear was this item. Seriously. Baking without measuring or weighing, mixing everything while eye balling and feeling the dough. I think I had a couple of shots of moonshine brought over by Todd's chef while the cookies were baking! Turns out that everyone raved about that simple, homey dessert and it even earned us an extra five points. We still lost by 1/2 point though while Alison and Chef Annie Pettry took the high honors of the day.

Food Blogger In Action

It was an intense competition but with such great spirited and talented chefs that even if we were feeling it in our gambettes (legs), we still had enough of an adrenaline high to carry on with dinner planned at The Grove Park Inn's Horizons restaurant, Horizons.

We started off by a round of cocktails (check out Jaden's post about her tasty Xanadu libation) and appetizers which got their beauty shot courtesy of Todd.

Dinner At Horizons

I did take pictures from that dinner but let's recap my physical state at this poing: late breakfast + cooking competition + a few nibbles of the finished dishes + moonshine + wine + cocktails + outstanding dishes + wine pairings + sake tasting = one very fuzzy sets of pics. Love that Bill knows me so well that he immediately asked the next day whether I had behaved. I think I did :)

Aren't you lucky I don't have all the words, the right words to describe how outstanding this dinner was?! I mean just look at that menu and sigh. I am! Thank you Jeff and Kevin for the superb setting and organization, you can be proud of the team you have cooking for your guests. Seriously, and I am not saying that because I never saw the check, this was one of the best meals of my life. Everything so fresh, sourced locally as much as possible, and executed with such perfection by Chef Duane Fernandes and his staff that I finished each- and- everyone- of- my- plates- OMG- I still- can't- believe- I did this! And the wines...I want to do it all over again but with just the wines! Ok, maybe not...because there is a seriously tempting dessert tray to talk about.

Dinner at Horizons

Chocolate almond torte, chocolate sorbet, chocolate and caramel pudding and caramel ice cream and malt shakes. So happy to see I am not the only one thinking mini milkshakes are cool (see DB challenge)! I admit, while deep with both chocolate and caramel flavors, the pudding is the only item I left on the plate after sampling a few bites (research people, it's all research). I did wish for a groundhog day type situation in which that chocolate torte, chocolate sorbet and caramel ice cream would just keep on appearing before my eyes and plate. This good. I have not even been really in the mood for chocolate lately but after making this at home, it is all I can see!!

Soft, luscious, powerful, smooth, intense. I took the three elements I loved the most about our dessert sampler that night and combined them in this entremet, starting with the chocolate torte as the base and then topped off with the caramel ice cream and chocolate sorbet. I made six. We had 2. That's four more for me if I find a way to sneak around Bill. I hope it convinces you to try all three together or separately. It was hard to keep the caramel ice cream around long enough to have any left to fill the cake rings!

Are you still with me for Day 3 and 4 and a couple more exquisite recipes from the chefs of Asheville? Sure hope so!

Have a wonderful 4th of July!


The Making Of: Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate Torte, Caramel Ice Cream and Chocolate Sorbet:

For the chocolate torte:
10 oz (300gr) chocolate
8 oz (230gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 eggs
3/4 cup (150gr) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons (15gr) flour
3/4 cup (70gr)finely ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon espresso
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the Caramel Ice Cream:
1 1/2 cups (300gr) sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 quart (1L) half and half
or 2 cups whole milk + 2 cups heavy cream
12 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate sorbet:

2 1/2 cups (625ml) water, divided
1 cup (200gr) sugar
3/4 cup (65gr) cocoa powder
8 oz (240gr) dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare the chocolate torte:
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt together the chocolate and butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
In a stand mixer (or with hand held beaters), whisk the eggs and sugar on medium speed until slightly thickened. Add the vanilla. Turn the speed to low and add the chocolate mixture and whip for a minute. Still on low speed, add the rest of the ingredients. Beat one minute until everything is incorporated.
Spread the batter on the prepared sheet pan and bake for 20-30 minutes or unti the center is just set.
Let cool completely.

Prepare the caramel ice cream:
In a heavy saucepan, set over high heat, stir together the sugar, honey, and water and cook to a dark amber caramel. Slowly add 2 cups of half and half and return to a boil, stirring to dissolve all the caramel bits. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of half and half and return to a boil.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yokls to break them up and slowly pour the hot caramel mixture over them to temper. Pour the content of the bowl back in the saucepan and cook over medium low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and salt and stir until dissolved.
Let cool completely, refrigerate until cold.
Process in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.

Prepare the chocolate sorbet:
In a heavy saucepan set over medium high heat, stir together 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, cocoa, and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, turn the heat down and simmer for a minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remainin 1 cup of water, chocolate and vanilla. Let stand for a minute. Whisk the mixture thoroughly to make sure that everything is incorporated and smooth.
Let cool completely. Refrigerate until cold before processing in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.

To assemble:
Line six 3-inch round cake rings with acetate or platic cover sheets and place them on a parchment paper line baking sheet. Cut out six 3-inch rounds in the chocolate torte and place them inside the prepared cake rings. Divide the caramel ice cream and chocolate sorbet evenly in between the cake rings. Freeze until solid.

I topped the cakes with fresh berries and tuiles made out leftover frangipane from the last Daring Bakers Challenge.

Asheville Trip To Foodtopia Part 1

60

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake

Update: check Todd and Diane's Part 1 here. Amazing!

One of the first things I did when I got back from Asheville, NC was to email Jael and Dan Rattigan from The Chocolate Lounge and beg ask them to share a recipe, any recipe, from their outstanding repertoire. So happy they sent the one for their Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake (see end of post). Most delicious thing I have had in terms of cheesecakes. Really.

We were in NC to discover the Foodtopian Society of Asheville and we all fell in love with the pair, the minute we walked into their shop. Proof? We told Dodie (Super Mistress of Organization - Tourism Office PR Manager) that we had to take Brian, Todd and Diane there as soon as they'd arrive. Great chocolates, cakes, great photo opps, etc...Yeah, truth is we wanted more. More chocolate, more cookies and more of Jael and Dan. A couple of us even went back a third time and will have a post up soon.

Even though I have spent the last week being wined and dined by the wonderful chefs and artisans of Asheville, I did work very hard (smile and beg a lot primarily) to get you some of the dessert recipes I enjoyed on the trip. As a chef, I know it is no small gesture to part with one and I greatly thank the chefs who shared their creations with me and now you. This is one more example of the generosity of the artisan food crafters we have encountered.

As Diane mentioned one day, these people, restaurant owners, chefs, farmers, cheese makers, bakers, never talk about themselves. They talk about their crop, their product, how it evolved and how they evolved with it, not the other way around. They listened, they laughed, they patiently answered our questions, shared their knowledge and passion. We all took home different views and feelings from this trip I am sure, except one common trait uniting food professionals and food bloggers: we are passionate about food. We are all very tuned in to all of this so I think it was a pretty easy group to talk to but I know that they would have said and done the same for newbies to the concept of locally grown foods.

The Mighty Team

But who are these fellow food bloggers I keep mentionning? Let me tell you, I felt I had been a little sign that read "for good Kharma" when meeting them last week. Each of us had a little/lot of something to share and discover and oh my! Can we talk! And eat! And photograph! I have certainly made new friends, fell in love with the world again but dang country for being so wide! France is as big as Texas - a trip cross country is done in half a day! Yep, until I find a better way and until we meet again, I'll just keep on reading their blogs.

From left to right: Alison at The Humble Gourmand, Brian from The Food Geek, Tami from Running With Tweezers, Diane from White on Rice Couple, Jaden from Steamy Kitchen and Todd from White On Rice Couple. Truly, honestly, amazingly, funny, smart, down to earth, talented and all around good people to be with. (And no, I am not saying that just because I can't remember certain moments where lots of wine was poured and realised there might be video to remind me why.) On a side note, Tami works as a food stylist and you can guess that we were glued to her stories and experiences. Looking forward to taking her up on her offer to see her in action!

It's A Blogging Thing

As soon as we had checked in at the hotel, we were off for a little walking tour of Asheville complete with a few gourmet samples and later on dinner. It hit me as we sat down at The Laughing Seed for a tasting of locally brewed beer that I was among hardcore food bloggers like me: listening with both ears, shooting with both eyes (one on the camera, one checking out the aesthetics around), all senses working like mad to capture it all. Having been to Asheville before, I can vouch that The Laughing Seed's popularity is justified: great food, great kitchen staff, fresh ingredients and minimal fuss. Love this place and I was so happy to go back!

Inside Grove Arcade
Top left photo courtesy of Alison at The Humble Gourmand.

A little walk through Grove Arcade revealed more than just a "little walk": indoor fresh markets, specialty cheeses and honeys, cute little shops of all sorts. And then we entered Jael and Dan's shop. We could have stayed there for hours. They are genuinely good artisan chocolatiers. Conversation flowed, questions arised and were patiently answered. They are so passionate and knowledgeable about their truffles making, very easy to listen to and get inspired by. Especially when Dan kept passing the chocolate covered roasted hazelnuts around. And they have coffees, amazing hot chocolates and a plethora of baked goods too! More on that with the Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake recipe.

At Zambra
Left picture courtesy of Alison from The Humble Gourmand.

We had dinner reservation at Zambra and we kind of reluctantly left The Chocolate Lounge. Little did we know what awaited us at this tappas restaurant. The decor is as luscious as the food and at the same time comfortable and never intimidating, much like the plates that Executive Chef Adam Bannasch and his staff prepared. Jaden recognized right off the bat that portions would have to be somewhat downsized or we wouldn't be able to make it through this 8 course meal. Me? You can't ask me that question at the beginning of a meal! Of course I am going to say "bring it on!". Even with a small downsizing we still ended up rolling out of the restaurant in a certain food haze (or was it the sangria?). Content. Fresh, local and innovative food. Everything well balanced and perfectly executed. And that dessert! Most tasty fruit soup paired with an outstanding basil ice cream. Perfect balance of sugar and herb. Adam, anytime you feel like coming this side of Southern, I'd be happy to take you around our own restaurant gems!

As you can see, we were off to a pretty good start! We went back to The Chocolate Lounge with Brian, Diane and Todd the next day. Within a few minutes we were sitting with some tasty French press coffee and one of the best slices of cheesecakes I have ever had. I am not just saying that. I am not one to like fruit and chocolate, especially berries and chocolate, and I am not the best advocate of cheesecakes in the world. But this? This is something I would want to eat everyday. This Mousse of Strawberry Cheesecake not just "strawberry cheesecake". Run. To. Make. It.

I leave you with this fine introduction and recipe they wrote while I prepare part 2 of this trip. Trust me it gets even better!

At French Broad Chocolate


Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake, from Jael and Dan Rattigan.

Serves 12

The best time of year to enjoy this cake is when strawberries are in season, so it can be garnished with fresh berries. however, you’ll see that the puree is made from frozen berries (because the freezing and subsequent thawing releases the juice from the berry’s cells which were ruptured in the freezing process), so enjoy any time of year, and try the same recipe with a seasonal, locally-available fruit of your choosing!

Other ingredient notes: choose ingredients with the same care and attention you would use to pick a babysitter for your kid. dessert is serious business! we use all organic dairy, free-range local eggs, organic sugar, and a highly aromatic vanilla extract. as for chocolate: the ganache topping only uses 4 ounces, so get a couple bars of something you would enjoy nibbling, preferably with a fruit-forward bouquet to complement your berries!


Strawberry puree:
10 oz. frozen strawberries
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Almond crust:
2 cups whole raw almonds
2 oz soft unsalted butter
3 T sugar
¼ t salt

Strawberry cheesecake:
1 lb. cream cheese, room temp
1 cup (7.5 oz.) sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
12 oz sour cream, room temp
2/3 cup strawberry puree

Ganache topping:
4 oz. chocolate (50-55% cacao mass is best), finely chopped
4 ½ oz. cream
½ large egg (beat 1 egg, weigh it, and use half)

Prepare the strawberries:
Thaw strawberries and strain out the juice completely (reserve pulp, should be about 5 oz). Place juice in a small saucepan and, at a simmer, cook down to a third of original volume. (you should start with about 5-6 oz, and end with 2 oz.) Add sugar to reduction and stir to dissolve. Mix juice and pulp together with lemon juice.
blend in food processor or with immersion blender.

Prepare the crust:
Preheat oven to 400F and position a rack in the center.
Pulverize almonds, sugar, and salt in food processor until crumbly. Add butter and pulse to combine. Press into bottom and sides of 9” springform pan (2.5” tall)
bake 15-20 min, or until deep golden brown. Set aside to cool while you make the cheesecake.

Prepare the cheesecake:
Turn the oven down to 350F.
Beat cream cheese and sugar until very smooth (3 min) in a stand mixer at medium speed using the whisk attachment.(yes you read right. It gives the cake that mousse quality). Add eggs, 1 at a time, scraping bowl and beating after each just until smooth. Add vanilla & salt and beat until incorporated. Beat in sour cream. Beat in strawberry puree. Wrap the pan with the crust in a double layer of aluminum foil.
Pour batter into crust. Place in water bath (hot water) in a larger oven proof pan
bake 45-55 min.

5-10 min before cheesecake is done, make ganache topping:
Boil cream. Pour over chocolate and let sit a minute. Whisk gently until chocolate is melted and smooth. Gently whisk in egg. Spread over hot cheesecake (careful, and don’t pour it all in one place as cheesecake is fragile). Smooth out the top. Bake 12-15 more minutes until ganache is set along the sides. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, with a large mixing bowl over the pan (to cool slowly). When it reaches room temp, refrigerate. Chill 8 hours before unmolding. To unmold, run a thin blade knife around the cake pan sides. Remove springform. Gently slide cake onto serving plate. Store covered in refrigerator.
it’s easier to cut the cake if you heat the knife. run it under very hot water, then dry it. Slice!

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