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Lazy Sunday

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

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

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart

Makes one 11-inch tart

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

Pâte Sucrée

2 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon bourbon

1/4 teaspoon salt

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

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

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

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

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

Cream Puff and her Muffins

What I am supposed to do when someone promises "the best muffins you’ll ever taste"? Make them? Eat them? Create your "ultimate muffin" too? well, I did 2 out those three things. I made them and I ate them… and they’re great!
It’s hard for us to say that these are the best you ever tasted because we rearely eat muffins for breakfast, but to hear what B. said, they pretty much hit the jackpt: "if I open a coffee shop, will you bake these everyday?" I think he is hooked.

If you ahve not visisted Cream Puffs' bog yet, run to it, everything looks scrumptious and tastes delicious.

Here is the recipe as I made it, as it is posted on her site:

Lawsuit Buttermilk Muffins

Adapted from The Best of by Marcy Goldman.

For the streusel topping:
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
In a bowl, combine all of the streusel topping ingredients.
With your fingers, combine until you have a crumbly mixture.
Set aside if using immediately or store in the refrigerator.
For the muffins:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons grated citrus zest (I use lemon or orange.)
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you may need a bit more if the batter is too wet)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-3/4 cups fruit (coarsely chopped if using fruits like apples, banana or pears)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. If you don’t have paper liners butter and flour the muffin tin.
In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda); set aside.
In another bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, citrus zest and egg. Once combined, stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. Gently mix in the fruit. If the batter seems to liquidy, add a tiny bit more flour. The batter should be fairly stiff.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups filling them right to the top. Divide the streusel topping equally among the muffins.
Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 12 minutes. When the muffins are done they will spring back when lightly pressed. Otherwise, test the muffins by inserting a toothpick.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove the muffins and let them cool on a wire rack.

Pour Maman

These are for my Mom, via the internet, just because I tempted her when I called France yesterday… I am mean…

I have tried a lot of different recipes and this one is from the Queen of folds herself, dear Martha.

Here is the recipe I used today. They turned out OK. Not the best but they were nice and buttery, and hit the spot this morning.

About 16 croissants

1/3 cup warm water (110° to 115°)

1 package dry-active yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon table salt

1 1/3 cups warm milk (110° to 115°)

1 pound (about 3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 1/2 sticks (14 ounces) chilled unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Make the dough: In a liquid measuring cup, combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to combine. Let stand 5 minutes to allow yeast to proof. In a second measuring cup, dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, and the salt in the milk.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour. Add the yeast mixture, milk mixture, and oil. Blend everything together by cutting and pressing with a rubber spatula, being sure all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be very wet.

3. Turn dough out onto a well floured work surface. Let stand for 3 minutes to allow the dough to absorb some of the liquid. Start kneading by lifting near edges, with a bench scraper, and flipping it over onto the other side. Rapidly repeat the movement from one side to the other, and end over end, until the dough feels smooth and begins to draw back into shape when pushed out, 8 to 10 times. Do not over-knead.

4. Transfer dough to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using lightly floured hands, pat and push the dough out into a rectangle about 12-by-10-inches. Fold the dough in three, like a business letter. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet or plate; cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. This second rise can be done in the refrigerator, overnight.

5. Punch down dough. Cover the dough again with plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator for 20 minutes; this will allow the gluten to relax, and make rolling out the dough easier.

6. Roll in the butter: Place butter on a lightly floured work surface and beat with a rolling pin to soften. Then smear it out with the heel of your hand until it is of spreading consistency, but still cold; it must not become soft and oily, refrigerate if necessary.

7. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, roll it out to a 18-by-10-inch rectangle. Spread butter as evenly as possible over the upper two-thirds of the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Fold the bottom (unbuttered) third of the dough up to the middle. Fold the top third down to cover it.

8. Lightly flour the top of the dough, and work surface. Turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to your right. Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 18-by-8-inches. Roll rapidly, starting an inch from the near end, and going to within an inch of the far end. Fold again in three, as above. Wrap in plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator for 1 hour.

9. Remove dough from refrigerator. Sprinkle lightly with flour, and deflate the dough by tapping lightly with rolling pin. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 8 minutes to relax gluten, if necessary. Repeat rolling and folding process twice more, as above. If the butter has hardened and congealed into flakes, beat the dough with light firm taps going from one side to the other until butter has softened. It must be able to extend the length and width of the rectangle inside the dough as you roll it out until it has softened. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. If refrigerating overnight, cover with a board and a 5- pound weight. Resting overnight will facilitate shaping.

10. Shape the croissants: When shaping the croissant, keep the dough that you are not working with refrigerated. Place chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface. Deflate dough. Roll the dough out to a 25-by-12-inch rectangle. (If at any time the dough becomes too elastic to work with, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let rest 10 minutes, to relax gluten.) Cut in half lengthwise. Working with one piece of dough at a time, using a pastry wheel or a croissant cutter, cut into triangles with a 5-inch base.

11. Roll the triangles out to enlarge slightly. Roll towards the tip, creating tension by using your other hand to stretch the top of the triangle away from you. The dough should overlap 3 times with the tip sticking out from underneath.

12. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet leaving 2 inches between croissants. Curve the ends of the croissant inward, forming a crescent shape. Repeat with second piece of dough. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until very spongy and doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

13. Preheat oven to 475°. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and heavy cream, and lightly brush over tops of croissants. Open the oven door, spritz the oven heavily with water from a spray bottle, and quickly close the door. Place croissants in oven, and spray bottom of oven with water once more. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes. After 10 minutes, rotate pan to ensure even baking. Reduce oven temperature to 400°, and continue to bake until cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Mousse and the Diabetic

No, no, it’s not about me suffering from self induced sweet related diabetic coma…but rather about my father- in- law who has diabetes but still would like to try some of my desserts. We have been sampling a few different mousses lately and today was such a hot day that I got inspired yet again by the wondurful Mercotte and her mascarpone mousses, but greatly tweaked them to accomodate a diabetic diet.

I tried to make them as sugar free as possible without sacrificing taste ansd texture and I think it worked. I don’t think I’d be making these instead of the regular version but the mousses were good and B. mentionned he kinda felt good knowing he was eating "less full fat/full sugar" How dare he turn all healthy/shmancy on me now?

Here is my variation. I agree they were not bad at all, I’d rather splurge on the "real ones" now and worry later…

Mascarpone Mousse: whisk 2 egg yolks (save the whites for later in the recipe) with 1/4 Splenda, add 100g mascarpone, the zest and juice of one lemon.
Soften one sheet of gelatin in cold water. Heat 50 ml. heavy cream, when the cream is hot, add the soften gelatin and sissolve.
Beat 100 ml. heavy cream to stiff peaks and incorporate to the mascarpone cream.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks with a Tb. of Splenda and add them to the mascarpone mousse. Layer the mousse in pretty dishes.

For the fruit gelee topping: cut some strawberries and lay them on top of the cream. In a small saucepan heat up 1/2 cup of sugar free berry jam (raspberry, strawberry, I used blackerry) and add 1/2 sheet of gelatin softened in cold water. Let cool a little bit and slowly pour on top of the mascarpone mousses. Cover with plastic wrap and let set in the fridge.

Dessert Cosmopolitan

I don’t know what it is with me and lemons or even Cosmos lately. It’s got to be related to this spring/summer weather we’ve been having. I have felt inclined to make me a nice chilled Cosmos on a couple of occasions but wisdom ended up taking over and I had a nice tall glass of lemon water instead.
Well, I played with the notion of a Cosmo for dessert a few nights and I finally came up with this dessert Cosmo. I took the most noticeable flavors of the drink, turned them into mousses and gelees and poured them into nice Martini glasses. I got inspired by the lovely desserts of Mercotte, especially her verrines and other creations.

Here is her recipe for the 'Cremes au Citrons' in French and my interpretation:

La recette : pour 6 à 8 verres selon la tailleLa crème au citron: 8cl de jus de citron, 2 œufs, le zeste d’1 citron ½, 100g de sucre, 100g de beurre, ou un peu moins. Dans un cul de poule mélanger le sucre et les zestes hachés très fin, ajouter le jus des citrons et les œufs. Laisser épaissir le mélange au bain-marie en remuant. Ajouter le beurre au mixer plongeant quand la T° est entre 55 et 60°, sans incorporer d’air.Verser tout de suite dans les verres et laisser refroidir, la crème va prendre très vite.

Variation : she cooks her cream/ curd on top of a water bath, but I eliminated that step and cooked it directly on top of the stove over medium/low heat.

The recipe for 6 to 8 glasses: 80 ml of lemon juice, the zest of 1 1/2 lemon, 2 eggs, 100g sugar, a little less than 100g butter. Put everything in a saucepan and cook over medium low/ medium heat whisking constantly so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. Remove from the heat and slowly add the butter. Let cool and when still lukewarm add 3-4 Tb vodka for your Cosmos.

For the cranberry part: boil 2 cups of cranberry juice until reduced to 1 cup. Soften 1 sheet gelatin (or 2 tsp. powdered gelatin) in cold water. Whn soft add to the hot cranberry juice and let cool.
Meanwhile, wash and cut some strawberries and put them on top of each Martini glass.
When the cranberry juice mixture is cooled but not set yet, slowly pour it on top of the strawberries. Cover the glasses with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely set.

It was awesome..I am happy…again!

Dark Chocolate Reeses cookies

I admit that since I have been living in the US, my fondness for peanut butter has greatly improved, (especially since I can find it crunchy and sweet at the same time). However, I still can’t get to eat Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. I don’t know if it is the taste or the texture or a mix of both but the candy is really too sweet for me and that is big for me to say, because I have been known to devour truffles by the boxes in my younger days. Mr. B. on the other hand, being the full blown southern boy that he is, luuuves the little candies. I have had my eye on the limited edition of the dark chocolate peanut butter cups for quite some time, as in " just to give them one last shot" (all this of course for the sake of this blog…), but at $3.19 a bag, I kept on finding a nicer bar of European chocolate to enjoy…until monday when there was a bin of reduced price items at the grocery store and I found the cups for $1.50 a bag….and in the shopping cart they went and then they sat on the counter top until today.

I had them, now what? Eat them straight out of the bag? We rarely have candy or chocolate out around the house even during the holidays. I usually keep little squares of dark espresso chocolate for coffee when we have guests or the occasional Kinder Egg when I get a care package from France. If I did not like my husband I could tell him to go ahead and clog his arteries up by digging in, but you see I love him dearly and would rather gave him a sweeter, more interesting way of clogging up than a straight piece of trans fat…why not adding butter and brown sugar to the mix, a little flour and a couple of eggs and "voila!"…Dark Chocolate Reeses Peanut Butter Cookies aka "One A day May not Keep the Doctor Away" cookie.

For the batter I used the recipe for the Soft Baked chocolate cookies by Trish Boyle that I posted before, and added a whole bag of the peanut butter cups chopped up and folded with a rubber spatula into the dough.
The result: it was Ok not Wow…I have been proven wrong, they might have been better straight out of the bag, still the cookies had a nice peanut butter chocolate flavor, everything the B. guy loves. When he is happy, I am happy!

A Lemony Mood

I have been craving and eating everything lemony under the sun lately, and my confections these past few days clearly reflect that. I seem to be tolerating high amounts of anything tart, citrusy and puckery but I think that B. has reached his limit…I might have also since my tongue seems to be citrus-burned!
I love martinis and cosmos and bought a set of martini glasses for Christmas but I have yet to serve a Martini in them! Up until now I have only used them to plate different mousses and layered desserts such as triflles and reconstructed cheesecakes.

The inspiration for this one came from The Domestic Goddess and her Frozen Lemon Cheesecake.
My modifications: I halved the recipe, I layered the whole thing in pretty glasses. I used limes for lemons and mascarpone instead of cream cheese, and crumbled Oreos instead of chocolate chip cookies. Last thing, I refrigerated the whole thing instead of freezing.
It was delicious and tart without an artificial flavor of citric acid that often masks lime and lemon desserts at certain bakeries and restaurants using pre – made lemon/lime curds. I am surprised I even liked the chocolate of the cookies with the lime mousse. I had my doubt about this one as I am one of the very few people (seems like) who do not really like the combinations of chocolate and fruit (raspberry, orange, lemon,…) I must be growing up or something.

Here is my modified recipe:

Lime Cheesecake Martinis:

1 cup oreos crumbs

3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2eggs, beaten lightly

1 tablespoon grated lime zest

8 ounces mascarpone cheese , at room temperature

1 cup whipping cream

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in lime juice then beaten eggs until smooth. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until sauce thickens to a pudding-like consistency. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, whip mascarpone until smooth. Add lime mixture and combine.
Place whipping cream in a separate bowl and beat until stiff. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into mascarpone mixture then fold in remaining whipped cream until smooth.
Start layering the Oreos and lime cream into pretty glasses and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Man, that was good !

Quick, Quick

… before it’s too late and there is no point in posting about this birthday cake:

Every year for my birthday, my loved ones are faced with the same dilemna: since I am a pastry chef they feel like I should get a day off and not havee to make my own birthday cake but at the same time they don’t want to offend me making one or buying one at the store…everyone but my mothe-in-law…and bless her heart for it because I would have ende up saturday night with zippo treat to put a candle on…! She went to Wal-Mart and got me one of their mini cakes. I really dislike store bought cakes in America, sorry…here is the French snob in me but I am used to Daubos cakes in my little French Village outside of Paris. Now, I have to admit that this past Saturday I found myself all alone celebrating my day since B. was playing 2 music jobs back to back and when I got home after the gym, I found this little morsel of buttercream staring me in the fridge…a couple of Cosmos later and I was eating some for dinner…and I liked (yes I did!) the super artificial taste of buttercream…for about 10 minutes, then the little slice I had seemed to sit on my stomach and not go anywhere… or maybe it was the drinks…oh well, I toasted to myself and went to bed.
Thank you B’s Mom! At least she knows the importance and symbolism of a cake on a birthday.

Some Time Off

It is by no personal choice that I have not posted in a while…I have been preparing some yummy things to blog about but, since the Frenchies have left we have been enjoying some time alone, eating out, cleaning house and being lazy…

Saturday was my birthday and I got a new digital camera so I have been playing with it a lot! I still have to figure out a few things and I will be back with delectable photos and recipes very soon.

They did it!

Zee cake…

Zee Happy Couple

T & D finally tied the knot after 5 or 6 years of dating! WooHoo!!
My brother and his daughter left the day before and my 5 year old niece was really happy to give me a hand with the wedding cake…and it did not turn out to be perfect like I wanted but D. was a forgiving bride and I am glad it was low key affair.
The flavors were great but as you can see the sides were not straight…oh well, nobody cared but me….!

Now that the french are gone, I am back to my regular postings…