Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringue Cake

140

Friday, July 30, 2010

Birthday Cake Preparations

Thank you guys so much for playing the game the other day and giving me great suggestions for B's birthday cake. He was a bit shocked I did not have any of my own - the truth is I had too many and after staring at them for a few days, none seemed that fun anymore! And, I really like when we can all share, communicate, participate.

As you can guess, B's cake had plenty of chocolate, eggs, sugar and nuts...Which one did I/we pick? EP's Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Cake from Martha Stewart ended up stealing the show. Congratulations on winning the "Artisan Breads At Home". You are going to love this book!

Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringue Cake

How did I pick? Actually I ended involving B. a little in the process as I noticed after 50 or so comments that I was slightly putting in the "maybe" or "no sure" columns flavors, desserts, ideas that he could picked if given the chance. It was his birthday after all. And I have known in the 13 years we have been together that I should never expect anything if only be surprised.

We sat down and I asked him for key words that would help me narrow down the winning suggestion. Here were his specs: chocolate, nuts, crunchy - creamy, gluten free so I would not have to worry about adapting (go ahead, insert "awwww" right here!). I read everyone of your comments and put a star next to the ones that fit his criteria then I went back and had him look them over, one by one and pick his top three.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringue Cake

You guessed it, I didn't want to spoil the element of surprise completely. Yes. It turned out into a day 100% tuned into him and I am happy for it. This year has been nothing but tranquil for us and he deserves every bit of "you you you you you" that I could give him. And I am glad you indulged me in this rather fun and chocolatey quest.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringue Cake

That cake is sublime! flourless, creamy, complex and yet not so rich that you have to stop after one bite - more like control yourself not to want it for dessert at every meal! Granted we invited plenty of friends to share with us so the slices were small but I have to say, sneaking in the kitchen passed midnight and sharing a slice with a cold glass of milk after everyone had gone home was pretty much the "ahhhhhh" moment of the day.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringue Cake

The combination of the deep flavors of the cake (I added espresso to the batter instead of vanilla extract) with the meringue was exactly what he asked for. Because we have been heat indexes hovering around the 115F-120F and high humidity, I cooked the meringue topping longer than what the recipe called for to make sure it would not end up in complete puddle of goo when the time to serve it came about. It worked perfectly and yielded the right amount of crunch and softness after standing for a few hours. Like macarons, this cake only tastes better after 24 hours.

Speaking about cake and chocolate, how about doing a little French Word A Week on chocolate cake while we are at it? So, here it is: click on Gateau Au Chocolat to hear its pronunciation.

Thanks everyone for playing along! Have a great weekend everyone!

Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringue Cake


Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Cake, adapted from Martha Stewart.

Makes one 9-inch cake

Notes:
- Now is not the time to use the cheap-o chocolate. Get the best quality bittersweet chocolate you can find as it is the star of the recipe. (Guittard, Callebaut, Valrhona, El Rey, Scharffen Berger, etc...)
- To toast the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350F and spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
- To skin the nuts without driving yourself crazy, place them in a mesh bag (like a recycled orange or lemon bag) and rub the nuts between your hand over the sink. The skins will fall and only the "naked" nuts will remain in your bag.
- The cake at room temperature is excellent but served really cold, it becomes even fudgier and the meringue gives slightly under your tooth like a soft pavlova. Brilliant!


For the cake:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
6 large whole eggs, separated
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons espresso (or vanilla)
1 1/2 tablespoons rum (optional)(not with us!)
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the meringue:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (1 cup)
1 cup hazelnuts (about 4 ounces), toasted and skinned (see notes)and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar

Prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-3-inch springform pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and brown sugar until pale and smooth at medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bottom and sides of your bowl if necessary. Add the melted chocolate, espresso (or vanilla), rum, if using, and salt. Beat until combined. Transfer to a clean bowl and wash your mixing bowl thoroughly.
In a clean mixer bowl fitted the whisk attachment, beat the 6 egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Fold one-third of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites and pour batter into prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes.

Prepare the meringue:
Combine the chopped chocolate, nuts and cornstarch in a small bowl, and set aside. Place remaining 4 egg whites in a clean mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until frothy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Fold in hazelnut mixture.

Assemble and Finish:
Remove cake from oven. Using a large offset spatula, spread meringue mixture on top of cake using as little strokes as possible not to deflate the meringue, and return to oven. Bake until meringue is lightly browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let stand 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, and release sides of pan. Let cool, about 30 minutes, before slicing and serving.

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Some inquiring minds asked so here is a short prop list.
- Plates: the ever fabulous Asya from Gleena.
- glasses and little bottles (they are bud vases actually): Wal-Mart.
- paper straws from Bake It Pretty.
- silverware, glass jar and linens: vintage from a little shop in town.
- candles: gift from my friend Jen from Use Real Butter (I think she got them at Peppercorn in downtown Boulder).
- wire cake stand and green handled strainer from etsy.

Honey Lemon Pots De Creme

28

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Honey Lemon Pots de Creme

I must start this post by saying that I did not pick pots de creme as a birthday treat for my better half. I could have though. He likes them. A lot. But, it became evident as I was reading your comment that there were a lot of delicious other desserts we could sink our teeth into and we still would have plenty to chose from for next year. You guys are awesome! Thank you!

I knew that I had to ask him for a bit of input. He said cake. Chocolate. Nuts. Soft and crunchy. No minis. No fruits. No coconut shreds. Nothing jellied. I picked out about 15 that fit that category (adding time, heat and humidity in that equation for the one baking, me).

Sunday Morning Madeleines

I just made the cake this afternoon and started taking pictures, you can see a little preview of the goodness to come on my Flickr page. I have to wait until he gets home from work to finally cut into it and take some more pictures. I am excited to see if the inside is as good as the outside promises it to be. Some candles, a dusting of cocoa powder and we are good to go!

The cake we chose and the winner will be revealed soon...

Honey Lemon Pots de Creme

In the meantime, I thought I would share with you a recipe I created for the Paula Deen website. Back in January, one of the food editors emailed about contributing to their Bake Sale section. With the holidays, travels, workshops and work it took everyone a bit of time to get all our ducks in a row but it finally went up yesterday. I was happy to give readers something wholesome, seasonal and with a bit of a French flair that was neither difficult or time consuming to make. Honey and lemon...always a wonderful combination.

Thank you for all the good wishes for Bill.

Happy Birthday babe..!

House Guests Are Awesome...


Honey Lemon Pots De Creme:

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups (375ml) heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup honey
zest and juice of 2-3 lemons (you’ll need 1/4 cup or 60ml of juice)
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325FÂș and position a rack in the center. Place your ramekins in a heavy deep pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Turn the heat off but keep the cream warm.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and honey for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon juice and salt and whisk until smooth. Slowly pour the heavy cream over the egg yolk mixture, whisking well. Let stand for a couple of minutes to let any foam rise to the top, skim it off and divide the mixture among your ramekins. Pour hot water inside the pan, making sure the water comes at least halfway up the sides of your dishes. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with madeleines or your favorite tea cookies.

Cherry & Plum Crumbles With Goat Cheese Ice Cream

141

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cherry & Plum Crumble With Goat Cheese Ice Cream

You have no idea how good it feels to finally take time in this crazy schedule to come here and write a little, share a recipe and possibly a good laugh or two. Although now that I am here I am drawing a super "ugh" kind of a blank. Yes, even that brilliant paragraph I wrote in my head this morning in the shower. Pouf! Gone. I am seriously thinking of designing a waterproof notepad or carrying a waterproof in there.

Oh yes...it just came back to me: Bill's birthday is next week, the 27th to be exact, and I do need your help. I can't decide what to make him for his birthday dessert this year and I thought I would ask you for some suggestions. In order to make this a bit more fun for everyone, I thought about pairing it with a little giveaway. So here it is folks:

- Tell me what is the most raved about dessert you have made (please provide link to recipe or as many details as you wish) in the comment section of this post. No need to have a blog, just the main idea of the recipe. (No anonymous without a name will be approved).
- On Monday night, I'll pick one I know my better half would love for his birthday, make it and post about it, (with full credits to you and the recipe of course).
- But that's not all, the person whose dessert was picked will be sent a copy of "Artisan Breads - At Home With The Culinary Institute of America" (I'll ship worldwide)

Hope ya'll can hit me with some major sweetness! And anything goes: the man likes everything, ahaha!

Plums

And I am ok with losing my mind over this... it's the season after all and I admit I absolutely love it. Well, apart from not being able to cook and post as much, answer emails on time, and piling up clean laundry instead of folding it. Why am I telling you this? It all relates to these Cherry And Plum Crumbles and how I need a mini "brain check" before bedtime lately.

I was all set to make cherry and plum sorbet the other day when I realized I may not have picked up enough of each at the farmers' market and I was about to head out the door for more, B. shouted from the garage that his mom was stopping by with extras from her market trip "she thought you might like more plums and cherries". What did I hear instead? The tiny influx of rush and stress of my own mental notes but not a word he said.

Cherry & Plum Crumbles

I started thinking I should pick some flowers for his mom as a thank you. That I'd better not lolligag while at the store, get my stuff and jet. My mind drifted and wondered if I'd have time to churn that batch of ice cream before bedtime. I thought about the vet, the delivery guy, the dentist every one in between! It felt crammed up inside my head. Have no fear, I am not driving while under the influence of the voices. The car seems to be a free zone.

I got home right on time to invite my mother in law inside for a very cold glass of lemonade and a few cookies. We unloaded our bags together and busted out laughing right away. I was staring at enough cherries and plums to feed the whole neighborhood. I've always considered this kind of happening a joyous opportunity to poach extra fruit and freeze them for when I crave cherries in January, plums in November, or ripe and juicy pears in June.

Cherry & Plum Crumbles

Poaching fruit in a concoction of lemon juice, water and spices is something I learned from my mom and grandmother very early on. It used to generates suspicious looks from my husband when we were newlyweds and he'd come home to find me elbow deep skinning and pitting a box of bruised peaches for poaching and freezing. Why not can you might ask? I make jams regularly so I am running out of room already in the pantry and I go through the frozen fruit faster than the jams.

I had enough fruit this time around to make cherry and plum sorbets, poach and freeze some and make Cherry Plum Crumbles with the rest. That's a lot. Even if it's summer and it is bloody hot outside, I still went ahead and made crumbles. I needed to plan comforting treats for the busy day ahead. The mix of crunchy bits of dough and soft fruit all warm out of the oven topped with a generous scoop of ice cream is my idea of the ultimate comfort.

Cherry & Plum Crumbles


I am too ticklish to get a massage. I am too claustrophobic to enjoy a facial. Not girly enough to go for mani-pedis. So crumbles it is. Curled up on the couch, passed midnight, the pups next to me. Preferably with a side of summer rain but without is alright too.

Cherry & Plum Crumbles


Cherry and Plum Crumbles With Goat Cheese Ice Cream:

Seres 4-6

For the fruits:
4 plums, pitted and chopped into small dices (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh cherries, halved and pitted
1/4 cup honey
zest of one lemon
2 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb cornstarch

For the crumble:
1/2 cup light brown sugar (I used sucanat)
1/3 cup millet flour
1 teaspoon cardamom
6 tablespoons butter, cold

Prepare the fruits:
Preheat your oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the fruits with the honey, lemon zest and juice and cornstarch. Toss with your hands to coat the fruits evenly. Divide between 4 to 6 ramequins and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil as the fruits are most likely to release their juice, causing a spill. Set them aside while your prepare the topping.

Prepare the crumble:
In a medium bowl, toss together the sugar, millet flour and cardamom. Add the butter cut in small pieces and mix with your fingertips until you get a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs. Divide th topping evenly on top of the dishes. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Goat Cheese Ice Cream:
3/4 cup sugar (170 gr)
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk (500 ml)
1/3 cup heavy cream (100 ml)
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
4 oz goat cheese (120gr), at room temperature

In a large bowl whisk the sugar and egg yolks until pale. In a saucepan set on medium heat, bring the milk, cream and vanilla bean to a simmer, slowly pour a small amount on the egg yolks to temper. Pour the remaining over the yolks and sugar. Stir well then pour back in the saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the cream thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the goat cheese until completely melted and incorporated.
Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Process in an ice cream maker according to your machine's manufacturer's instruction. Freeze until firm.

Work Work Work - No Play...

31

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

At Work

I'm here! I'm here!

Sorry guys I have not been around long enough to update this page in the last few days. I am held hostage by work - a week long magazine photo shoot. Prepping, cooking, styling, shooting....which is made sweeter only by the fact that these recipes are really tasty (it's always a gamble to decipher someone's else recipe development) and I have Taylor to help me out.

Work Polaroid

I am hoping to be able to post about the delicious crumbles we have been eating by tomorrow.

Thanks for email and asking if everything was alright. You guys are awesome...

A Day At The Office

French Word A Week: L'ete - Les Cerises - Les Vacances!

37

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summertime...And The Living Is Easy

Summer....easy living, easy going. When the casual becomes upscale and the impromptu becomes routine. I love that. Summer evenings around here are something to be savored, never rushed. In that regard, I have retained a great deal of my home country in the way friends and family gather around our dinner table. Long evenings with simple, fresh and seasonal dishes, something cold to sip on and a light summer dessert to end.

Growing up, summer desserts rarely consisted of cakes or pastries and chocolate was pretty much forgotten until the Fall. Not always but often. Instead we would always have some fruit, either raw or slightly grilled, a drizzle of lavender honey and maybe a dollop of fresh cheese. Sometimes it was ice cream. Sometimes it was sorbet. Sometimes it was just a plate of cherries and some cheese.

Coconut Cherry Ice Cream

This week French Word feature is all about l'ete (summer), les cerises (cherries) and les vacances (vacation) (lucky you!)

Taking advantage of the bounty of summer. Letting your senses get their fill of fragrant peaches, apricots, lavender, your taste buds get tickled with tart raspberries and red currant while your eyes can't get enough of all the colors around. Red. Yellow. Green. Orange. I can easily get lost in everything that the season brings forth. Hurricanes and heat waves included.

All Cherried Up...

After a busy workday, I find myself craving simplicity. A lot. Summer is perfect for that. The South is prefect for that too. I love bumping into neighbors and settling on their or our front steps, talking for hours. Often times, I make a quick run to the house and bring back some ice cream, some cones and some bowls and we just sit there in the magic hour of the sunset and laughing life away.

I am dipping (pun intended) into the archives today to bring you a recipe I've made about every other month since I first posted it: Cherry Rose and Coconut Ice Cream. It's got all my favorite in one nice scoop: coconut flavor, cherry bits, and a hint of rose. Sometimes I skip the latter but this is by far the most requested ice cream flavor I get from my friends and I am far from complaining. Hehehe!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Coconut Cherry Ice Cream


Cherry, Rose and Coconut Ice Cream:

Makes a little less than a quart.

Notes: don't just go use any dried rose for this! Make sure to get food grade, organic and non treated rose petals or rose buds. Most can be food at health food store in the bulk spices and tea section and are quite cheap. I got about 1 cup for $1.50.

For the rose infused cherries:
1 cups (145gr) pitted and halved cherries
1/4cup (60ml) water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
6-8 food gradedried rose buds (more or less depending on your own liking)

For the ice cream:
1 cups (250ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (250ml) whole coconut milk
1 cup (200gr) granulated sugar

Prepare the cherries:
Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat off and let steep one hour (longer for an even intense rose flavor). Remove the rose buds and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the ice cream:
In a large saucepan set over medium low heat, bring the cream, milk, coconut milk and sugar to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, preferably overnight.
Process the mixture into your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's intructions.
Once the ice cream has reached soft serve consistency, pour into a freezable container. With a spatula, swirl in the cherries and a few tablespoons of their liquid. Freeze a couple of hours.
No ice cream maker? No problem, but really it is worth the $50 investment. Pour the cream into a freeze proof container and freeze for a couple of hours. Take it out and whip it with an electric mixer or immersion blender, freeze it again, whip it again....do that four or five times. The mixture won't be quite the same but pretty darn close.

Ollalieberry Financiers & Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

50

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Olallieberry Financiers

It only took twelve years to admit this but I must say that in spite of the heat and humidity I really love summers here in the South. Yes. I've said it. Love them. You might wonder what else is to summer here that would make me forgive the mosquitoes, head bashing heat and stick-to-your-clothes-like-frosting-on-a-cupcake humidity. Well...Thunderstorms! Rain! Afternoon showers! Tea breaks and evening swims!

Olallieberry Financiers

It was not until a recent conversation with my parents that I realized what summer here was like versus what I thought it should be: it's like back home. Just a tad stronger. Every afternoon around 4pm the skies darken and the rain slowly moves in. Thunder. Lightning. The skies get a thick cloud cover and the house is nothing but shadows. It reminds me so much of the summer months of my childhood that it makes it bearable.

Fresh Figs & Financiers

This weekend was no exception and we gladly took the opportunity to do as much as early as possible and cozy up in the afternoon. That's the thing to do during summers here, start early and keep going until the rain stops you or the craving for a cold drink and a sit down become too strong. We set up on the dining room table and started working on our respective tasks, facing each other. Looking up once in a while. Bouncing ideas off of each other as they came along. Drawing directions and paths to the life we want to live.

Olallieberry Financiers

We did just that on Saturday in the later part of the afternoon just as the rain was starting to fall against the window and we sat there quietly listening. A new summer ritual. A good cup of French press coffee or a cold glass of milk, a plate of still warm tea cakes or a handful of cookies. I suddenly got a hunkering for the coconut ice cream I had made specially for profiteroles to celebrate our anniversary the next day. Instead of a snack we stayed true to the past 12 years being married and did the opposite of what was planned. We had dessert before dinner.

Olallieberry Financiers & Coconut Ice Cream

Toasted coconut ice cream from David Lebovitz via my friend Jen, financiers made with the olallieberry jam that Anita had given me in Boulder, a plate of fresh figs. The first we've had this season.

I like summers here after all...

Olallieberry Financiers


Olallieberry Jam Financiers:

Makes 12

Note: you can substitute any type of jam for the one I used here. You can also use about 3/4 cup of fresh cut fruit or 3/4 cup fresh berries instead.

1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (100gr) unsifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup (60gr) ground almonds
1/4 cup (30gr) rice flour
pinch of salt
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup olallieberry jam

Preheat your oven to 375F and position a rack in the center. Lightly butter the inside of 12 financiers molds or muffin tins and place them on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, melt the butter until it turns to a rich hazelnut brown color. Remove from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Strain and reserve.
Mix together the powdered sugar, flour, ground almonds and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg whites and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are coming together. Add the brown butter, increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth.
Divide the batter among your molds, drop about 1 to 2 teaspoons of jam in the middles and swirl with the tip of a knife. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream, adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

1 cup (230gr) dried shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
1 teaspoon rum

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread the coconut on a baking sheet line with parchment paper and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent it from burning. Keep a close eye on it as it toasts rather fast and goes from perfect to burnt even faster. Remove from the oven when it is golden brown and let cool completely.
In a large saucepan set over medium high heat, warm the milk heavy cream, salt and add the toasted coconut. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Re-heat the cream mixture over medium heat until hot. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick. Slowly pour the cream mixture over the egg yolks, stirring as you do. Whisk well. Place the mixture back into the saucepan over medium and cook until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spatula. Remove from the heat and pour it through fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Press the back of your spoon against the coconut to extract as much liquid and flavor as possible. Add the rum and let cool to room temperature (you can place a piece of plastic wrap and poke holes through it to prevent condensation if you are concerned about leaving things uncovered at your house).
Once cooled, refrigerate the mixture until completely cold (I let mine in the fridge overnight) then freeze in your ice cream machine according to its manufacturer's instructions.

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Props:
- flower bowl: GreenGate
- cupcake liners and paper straws: Bake It Pretty
- plates: Gleena
- green bottle: Stein Mart
- stamped flatware: Monkeys Always Look on etsy
- linen napkin: Jewelweeds on etsy

French Words A Week - Breakfast Edition: Le Petit Dejeuner

36

Friday, July 09, 2010

Olallieberry Jam

It could have seemed as if I had forgotten the French Word A Week feature lately, right? I have not. Trust me. I did not think as many people cared about it until my inbox started filling up with messages to have it again soon. One of you even sent a "Missing! - French Word A Week. Bring It Back" which made me giggled like crazy. It does not take much to make me giggle as you know but I also did not realize the feature was as much fun for you as it was therapeutic for me. Thank you for that...

During Breakfast

In that regard and to make up for lost time, I am giving you not one but four (4) illustrated words this week (just click on the words to get the pronunciation). More summer homework...darn! I remember summer homework....mine was filled with maths problems. Did it help? Noooooo....but we won't tell the kids right?! So....

Chocolate Croissant Bribe

If you ever find yourself in France one day and you are wanting to start the day on the right foot, might was well start with breakfast - "petit dejeuner". Do not think about resisting a good "pain au chocolat". But if a "baguette" is more your thing in the morning, find yourself some good "confiture" to spread on it.

Julia Child's French Bread

I am extremely lucky to be in possession of olallieberry preserve thanks to my dear friend Anita from Dessert First who handed me a jar during the Food and Light Workshop in Colorado. We don't have such berries here so I have been using it judiciously in a couple of different desserts I'll share with you next week.

Have a great weekend!

Roasted Plum & Creamy Chai Rice Pudding

54

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Roasted Plum & Creamy Flat Rice Pudding

Let's start with the winner of the Chefs Catalog giveaway, shall we? Congratulations to "misreneer"! Send me your address at mytartelette[at]gmail[dot]com and we'll get that package on its way to you!

At the end of the Food Photography workshop I taught during Evo 10 in Park City Utah, a new blogger came to me and asked if I ever got tired and cranky from blogging. I tried my best to keep my eyes from popping like UFOs while keeping my enthused answer to normal decibel level. You guessed it, my answer was "Nooooo! Heck no!" Adding that if anything I get cranky not being able to post and not from having to post.

Like the blogger next to you, we both blogged differently. Yet, we both took immense pleasure in what we did. This space is true comfort for me. The food, the feelings, the people, your visits. It's all pure joy. What I write, photograph, cook or bake. It's authentic. It's life with us. It's not what we expected or wished for sometimes but it is what we have and what we live. It's ours. It's also the space I keep free of insurance and bank talks or the dozens of work emails imploding the inbox. It's a journal.

Plums

A space I define and refine constantly as I define and refine what I do and who I am. It's authentic. It's got joys, tears, friends, family. That's enough emotions not to throw my mortgage into the mix. Yes. We blogged differently but for the same reason. Because we felt comfortable to be ourselves and tell of ourselves in that space we created.

I like slipping into the comfort of this page late at night when the house is asleep. It's like digging my spoon into that last bite of rice pudding and feeling at peace with all sorts of emotions and feelings. I also let my thoughts be dark and grey. I let myself get upset and weary before I can be ok again. Coming here forces me to put value and words to those emotions and decide which ones are worth sweating over and which ones are better off letting roll off my back.

Making Plum Rice Pudding

As you and I get closer and closer to write and read post #700 I realize that in the end you may read about the small stuff, the little things, the nostalgia and that's because they make me who I am and give me what I see.

As I was packing for Utah and Colorado a couple of weeks ago (darn summer- stop flying by so fast!), I was trying to use up produce that I knew B. would not touch while I'd be gone. As I mentioned before, cooking is not his things, let alone baking. Eating is. I started thinking about desserts that would evoke comfort for him. The kind he'd want to grab after a long day working outside in the hear followed by a few hours of teaching in the evening. Alright, I confess: desserts that would also make him miss be a little bit...eheheh!

I made shortcakes, filled a container of sliced strawberries and whipped up some cream to go along. He shared those with the neighbors. I made his favorite Southern banana pudding from scratch complete with wafers and chopped praline. He invited his parents over to dig through it (praise from my mother-in-law...hallelujah!). Lastly I made my grandmother's rice pudding and we shared some that morning before my flight. Every time I looked at the pictures on my laptop, I felt instantly closer to home. The home in our hearts, not my house or the space we live in. That's changeable. Comfort is where your heart is first.

Chai Spices

One thing my grandma knew was rice pudding. Riz au lait. One thing I know very well is to take her recipe and run with it as the season change or as my emotions flutter. Sometimes I change the spice, from vanilla to chai. Sometimes I take liberties with the flavors and add a slash of rum or a sprinkle of brown sugar. Other times I'll hide some salted butter caramel right in the middle, or some spiced chocolate ganache. The name may not be all that exciting but the possibilities are closer to sexy than you might think.

This time, I took advantage of a small basket of plums I had just purchased at the farmers market. Tiny, tart and full of flavor. I simply roasted them for a short period of time with a sprinkle of vanilla sugar. For the rice, I used a flattened rice from India that I got while visiting my dear friend Bina. I like this one a lot because it cooks a bit quicker and you can serve it slightly undercooked (to keep more shape) without having it taste raw. I added a pinch of cardamom to the milk I cooked the rice with and voila....one heck of a creamy and comforting dessert topped with some of the best of the season's bounty.

Roasted Plum & Creamy Flat Rice Pudding


Roasted Plums and Creamy Rice Pudding:

Serves 4-6

For the plums:
1/2 vanilla bean
3 tablespoons sugar (I used sucanat)
pinch of edible lavender
12 small plums, halved and pits removed

For the rice pudding:
1/2 cup (100gr) flattened rice (use arborio if not available)
1 1/2 cups (315ml) whole milk (I used raw)
1/2 cup (60ml) heavy cream
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

chopped pistachios (optional)

Prepare the plums:
Preheat the oven to 400F and position a rack in the middle.
With the tip of a knife, slice the half vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a small dish or ramekin. Add the sugar and mix with your fingertips until the vanilla bean seeds are well distributed.
Place the plums in a baking dish and sprinkle the vanilla sugar and lavender evenly over them. Bake for 20 minutes or until juicy. Let cool.

Prepare the rice pudding:
In a stainer, rinse the rice under cold water for a minute to remove some of its natural starch.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the rice, milk, cream, sugar to a simmer. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the salt and spices, stir briefly and remove from the heat. Let cool for a few minutes and divide the pudding evenly among ramekins. Divide the roasted plums evenly in between the dishes and sprinkle with chopped pistachios if desired.

Food & Light Photography Workshop Recap & a Chefs Catalog Giveaway!

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Still Life - Food & Light Workshop
Going around the tables taking some shots. Still life styled by Diane.

It hit me at the Atlanta airport that I was really back on the East Southern side of things Wednesday night. Unlike in Salt Lake City or Denver, you could feel the humidity seeping out through the walls and permeating the air at the gate. A part of me wanted nothing more than to turn around, click my heels and head out West again. The bigger part of me wanted to be home, hug my better half, play with the pups and slowly go through all the emotions and images of the past week.

Food & Light Workshop
The Rembrandt Yard where the workshop was held - look at all that light!

The main reason for my being out West last week was to teach at the Food & Light Photography Workshop that Jen from Use Real Butter had been planning for months. From the moment she asked me to be one of the instructors until the day the workshop began, the excitement of the event was beginning to make my head burst. A HUGE thank you to Jen for organizing with such detail and apparent grace the workshop. From creating the website, downloading all sort of info for attendees (hotels, camera manuals,...) to gathering sponsors and prizes.

Food & Light Workshop
Todd and Diane (left) and Jen (right) sharing their knowledge.

I was honored to be among the instructors with kickbutt Jen and the ever talented Todd and Diane from White On Rice Couple. I was equally honored to be among such a tremendous group of attendees. They were all so enthusiastic to learn, practice, share and help one another, talk with us, ask questions and practice some more. It made the whole two day workshop that much more enjoyable and well, plain awesome.

Food & Light Workshop
Hungry Girl Lynn practicing.

I had done workshops before in which 1 or 2 hours was devoted to hands on practice after a presentation but this time, 2/3 of the workshop was devoted to hands on, time-on-tool practice. Time to really put into play what the instructors had just talked about and as we were circulating from table to table, we could repeat or elaborate what had been shared and discussed before.

Lisa At Work
Lisa working on styling and light bouncing.

The instructors time was divided in such a way that students got the best of everything that we got and boy we did cover a lot! Jen kicked off the workshop with a thorough and interactive presentation on camera basics and fundamentals such as exposure, metering, aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Todd and Diane presented on natural light workflow, lenses and focal lengths. On the second day, Todd and Diane presented half a session on artificial light while I presented the second half on natural light, both addressing how use either or depending on the desired photographic goal. The last session tackled food styling which Diane and I shared with a bonus styling demo to boot.

At The Rembrandt Yard
At the Rembrandt Yard.

Beside the reward of learning and practicing for 2 straight days, Jen scored some neat prized to give out to attendees in different categories. Picking from all the entries posted to the Food and Light Flickr pool was tough! See the list of winners on Jen's post. Congratulations to all of you guys - everyone did a fabulous job! Watch out for Elena's son, Ethan...Such a young fella but his creativity and skills are already really strong!

The Kitchen Upstairs - Boulder
The Kitchen Upstairs.

The Kitchen Upstairs
Cocktails and good times.

To celebrate such a strong end to this fabulous workshop, the "break-down crew" (Lisa, Anita, Dana, Annie, Todd, Diane, Jen and Jeremy) headed out to happy hour at The Kitchen Upstairs.

Jen & Lisa
Jen and Lisa.

The Kitchen Upstairs - Boulder
Garlic Fries and Sticky Toffee Pudding.

After hearing rave reviews from Jen for months I was thrilled to finally sit down to good cocktails and good food. The Kitchen did not disappoint, from the lovely details and atmosphere to the wonderfully crafted small plates we shared.

The Kitchen Upstairs - Boulder
Mac N' Cheese enjoyed by Annie.

The Kitchen Upstairs - Boulder
Beets and Olives - so good!

I laughed for a straight two hours...it felt good. I wish I could have stayed to hike with Jen, Jeremy, Todd and Diane the next day but flying back East takes about an entire day and there is much to be taken care of at home these days (trips, work, family, etc...). Jen's backyard is like my backyard in the Alps. Beautifully breathtaking and a sight I miss everyday.

The Kitchen Upstairs - Boulder
Chocolate Pots de Creme and some pretty stylish water.

No reason to feel left out if you could not attend though. Jen found herself with three extra swagbags at the end of the workshop and decided that we (Jen, Todd and Diane and myself) should put them up for giveaways. So here you go: THREE chances to win one of these awesome bags very generously filled by Chefs Catalog (coincidentally my go-to source for kitchen stuff ever since I move to the US). Each tote is filled with 4 large wooden spoons, 1 silicone spatula, a ceramic peeler, a 6-inch Wusthof bread knife and cutting board set, 3 kitchen towels, 4 stainless steel prep bowls with lids (love those!).

Here are the rules to enter:
- leave a comment on this post by Monday July 5th at midnight Eastern time
- one entry per person (duplicate will be deleted)
- participants must have US shipping addresses
- the winner will be picked at random by my wonderful better half


Don't forget to increase your odds of winning by entering the two other giveaways on Use Real Butter and White On Rice Couple!

Boulder
In Boulder.

Good luck! I'll be back to a regular recipe posting and sharing after the holidays.

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

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