Chai Coffee Cake And A Giveaway

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chai Coffee Cake

It won't be a surprise to say that there is always cake at the ready in the house. Whether it be for B. as a late night snack after a music job, friends dropping by on a late saturday afternoon, or simply as a quick snack as we pass by the kitchen. It's usually a variation of my grandma's yogurt cake. Always good. Always comforting. One cake I never make enough is coffee cake. You know, the kind with the lovely strudel top that is both crunchy and soft as you bite into it. But then Nicole's Chai Spiced Coffee Cake entered my life. Twice in one week. Three times a day, once.

I did not make it twice just for us and just because. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a high school senior here in town, Haley, whose senior project was to recreate the Julie-Julia project but with David Lebovitz' Room For Dessert book. Haley asked if I would have a bit of time to give her some tips about running her blog chronicling the project, photography, writing, etc... I said yes. I remember when I started blogging that I was often looking up to my seniors for pointers (I still do at times) so I thought it was a great opportunity to give back to the blogging community. I am no expert but I have been at this blogging thing for a while now, eheheh.

And I love when life on the screen brings about wonderful little happenings like this!

Chai Spices

Anyway, I thought we'd have some cake and tea and get right into the nitty nifty gritty of blogging and pictures. Well, schedules got out of hands and I never got to make that Chai Coffee Cake for Haley. We did meet this week and spent a great afternoon. I hope I answered her questions, at least until next time we meet. I gave her tips on how to operate her point and shoot camera to the best of its capacity, tips on light, focus, etc...and let her play with my props. Hopefully, there will be cake next time we do this!

I love this cake on so many levels but first and foremost because it is one of the recipes that Nicole included in her newly released first cookbook, "The Baking Bites Cookbook". Nicole's Blog, Baking Bites is one of the handful of blogs I started reading prior to starting my own. We were "blog friends from afar" until we finally met at BlogHer Food in San Francisco. Nicole is as delightful and true as she is on her blog. I am so proud that she achieved one of her lifelong dreams by writing this book.

Chai Coffee Cake

I bluntly asked her if I could feature one of her recipes and introduce some of you to her blog if you did not read it already and to her "baby", The Baking Bites Cookbook. She agreed. I bluntly added "hey! Would you be ok to give a copy to one reader?" and she said yes. So here you go: there is one free copy of this delicious book up for grabs. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. The giveaway runs until Monday November 2nd, midnight US Eastern time and a reader will be chosen at random to receive a copy.

Given how good the Chai Coffee Cake was, I can't wait to bake more from Nicole's book!

Chai Coffee Cake


Chai-Spiced Crumb Coffee Cake, from The Baking Bites Cookbook with permission of Nicole Weston:

Cinnamon is the standard spice for topping a crumb coffee cake. This coffee cake keeps the crumb topping and spices it up a little more by using some of the same flavors that are found in chai, including cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and allspice. These spices really help to make the coffee cake memorable - and they also make you want to come back for a second slice.

Note: the only change I made to the recipe was to fill my baking pan with half the batter, sprinkle some of the topping and add the remaining batter and topping.

Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly

Cake:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream, full or low fat

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or lightly greased aluminum foil.

Make the Topping:
In a medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients except butter. Whisk to blend.
Gradually stir in the melted butter, using a large fork or spatula to mix. When all the butter has been incorporated and the mixture looks like wet sand, squeeze small clumps together to make large crumbs ranging in size from that of a pea to that of a grape. Set aside.

Make the Cake:
In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. With the mixer set on a low speed (or by hand), alternately add in flour and sour cream in two or three additions. When no streaks of flour remain, pour into prepared pan. Top evenly with crumb mixture.
Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Serves 9-12

It Takes All Sorts Of Macarons To Make The World Go Round

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Peanut Butter & Jelly Macarons

I love, like, enjoy, many people and many things in this life but if there is one thing that I live for on the weekends is when B. comes home from playing music and we sit on the bed and geek out for hours about all sorts of topics. Photography, films, history, and often times, food. Before we know, it's three o'clock in the morning (not his bedtime at all) and we go to sleep with growling stomachs and visions of sugar plums. Especially when we geek out about macarons. Especially when they are Peanut Butter and Jelly, Lemon Meringue Pie and Banana Caramel Macarons.

We were recently putting together a care package for a friend in town and we started brainstorming about what to include. Macarons, are always first on the list for some reason, eheh! I was looking for flavors I had not done before and he was looking to recreate some of his favorites. In the end, our friend S. received 2/3 of the Daring Bakers challenge delivered right to her front steps. From the look on her face, I knew I'd be repeating these flavors over again.

Bill's go-to breakfast is a bagel with peanut butter and jelly and turning this into a macaron was very easy. I used half almond and half peanuts for the shells and filled those with a teaspoon each of peanut butter and homemade raspberry jelly.

Lemon Meringue Pie Macarons

One of my favorite desserts is lemon meringue pie and after coniving on the best way to make this into a macaron, I finally settled on keeping the shells all almonds and adding the zest of one lemon to the batter. I filled the insides with homemade lemon curd and a teaspoon of freshly made Swiss meringue.

One of my husband'd favorite snacks when he comes home from playing music is to cut up a banana and drizzle it with Salidou, the homemade salted butter caramel sauce that I always keep handy in the fridge. For the macarons I simply mashed a whole banana and mixed it with the leftover from the Taffy Apples I posted yesterday. Once cooled and naturally thickened a bit, it was easy to pipe on the macarons shells and sandwich them.

I've known about this month challenge since this summer when Amy emailed with concerns about doing macarons for the Daring Bakers. We covered all types of questions from aging the egg whites, drying the macs before baking to food coloring and how to best incorporate flavors. I volunteered a phone macaron making session and guided her over the phone while she baked my tried and true recipe. In the end she felt most comfortable with the version she knew best, Claudia Flemming's, which brought on my most common comment about macarons: if you find a recipe that works for you, stick to it, no matter whose it is, especially if you are new to macarons and don't make them that often.

Banana Caramel Macarons

Amy, thank you for the fun phone macaron making session and it was a pleasure helping out with some of your questions!

I'm glad I tried a new recipe for macarons and did not have any problems with it, probably because I've been making them for 15 years so I know what to expect. I will however stick to the recipe I use all the time, for no other reason that it is engrained in my DNA right now!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.


Macarons

Macarons, from Claudia Flemming' The Last Course: The Desserts Of Gramercy Tavern.

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
Cool on a rack before filling.

For the PB&J Macarons:- Replace half the amount of almonds with finely ground unsalted roasted peanuts.
- Once cooled, fill the shells with a dollop of peanut butter (either smooth or crunchy) and jam.

For the Lemon Meringue Macarons:
- Fill the shells with a teaspoon or so of freshly made lemon curd
- Add a teaspoon or so of Swiss meringue. (I made half the recipe)

For the Caramel Banana Macarons:
- Mixed one smashed banana with half the quantity of toffee sauce I made for the dipped crabapples.

Trick or TrEat Taffy Crabapples

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Taffy Crabapples

I am always amazed when stores start displaying Halloween merchandise in August. A part of me grunts "don't rush it people! Enjoy the rest of the summer!" while I secretly start to giggle at the prospect of gobblins and witches knocking at the door on Halloween night. Halloween is not part of our rituals where I am from. We honor the departed the day after, usually with a trip to church and a visit to the cemetary. That's heavy when you're a kid. Even if kids here only think of dressing up, I am much too happy to oblige in their "Trick Or Treat". I am even happier to make a couple of inspired Halloween treats for us, like these Taffy Crabapples.

Crabapples

Ever since Bill welcomed me home with a basket of crabapples upon returning from San Francisco, I have had it in my head to make little taffy crabapples. When I got an email from Brooke from Tongue And Cheeky asking me if I wanted to be part of her Trick or TrEat project, I jumped on the occasion. Not that I need an excuse to make up for Halloweens past and I certainly don't need an excuse to play with caramel.

What is Trick or TrEat? Well, today, nine favorite food, craft and lifestyle bloggers await behind nine haunted houses with an array of holiday treats created just for you. At the end of this post, you will find two of these mystery houses. To join in the holiday fun, simply click on one of the buttons and you’ll be linked to the next home on the block. You can also discover all of the Trick-Or-TrEat contributors and find direct links to their posts on the Trick Or TrEat website.

Taffy Crabapples

We did get a bonus Halloween moment the day after I made these. The humidity and heat in South Carolina caused the taffy to bubble up, giving the crabapples an unflattering pustular look. I thought that was pretty hilarious and decided to tuck at one just to see how the taffy coating would react. It opened up like a pretty wrapper and revealed the crabapple inside giving me the perfect photo op. Who would have thought? I guess that's Halloween: you never know what is really around the corner!

Will I be nice witch or a wicked one on Halloween night? Ahahahah! Happy Halloween!

Whose houses are next to visit on the block? Check after the jump!

Taffy Crabapples

This is a great recipe to get the kids involved in the kitchen with you. Do prepare the taffy coating yourself (there is hot caramel and bubbling action there) but let them dip the apples and play with shaking them to let the extra caramel coating drip off. If the stems of the apples are too short or too flimsy, stab a lollipop stick right at the stem and dip. I left the taffy crabapples plain, but you can certainly roll them in chopped nuts, chopped chocolate, nonpareils, etc...

Taffy Crabapples:

Makes about 16 coated mini apples.

12 lady apples

1 cup (200gr) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt
16 crabapples
wooden skewers or thin lollipop sticks to hold (optional)

Line a bkaing sheet with either some slightly greased parchment paper or a silpat. Set aside.
Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan set over medium high heat. Slowly let the sugar melt and turn into caramel. This method is called a dry caramel and can be a bit tricky. If you are not comfortable with it, add up to 1/4 cup water to your saucepan and slowly bring the sugar to caramel color.
Standing back a bit, carefully add the butter, heavy cream and salt. Do not worry, it will bubble like mad. When the bubbling slows down, stir the mixture until smooth.
Carefully dip the crabapples into the hot taffy and twirl them above the pan to let the excess drip off. Place the dipped apples onto your prepared baking sheet and let set.

To see what other Trick-Or-TrEat hosts have cooked up for your viewing pleasure, click on the links at the bottom of the house drawings, not the houses themselves.
Halloween

Right: Jaime at Sophistimom. Left: Megan at Not Martha.


Butternut And Acorn Squash Soup

53

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

Thank you all so much participating in the Macy's giveaway! Through emails, I know that some of you held dinner parties this week to raise money to fight hunger. That makes me so happy! We held our own last night in a very impromptu sort of way when my mother-in-law dropped by with a standing rib roast, all ready to be devoured. I quickly gathered the neighbors to our table. As a thank you, they made donations to the local food bank. As my way to thank them, I sent everyone with some of this Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup we have been enjoying lately.

My random number generator (Bill) went to bed before midnight so I quickly emailed Jen and asked her to pick two winners. Her answer was: "48 & 119, based on time interval between kaweah's twitches in her sleep times random number." Don't you love this scientifically proven method? Ah! Congratulations to Mani and Cindy. Please send me your mailing address so I can forward them to Macy's (mytartelette[at]gmail[dot]com).

Dang things are busy around here and I am liking it very much! I get to do and see, work lots of fun stuff. Indeed, if you are in the Charleston area, drop by the first annual recipe and cook-off contest which I'll be photographing for Charleston Magazine. Come support some budding cooking and baking talent!

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

Obviously, all that buzzing about is good and getting home, plopping exhausted on the sofa makes me feel like I have contributed to the twirling world around me. I know my mom hates it because I end up calling home (France) at the oddest hours and often times while I am eating a late lunch of soup or salad while they're already in bed. Sorry. Every time I would talk to my mom last week, she'd ask me what I was eating, and my answer always was "butternut and acorn squash soup, side of petits lardons and creme fraiche".

It got to the point that she started worrying immensely. "Do you need me to send you some money?" she asked one day. In her mind, if we were eating that much soup that could only mean we were ut of ka-ching. I started laughing uncontrollably. "No mom! It's our soup kick of the month and it so good I keep making it every other day!". The timid colder days did not have anything to do with it but tempting displays of seasonal squash got the best of me and I caved in.

This soup could not be any simpler to make with fresh butternut and acorn squash, some chicken stock (homemade if possible), garlic and thyme. To serve, we like a little (or a big) dollop of creme fraiche and some "lardons" (thick cut bacon or salted cured pork). One day this week we added some thinly sliced dried Thai chilies and sauteed butternut squash seeds. We voted this version as the best so far but feel free to improvise!

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

And before I forget: Please join me on Monday, October 26, when I join forces with nine of the webs best food and lifestyle bloggers for the delightfully frightful Halloween collaboration, Trick-Or-Eat. Nine haunted houses have been trimmed and tricked out on your behalf. Which of your favorite bloggers awaits behind each haunted home? Whatever have the ghostand hostesses prepared for your visit? Be sure to stop by for this ultimate Holiday Block Party, presented blog style!

Butternut And Acorn Squash Soup:

Serves 4 hungry poeple

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes (seeds scooped out & saved)
1 small acorn squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
3 cloves or garlic, peeled and smashed (don't worry about mincing)
4 cups chicken stock
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or less if desired. You can also use some sage)
water
salt and pepper

Optional accompaniements:
chopped Tai chilies
creme fraiche (or sour cream)
sauteed thick cut bacon or salted and cured pork, sliced thin
seeds from one of the squashes (sautee in the bacon fat for maximum flavor, and drained on paper towels)

In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cubed squashes and sautee for 2-3 minutes or until they start to get some caramelizing color. Add the garlic and sautee one minute, stirring often to prevent it from burning (or it will become bitter). Add the chicken stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. With an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. If usig a food processor or blender, let the soup cool a bit before processing. Adjust the consistency to your liking with extra water. Salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish as desired.

Bananas Foster Tartelettes & A Giveaway

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bananas Foster Tartelettes

I like to think I am fairly organized. I mean, there is logic to whatever battle is taking place on my desk. Or in my head. Like most of us, I get pretty psyched about being a step ahead and I was darn happy for having posts in drafts right before I left for BlogHer food in San Francisco. David says he has 40 stories or so in drafts at all times. I giggle when I have one ahead of the game. I am however excited when “the” one is these Bananas Foster Tartelettes. Things got busy then and things got busier this week but these were too good to wait any longer to post.

Whenever I travel, I try to leave a few easy things for B. to reheat for dinner knowing too well he’d end up eating at his parents or be invited here and there. He tends to skip meals when there is no one to call him to the table. I know he can boil water for pasta. I’ve seen it. I even happen to know he can make awesome steamed clams.

This time was no different as I labeled containers of food and even took him on a guided tour of the fridge and pantry. It’s just not his thing. I was tempted to post-it the entire house but refrained. However, as previously mentioned, his eyes got stuck on all the desserts left on top shelf from my zealous attempt at getting prepared. This is his thing.

Caramel

After describing what the tarts were made of, he exclaimed “oh! Kind of like bananas foster without the fire flambĂ©ing action!” Precisely. We tend to have a surplus of bananas in the house, and after making banana donuts last month, I still had plenty to use up, hence the tarts (and a few loaves of banana nut bread).

The tarts start with a crispy shortbread base and are filled with a hazelnut and almond frangipane before being topped with fresh banana slices and a (generous) drizzle of salted butter caramel sauce. I am all over banana and nuts and I am all over salted butter anything, so the combination was pretty much a no brainer. However, it all came together out of the necessity to use all the tidbits ingredients in the fridge, pantry and freezer.

I had leftover shortbread dough in the freezer from a previous tart making day as well as a jar of salted butter caramel sauce, a handful each almonds and hazelnuts in the pantry, a knob of butter and a tiny bit of cream in the fridge. And of course a good many banana giving me the sweet eye.

As I have said before, I hate waste. Having worked in a restaurant kitchen for many year, I pretty much nailed down the recycling issue. If you don’t recycle, re-use or force yourself to use items bought on a whim, you are likely to drive your place to the pits. I have the same mentality when it comes to the kitchen. Being on a tight budget, I can’t allow us to waste, even less impulse buy certain items. Everything these days is budgeted, accounted for and used to the max. More than ever before I am aware of what I have. Time, the ability to cook, develop recipes, a wonderful mother- in -law who unexpectedly drops by with supplies, etc…

Bananas Foster Tartelettes

Some of us are not that lucky. I do my best but some can’t. In that spirit, I really like what Macy is doing in their campaign Come Together to fight hunger to raise awareness and money to feed 10 million of people suffering from hunger, and they will match donation dollar for dollar.
When Macy’s got in touch to spread the word last week, I immediately agreed. There are 3 different ways you can get involved in this great campaign:

1) You can host dinner parties and ask that instead of bringing traditional host gifts, guests make a donation to Feeding America.

2) You can donate $1 directly at any Macy's register, one dollar provides dinner for seven.

3) You can shop at any Macy's and get special savings in-store on October 17 (today). A portion of the $5 in-store ticket sales will benefit Feeding America.

Macy’s also provided me with two $25 gift certificates to give to my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment (multiple entry will automatically be deleted) before Tuesday october 20th midnight eastern time, for a chance to win. My better half will select the winners at random from the comments left on this post. Even if Macy’s does not ship internationally nor has stores outside the US, everyone can enter. You can always use the gift certificate to do your Christmas shopping for friends or family here and continue to spread some good spirit.

Good luck!

Bananas Foster Tartelettes:

Serves 8

Sable Dough:
1 stick (113 gr) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (95 gr) powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 large egg
1 1 /2 cups (190gr) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons (20 gr) cornstarch
pinch of salt

For the almond-hazelnut frangipane filling:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, softened
½ cup (100 gr) granulated sugar
½ cup (50 gr) ground almonds
½ cup (50gr) ground hazelnuts
seeds from half a vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup (60gr) heavy cream

Remaining ingredients:
3-4 bananas, thinly sliced
Salted butter Caramel sauce
Vanilla Ice Cream

Prepare the shortbread rounds:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy on medium speed, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and mix briefly to incorporate. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
You will need half the amount of dough to make the tartelettes. The other half can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between sheets of plastic wrap to about ¼ -inch thick. Cut out eight 3-inch rounds with a pastry ring or cookie cutter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

Prepare the filling:
Place the butter, sugar, ground nuts, vanilla bean seeds and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream but stir in it instead of whisking to prevent emulsifying it or it will rise while baking. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place 8 baked rounds of dough in 8 pastry rings of the same dimension, divide the cream evenly among the rings and bake 20 minutes at 350F. Let cool. Once cooled, remove the tarts from the rings and arrange the banana slices decoratively on top, drizzle the caramel sauce on top. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Spiced Quince Crumbles

76

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quince Crumble

If you were to come visit South Carolina right now, you'd be hard pressed to find any sign that it is indeed Fall. For us, an extra packed schedule and an ever growing temptation for candy corn let us know tis the season. The leaves are still green, the sun is still out and the heat and humidity are still very much present. So what is a gal to do when she is season deprived? Get in the kitchen and bake something Fall-ish like these Spiced Quince Crumbles while listening to comforting favorites.

Nothing screams Fall louder to me than the smell of quince simmering on the stove with a handful of my favorite spices. My mom used to make quince jelly every year and the process usually took a couple of days between the peeling, slicing, slow cooking, straining and canning. Every year, I looked forward to these days like a famished wolf. There would be jelly sweet as honey for our morning toasts and quince compote left over from the straining for our after school tartine.

Quinces are no locally grown here so they tend to be pricey and since we are watching our budget, they are more of an occasional luxury, and I treat them as such. Nothing gets wasted not even the seeds. Once peeled I use the skin to flavor tagines and oriental stews. The seeds are very high in pectin so I wrap them in cheesecloth and use them for pate de fruits or other jams. The soft flesh is most often stewed until tender and parked in the refrigerator for tarts or crumbles just like this one.

Spiced Poached Quince

I love that I can find them around here as soon as October rolls around even though no one at the store really knows what they are and how to prepare them. If you live in my town and they was a lady holding up the cashier's line for a code check, might have been me and my two quinces!

There are no good words to explain quinces properly. They are a bit of this and a bit of that but also neither this nor that. Whatever you do with them, just do not eat them raw. You can always check Google and Wikipedia or trust me that they are too good not to bake with.

We've had a pretty packed weekend of photographing weddings and my brain is getting fried by the minute planning a job this week, working with this amazing photographer (I style, he shoots). So when we plopped on the couch last night and put our feet up with a couple of these crumbles, all seemed right and quiet with the world. At least during those ten minutes of eating them...

Quince Crumble

These gluten free crumbles start with softly poached quinces in plenty of spices reminiscent of Fall like cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves. Here I used a mix of flours for the topping with some chopped hazelnuts, but you could substitute the same amount in all purpose flour if you wish.

Fall is here. At least through cooking and baking!

Quince Crumble

Spiced Quince Crumbles:

Serves 4

For the poached quinces:
2 quinces, peeled, cored and quartered
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
5 cloves
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 lemon

For the crumble:
1/4 cup (40gr) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (40gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (30gr) tapioca flour
OR 3/4 cup (95gr) all purpose flour instead if not baking gluten free
3 tablespoons (15gr)finely chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup (55gr) packed light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

Prepare the quinces:
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover the quinces. Bring the content of the pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, place a lid halfway over the pot and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the quinces are soft when you poke a knife through them. Remove the fruit from the liquid with a slotted spoon and let cool to room temperature. Thinly slice the quince and reserve.

Butter the inside of four 1 cup capacity ramekins or small dishes and set them on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.

Prepare the crumble:
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your fingertips or a fork until the mixture resembles large beads.

Divide the quince slices evenly among your prepared dishes and sprinkle the crumble as evenly on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

You might have leftover crumble mixture, you can either bake it separately and crumble it up over ice cream later or freeze it for up to three months for a quick crumble later.

The Little Hands Behind

55

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Steamed Clams

No, I have not found a way to make clams out of pastry nor did I find the time to make them out of fondant. After my last post, my dear husband came to me and complained "I'm ok with you posting that I dont' bake because let's face it, I don't but I *do* cook. Sometimes." Yes, he does. Sometimes. Which prevents me from eating cake for lunch because I am plowing through work and often realize that it is 2pm and we have not had lunch yet. And I love when he cooks simple things like these Steamed Clams that we eat on the back deck with some bread and a glass of wine.

Living by the water is downright very nice... I'll never take that for granted. Nor will I take my little helper for granted either.

When I last called my mom, she could hear his banging pots and pans, setting his prep area "his" way while giving me directions to please exit the premises, he never came in the kitchen when I was baking after all. Yes sir! Happily. With his teaching schedule he is home a lot and with both our independent characters, she often wonders how pots and pans have not been used as weapons of marital destruction yet. We just love hanging out together and working "independently together". My studio is next to his study and I can shout for help whenever everything is about to tumble down just as easily as he can call me over to look at a research project. We are each others' best critiques and supporters.

Clams

When he calls out from the other room "Hey! Have you thought about lunch yet?", I often want to shout back "Hey! Go fry an egg and bring me one while you're at it!". I never actually do say that. Lately though, I have sensed that he could hear my brain scream it so loud that he decided to enter "my" territory (the kitchen) and fix us something for lunch. And what a lunch! Simple, fresh and quick.

We do catch and eat tons of seafood but I rarely think of buying clams, for no particular reason actually. I had been working on a photo project for a friend and his catering business and one of the dishes to photograph had clams. I had bought two bags, anticipating redos but everything went without a hitch and I was left with an extra bag. Since Bill is the master at steaming shellfish and seafood (you should see him take care of the crabs we get at the dock!), I told him to please go do something with the clams as I would not keep them another day.

Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in front of a bowl of perfectly steamed clams in white wine and garlic, simply garnished with a sprinke of tomato dices and a few sprigs of parsley. Guess what I did? I told him not to move and got the camera to shoot our plates. He rolled his eyes so strongly that I thought they were going to get stuck to the back of his head. He simply said "can you speed this one up, I don't want to eat me lunch cold?!" I know many of you cooking and blogging can relate!

I enjoy photographing and writing about other things than cakes and ice creams and I might also post a few other of our favorite "go to" savory lunches or dinners in the future. Do not be alarmed if you see bacon or thyme sneaking in here and there. For now, I figured it was high time I sang Bill's praises for being such great little hands behind the scenes.

Steamed Clams

Steamed Clams:

Serves two hungry people

Kitchen note: Littleneck clams are best for steaming. These were cherrystone clams which have a tendency to toughen up faster when steamed but we remove them as soon as the shells pop open and they stay nice and soft this way. You can ommit the white wine and use fish stock or water if you can't have alcohol. We like to eat ours with a sprinkle of lemon juice and some red wine vinegar.

2 dozen fresh clams
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup water (or clam juice if you have some)
Salt and pepper to taste
parsley leaves
1 tomato, finely diced

Wash the clams thoroughly and brush off any dirt. Heat oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat and cook the garlic for a minute. Add the wine and water and bring to a simmer. Add the clams, cover the pan and let the clams steam for about 10 minutes or until they start to pop open. Discard any clams that did not open and scoop the clams into serving bowls. Season the juice remaining in the pan with salt and pepper to taste, pour some over the clams and garnish with parsley and diced tomato.

San Francisco Part 2 - Rendition of Bouchon Lemon Tarts

48

Monday, October 05, 2009

Gluten Free Lemon Tarts

We were still in the airport parking garage, ten minutes after landing that Bill placed a small bucket full to the rim with crabapples and positively so proud of himself said "You love them so much that as soon as I saw them at the store I had to get you some. Welcome back!" Clearly, if you knew my husband, this would make you melt in an heartbeat. This non shopping, non cooking kind of guy had just connected with me on another level. And what did I say in return? "I must recreate Bouchon Lemon Tart in a gluten free version as soon as possible! Shauna must try it!".

Forget the crabapples, forget the pot of soup simmering on the stove, forget the house all shiny and tidy. I could not shut up about the great meal I had had with Anita, Shauna, Danny and Lu the Monday after BlogHer. And I could not stop thinking about Bouchon and their lemon tart. Go figure.

Inside Bouchon Restaurant
Inside Bouchon.

We headed out in the morning to Napa in search of pork. For real. Shauna and Danny also write Pork, Knife and Spoon. It's all about the pork, and we did find it in Napa. We made a quick stop in front of The French Laundry for a "Bench Monday" photo op and then headed down to Bouchon for lunch. What a lunch! I am not sure what I loved the most between our exquisite dishes, Lucy flirting with the people in the room or the decor that sent me back to French bistros back home. I relaxed, I breathed, I paused. I forgot every bit of crappy stuff and wished Bill had been there with me. He would have loved the food, the company and the relaxed setting.

Desserts were all tempting but if I spot a lemon tart on the menu, I blank on pretty much everything else and my mouth quickly screams for a bite. Bouchon lemon's tart is one of the bests I have ever had. The filling is tart just so, the shortbread crust is sandy and crispy just right and the addition of pine nuts gives it an earthy texture that complements perfectly the smooth filling. The slice was big. I ate it all. I did not even think twice. And I wanted more.

Shauna and Lucy At Bouchon Bakery
Happy Gluten Free Girls

I sighed I could not share a bit with Shauna right there as the tart was not gluten free but we all agreed that this would be one of the easiest desserts to adapt for gluten sensitive folks and I set about the task as soon as I got home (recipe and more pictures are right after the jump).

After lunch we headed to Bouchon Bakery where I resisted buying another lemon tart and settled on one of their giant macarons. They are seriously huge which is perfect for sharing. I shared an espresson one with Anita while Lu and Shauna settled on a raspberry macaron. Happy. But we were on a pork mission afterall...

The Fatted Calf
The Fatted Calf
At The Fatted Calf.

Well fed and satisfied, we felt safe to tackle The Fatted Calf without wanting to eat their entire display. My desire of visiting their outpost in Napa goes back to the days when Sam of Becks and Posh used to describe the content of her Saturday market basket. Toulouse sausage, pancetta, merguez. Finally the day had come! I think I have a disease that makes my brain shut off and erase from memory all previous meals while making room for more food. I could have eaten one of every item in the store.

My heart did skip a bit when I spotted figatelli on the counter. I kept having flash backs to many aperitifs held on my parents' terrace where I'd try to sneak as many pieces of figatelli as I could. After school snacks of olives, bread rubbed with garlic and tomatoes and a few slices of that sausage. I tried my best not to spill the content of my nostalgia to the very nice lady behind the counter. I added some spicy chorizo and petit sec to my loot as I knew Bill would love some of those too.

Oxbow Market & Rancho Gordo
At Oxbow Market & Rancho Gordo.

I was psyched to hear we would also make a stop at Rancho Gordo during our Napa excursion. I have no idea why my first blog reads were almost all from the Bay area but needless to say I have been hearing them sing Steve Sando's praises for quite some time now, increasing my desire to put my hands on some genuinely good heirloom beans.

Yes, I know. I am all about buying and eating local but I think I was a Western local in a previous life and a part of me got stuck there. I borrowed being local for 5 days and the people of San Francisco were very generous in sharing that with me.

Oh! What a day! We headed back to town and reluctantly said goodbye to Shauna, Danny and Lu. I can't describe how lucky I felt to share so much in so little time with them. We all spilled our gutts, laughed and cried. We shared from the most raw places in our hearts and yet with the most uplifting bravery. Thank you guys! Thank you for letting me play with Lu so much!

There was so much more good stuff to come too, starting with a fabulous dinner at Contigo.

Contigo - Bar Seating
Bar seating, facing the kitchen at Contigo.

Since Brett announced on his blog In Praise Of Sardines that he was opening up his own restaurant, Contigo, I have been cheering him on all the way from SC. Thanks to Anita and Cameron who have sort of made it their joint, I have been able to read rave reviews pouring in about the place and I can add that they are all justified. The tapas menu is creative and fun, the dishes executed with flair with the freshest ingredients and the atmosphere and staff make the whole experience relaxed and delectable. Bravo Brett and your staff!

Contigo
Contigo.

I was fortunate to share this incredible feast with other smart and dedicated food bloggers, Caron, Sean and Paul, Tea and Anita. Thank you guys for making this evening memorable and lively of conversations, patient of my photographing all the dishes so I could relate the Bill exactly what we had. Everything from the garden steamed vegetables, stuffed piquillo peppers, jamon iberico, lemon verbena flan and churros con chocolate (and many more in between) were spot on! A total of 15 tapas were shared and loved.

I know Brett had quite his share of bloggers' visits for dinner that weekend and it is all well deserved. If you are in San Francisco and have not stepped foot there, run there! If you plan a trip to SF in the near future, run there too! You won't be disappointed. Tapas done right. Local and fresh ingredients. Dedication pays off.

Contigo - The Kitchen
The Kitchen at Contigo.

I just want to wrap this post on an incredible day but saying how grateful I am to Anita and Cameron for their generosity and hospitality in having me stay a little while after the conference was over. These two live 100% whether at work or play and it shows. I could not have asked for better hosts and friends in San Francisco.

Stay tuned for another installment of this trip when I get to play a whole day with Tea and discover another side of town. There will also be another dessert adaptation. This time from one I had at Contigo.

Contigo
At Contigo.

For now, I am going to curl up on the sofa with a gluten free lemon tart and dream I were cooking and dancing with all the friends I have left out West...

Rice Flour& Lemon For Tarts

Gluten Free Lemon Tarts:

Makes six 4-inch tartlets

Kitchen note:I have a very hard time finding brown rice flour and Shauna suggested making my own by pulverizing brown rice until very fine. The gluttinous texture of the brown rice helps with the crust much better than white rice flour.

For the crust:
1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60gr) unsifted powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 cup (160gr) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (30gr) amaranth flour (you could use sorghum flour)
1/4 (40gr) potato starch
1/4 cup (20gr) ground almonds

For the filling:
5 tablespoons (80gr) unsalted butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced (about 1/2 cup of juice)

Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and pinch of salt and mix until incorporated. Add the three different flours and ground almonds and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen it up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. Place eight tart rings on a parchment lined baking sheet and set aside.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic. Cut out eight 6-inch-rounds into the dough and fit them into eight 4-inch tart rings. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the rings, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with pieces of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment paper. Keep the oven at 350F.

Prepare the filling:
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, the juice and zest from the lemons. Add the melted butter and whisk to incorporate. Divide evenly among the tarts and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve room temperature.

Gluten Free Lemon Tarts

BlogHer Food - Weekend In San Francisco

59

Friday, October 02, 2009

Did not mean to be silent since I got back from San Francisco but I barely had a moment to kiss Bill "hello" (literally) that work started back again full swing. It's a good thing really since the utilities company already told me macarons were not a viable source of payment. Idiots. Drats.

It is taking me longer than expected to sort through all the pictures from those five days in San Francisco. A part of me has a hard time selecting among all the ones that could make you cry or laugh, and a part of me just revels in the emotions that each pictures of this trip makes me feel.Good times. Lots of laughs. Tons of people.

But first, I must announce the winner of The Hip Hostess apron. I was supposed to ask Bill over the phone to pick a number but one cocktail party and one strong cocktail later, I forgot to and turned to Lara standing next to me to pick one. Congratulations Megan from Life As A Dill! Email Debbie at info[@]thehiphostess [dot]com to claim your prize.

Now let's start this BlogHer thing...

Jen
Jen at Akiko's

I met Jen right at the airport since our flights were getting in close together and it was like picking up where we had left off the night before. We had the same dynamic that makes us talk throughout the day via emails, twitter, direct messages and sometimes all of these at once.

Sushi With Jen
Unagi sushi, raw shrimp, fried shrimp heads.

After checking into the hotel, we headed to Akiko for lunch following Anita's recommendation. We were not disappointed. Loved it all but raw shrimp and me won't be friends for a while.

Miette At The Ferry Building
Miette's macarons at the Ferry Building.

Not sure how it became my "mission" but when we started talking about things to see in such a short period of time, I drew a blank on the museums and exhibitions and my brain tuned in patisseries and bakeries. Go figure. We headed out to the ferry building and found Miette's (or a portion of their place given the market layout) right off the bat. Cute and whimsical little place!

Miette At The Ferry Building
Whimsical Musings at Miette's.

Got a couple of macs and headed off to the 39th floor of the Marriott. Check Jen's post for pictures of our blogger meet up. I think I was feeling my "2 hours of sleep in 36 hours" moment and just starred at the gorgeous views instead of clicking away.

Finally got to meet my long time crush Ashley from Not Without Salt (the girl seriously looks like a porcelain doll), crazyAlice from Savory Sweet Life and the wonderful Susan from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. We were later joined by Anita from Dessert First and Lisa from Lisa Is Bossy (and she is...in a very funny way). Jumped from joy to see Todd and Diane again since I could literally squeeze these two forever.

We headed off to dinner at Anchor and Hope and hooked up with Chuck from Sunday Nite Dinner and Food Gawker and his lady, Michelle from Tuesday Night Smackdown, Karen from Off The Meat Hook. Everything was delicious and prepared just right. Loved it all but sea urchin and I won't be friends for a while. I promptly passed out once my head hit that fluffy pillow at the hotel, which was just fine since we had to gain strength for the next day's activity.

BlogHer - In Session
First visual track session with Matt and Heidi.
This is pretty much what a session would look like: computers, iphones, cameras, people, good people. Lots of them.

Made it to breakfast slightly refreshed and stunned. No, no seriously: it is stunning to see words and people behind emails and computer screens becoming alive before your eyes. I am thrilled I got to meet many people and regret that I did not meet all of them. Between preparing for my panel and dealing with work and family stuff via computer, my brain was in overload and overwhelmed at times. Finally met bloggers who have inspired me to start mine and this was extremely special to me. Beside all the people mentioned in this post, thank you Sam, Pim, Jen, Anita, Tea,

Shauna and Lucy
Where there is love you will find Shauna and Lu.

I had many "fuzzies" during this trip (moments when your heart gets all warm and tingly you're so happy) and one of them was definitely meeting Shauna, Danny and Lucy. Shauna was one of my first blog reads and growing closer this past year made it all the more special to finally talk in real life. Lucy was the name I wanted to give my daughter but that did not happen as planned and I feel like this little one is my remote gift from life. I was very fortunate to spend more time with them after the conference.

BlogHer Conference - Closing Keynotes
Lisa Stone from BlogHer, Ree from The Pioneer Woman, David Lebovitz, Elise from Simply Recipes.

After a whole day of sessions, brainstorming and powerful messages (you can check transcripts of the sessions on BlogHer.com), we all met up again for the closing keynotes. I could write paragraphs after paragraphs about photography, blogging, writing, food politics, etc... but one message that came through from these three successful speakers was to blog because you have a passion, the rest will follow. Or not. And that's ok. Blog what makes you happy and do it to the best of your abilities.

How did I do on my panel? I think it went well. Feedback from the people attending was good so I am happy. And yes, it is official: I am a passionate dork.

So by now, you have probably read the fiasco that was lunch when food bloggers were served frozen foods while badly pitched by a mockery of a chef. Yes, I felt insulted. But not so much as being pitched frosting in a can from one of the sponsors in the lobby. Poor choice of product for a majority of attendees cooking and baking from scratch. We want to be challenged both intellectually and physically not spewed out of can.

Caitlin From Engineer Baker
Caitlin from Engineer Baker.

The cocktail party after the sessions were over was held on the rooftop of the hotel in perfect weather and with alcohol flowing generously.

Zoe - Author of Artisan Bread In 5 minutes A Day
Zoe from Zoe Bakes.

One of my "fuzzies" of the conference was to meet Zoe, author of Zoe Bakes and Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day. To say that the woman is hot is an understatement, to add that she is one genuinely cool lady is no exaggeration. I hope we get the chance to meet and talk many more times in the future.

After this first round of cocktails, we all headed to Tropisueno for the After BlogHer Party organized by Jaden, Ree and Elise. These women sure know how to throw a party! I had the chance to hang out with my pal Tammy from Running With Tweezers a bit more while being served glass after glass of Merlot by Hardy from Murphy Goode Wines.

I also got the chance to meet one of my baking crushes, Alice Medrich with whom I talked for a while on topics ranging from French markets and pastry chefs to blogging and writing. Precious moment.

Thanks to Emily from Foodzie I left the party with more chocolate and some really cool Nori salt. Thank you! Oh and a bottle of Pomegranate liqueur from Pama, one of the party sponsors "magically" fell into my bag.

Sunday morning, Jen and I met Caitlin, Shauna, Danny and Lucy for coffee and after parting ways with them all we both headed out to meet Tammy, Todd and Diane for Dim Sum. Again, check Jen's pictures for that part. I was too busy eating! After saying our goodbyes, Jen and I went about town to check out more bakeries.

Paulette Macarons
Paulette Macarons.

I really wanted to check out Paulette's macarons and store. It is my grandmother's name after all and I had heard so many good reviews (after all there is Michalak stamp on it) that I had to sample a few. Geez...Perfect. All of them.

Paulette Window Shopping
So many great flavors to chose from!


Miette In Hayes Valley
Miette's "headquarters" in Hayes Valley.

Miette's main store is as adorable as you can imagine. I was really like a kid in a candy store since they store a lot of the candies I grew up with. Heaven.

Miette In Hayes Valley
Tess from Miette.

Got the chance to meet Tess who writes and updates Miette's blog. Being a sucker for design and props, I must give Tess and her team an A+ in their arranging the store to make it look so perfect.

Miette In Hayes Valley, San Francisco
At Miette.

We were running out of time before Jen's plane and decided to skip Tartine and part ways. That was tough. Parting ways, not Tartine, doh...

I headed back to the hotel to pick up my bags and headed out to Cameron's and Anita's from Married With Dinner, with whom I stayed until Tuesday. After many years of chatting online, Christmas card exchanges and others, it was a bit surreal to just hang out at their house and leisurely prepare a feast of market fresh produce for dinner.

Homegrown Salad and Market Mushroom
Homegrown salad and market mushrooms.

Sausages, salad, veggies of all kinds. Anita had scored a bunch of great plums at the Marin market earlier that day and I made us a plum crisp with green coriander seeds and lemon verbana as well as a tropical inspired granita.

Making Plum Crisp & Dinner With Friends
Dinner with friends.

Cooked and ate with some wonderful people that I was thrilled to finally meet. Kick ass Laura from (Not So) Urban Hennery and fiesty sweet Kristina from Tennessee Locavore, and of course Cameron, Anita and Jen M.

I went to bed with my head filled and my heart bursting. Still.

I have a couple more posts to come about my stay after BlogHer. A trip to Napa, more bakeries, an amazing tapas dinner at Contigo and more. In the meantime, I am leaving you with a picture of sweet Lucy eating her first macaron at Bouchon bakery. I could photograph this child all day long...and I did!

Lucy
The way to eat a macaron, by Lucy.

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