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Sour Cherries, Avocado and Mascarpone Verrines


I am not what people would call a "fashion victim", food wise or clothes wise. I know the shape and curves of my body and what will feel good on it, what fabric I like and cuts that I love and look good on me. The same goes with food… with the exception of verrines, or what one might call "creations in a glass". Whether savory or sweet I have been fascinated by them since I saw them on Mercotte's blog over a year ago, and since I was given this book at Christmas. The European culinary scene seems to have been quite fond of them for a couple of years now and I totally fell for them , so go ahead…say it…I am a verrine fashion victim…and it is mighty sweet.

I am also another kind of food fashion victim as I love to participate in blog events. Not only do I have the chance to share my passion with others but I also discover a multitude of great blogs and talented cooks everywhere in the world. When I read about Chris from Mele Cotte’s event Cooking to Combat Cancer, I knew I could not sit back and not participate.

Too many people in my life have been taken away by cancer, particularly my grandmother and my brother. I felt complete loss of control when they died: could I do anything to prevent this in me? Probably not if it is in my genetic profile, but since there is no way to know and since our family health history is not that great, it could certainly be improved, and I could do my part with what I would put in my body. My diet was not bad to start with since my parents very rarely served us boxed or processed foods but I think I developed a sort of acute awareness to the cancer fighting essentials around me.

I know what looks good on me, but I also know what does my body good and food wise, even desserts can do their part in fighting cancer. For this particular event I wanted a shock full of cancer fighting foods in evey bite and although I was not sure how my little creation would turn out I thought it was worth the try. These verrines turned particularly tasty, surprisingly tasty!
I am new to avocados in desserts but after my first try a few days ago, I have to say I am a convert and they won’t go only in my salads anymore!

Sour Cherries, Avocado and Mascarpone Verrines:

Makes 4-8, depending on the size of the glas you use.

Mascarpone mousse:

5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces mascarpone, softened to room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Cream together egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until mixture is thick and doubled in volume. Remove from heat. Stir in the mascarpone until completely blended.
In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Avocado Mousse:

3 avocados, pitted, skin removed and cut into cubes
1/4 sugar, or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
juice of 1 lime
In a food processor, combine the avocados, sugar and lime juice and puree until smooth. Whip the cream to soft peaks and slowly fold it in the avocado mixture.

Sour Cherry Topping:

1 cup sour cherries
1 cup sour cherry jam

Heat the jam and cherries over low heat. Let cool to room temperature until ready to assemble.

Assemble:

Do this just before serving as the avocado will oxydize a bit and get brown over time.

Layer the mascarpone and avocado mousse in glasses or conainers of your choice and top each with a 2-3 Tb. of the sour cherry mixture.

This dessert is health in a glass (if you forget the heavy cream….) as avocados are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body. They are also high in protein, fiber, niacin, thiamin, ribofalvin, folic acid, zinc and healthy fats (see…you can forget about the heavy cream!). Cherries contain the anti-cancer bioflavonoid quercetin.

Update: I apparently converted my temperatures wrong for the salted butter caramels. I corrected the recipe accordingly.

Sunflower Bulgarian Bread: WTSIM Easter Basket

Do you ever get stuck on one picture and its recipe while reading your favorite blogs and you go back to it many many times? The minute I saw this bread, I hit the "add to favorite' button, and stared at it several times a day while reading emails or researching items on the computer. The recipe comes originally from Zapbook and has already traveled the French blogosphere quite a bit during this past month. I have been fond of Petite Lolie’s blog from the day I stumbled upon it. There is something aboout her site…it is beautiful, that’s what it is. Full of life, warmth, knowledge, know hows ans how tos…It’s fresh and abundant in lip smacking recipes.

Although the exact source of the bread is unknown, the recipe delivers a sunflower looking like brioche. I followed Petite Lolie recommendation and added a bit more sugar. I don’t think I kneaded the dough quite enough as the the texture of the dough was not as soft as my previous brioche. Always room for improvement. The actual shaping of each roll may seem time consuming but it took me about 15-20 minutes and the end result (look wise) is well worth it.

Sunflower Bulgarian Bread, adapted from Zapbook and Petite Lolie:

200 gr. milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
500 gr. flour
2 tsp. dry yeast
50 gr. melted butter
extra melted butter for shaping the rolls

Put the yeast in a non reactive bowl. Heat the milk to lukewarm, and pour it over the yeast. Stir with a fork or spoon to make sure it dissolves properly. Add 2 Tb. sugar and slat and let the yeast proof for 10 minutes.
In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, eggs, remaining sugar, melted butter. Turn the mixer on slow and slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Let the dough come together and continue the kneading either by hand or with the mixture for a good 5-8 minutes.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Shaping of the bread:
Once the dough has risen, divide it into 16 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a circle or oval. Take one piece, brush with melted butter, stack another piece on it, brush with melted butter again and repeat with 2 other portions. You are actually making 4 stacks of 4 portions each. Roll each stack tightly. Cut each into 4 triangular pieces. Position the rolls in a 10 inch round pan, with pointy ends facing toward the center.
Let rise for another 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375. Once the dough has risen, brush with an egg wash (egg beaten with some milk) and bake for 30 minutes.

End result…one could argue that brioche is brioche and this is yet another recipe. But come on, look at those plump folds! Every nation has its version of the basic brioche dough and I like exploring other cultures through bread baking. I am looking forward to making this one again, probably for the only reason that it looks gorgeous, tastes great, behaves well, and made my morning brighter! Yep, I am not complicated…making bread fuels my fire! I am wondering if such a bread exists in Bulgaria so I am on the lookout for a source, let me know if you have one.

One thing for sure: I am definetely putting this in my Easter Basket to be delivered to The Passionate Cook as part of this month’s Waiter There’s Something In My…(and because my dear mother in law is organizing brunch next sunday, as a pre-Easter menu testing).

Sugar High Friday 29: Cocoa Nibs Pavlovas

Well, there is more to these than just "pavlovas"…

I really thought I would have to sit this one out…The theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday was "Raw Chocolate" …. where am I going to find raw chocolate in my neck of the woods? There were the obvious choices like homemade chocolate including cocoa butter in the ingredient list, or cocoa nibs that I had successfully located a couple months back. I was feeling less than inspired. I kept looking at my pantry, at the cocoa nibs, at the fridge, and then inspiration came late friday night with these:

Cocoa Nib Pavlovas, Avocado Cream, Honeyed Strawberry and Pineapple, Cocoa Nib and Pistachio Praline….

Yep….just that…Really, I can’t be left alone… and before you turn your heads away, let me tell you that sweet avocado rocks! I wanted to keep up with the raw theme throughout this dessert so beside the cocoa nibs everything else is in its original form. I thought at first of filling the meringue disks with a citrus curd or a chocolate cream, but I wanted something soft and light that would let your mouth taste the cocoa nibs as well as the crunch of the praline.

I am not going to lie, I was a bit skeptical about having avocados on the sweet side, but I found tons of recipes out there for avocado dessert so it gave me the confidence to break away from my savory conceptions and get whipping. And you know what…it is amazingly good!

All the components can be made up to one day ahead. These were assembled and served saturday night for a dinner party. I did not tell people about the avocado part, everybody assumed it was pistachio custard until one guest asked me for the recipe and everybody stopped eating, raised their heads, looked at their dessert funny for a minute and digged in again to the sound of :"crunch…crunch…crunch…this is so surprising…this is so good…"

Cocoa Nibs Pavlovas, adapted from Eggbeater, via Simply Recipes:

Makes 12 shells, but I only used 6.

3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup cocoa nibs

Preheat oven to 275.
Mix the sugar and corn starch and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the ballon whisk, start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar mixture in a slow steady stream, or one tablespoon at a time. Stop the mixer and with a spatula, fold in the cocoa nibs.
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper, and with a large spoon, mounds 12 meringue rounds. Bake at 275 for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 and bake for another 20 minutes. At this point you can remove them from the oven, or turn the oven off and let them cool in the oven for a few hours. I let mine sit there overnight.

Avocado Cream, adapted from Avocado.org:

Serves 6

3 avocados, pitted, skin removed and cut into cubes
1/4 sugar, or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
juice of 1 lime

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Cocoa Nib and Pistachio Praline:

100 gr. sugar, divided
1/4 cocoa nib
1/4 shelled raw pistachios

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, melt 50 gr. sugar until light golden brown. Add the remaining 50 gr. sugar and stir until the sugar melt and the caramel is dark golden. Remove from the heat, quickly add the nuts and the nibs. Pour it onto the sheet pan and let cool completely. Break into pieces to decorate the meringues.

For the fruit I just cut up some strawberries and pineapple and drizzled them with some honey to taste.

Assemble the Pavlovas:
Do this just before serving.
Set one meringue disk on a plate. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the avocado cream. Spoon some fruit over the cream and add piece of praline to decorate.

This was perfect last night, as it was still over 80 degrees at 8pm, and it finished our dinner al fresco with style, simplicity and a very light feeling both in the stomach and the mouth.

Salted Butter and Chocolate Caramels

These are soft, chocolatey homemade butter caramels with a hint of salt linguering on my tongue…and I admit it without guilt or shame that I have been eating way too many of them..the ones in the picture were gone in one minute… oops…

I admit that I am a bit of a caramel, cooked sugar, freak and it is not uncommon that I play with it for fun or to enhance a dessert. I am particularly fond of salted butter caramel anything and I was in heaven when we visited Normandy and Brittany because caramels are everywhere (region’s specialty) Unfortunately, B. and I are out…we finished the last one a couple of weeks ago and we are starting to show some signs of "salted butter caramels deprivation"…and it got me thinking that there must be a tried and true recipe out there that I can cook up to save us.

I started searching familiar cooking sites and pondered on this one from Epicurious, but the 70/30 rate of success and disaster made me discard it (and there were some pretty awful reviews)… After some more research I found myself on Guillemette's blog again, staring at these several times a day.

Even if you are a novice baker/cook, I encourage you to try your hand at these, especially following the recipe below as it is simple and straightforward. Making homemade caramels is not complicated but some steps are important to follow:
– just like with any other confections or desserts, only use the best quality ingredients available
-always undercook your caramel, meaning do not let it get dark golden, because it will continue to cook once removed from the heat
– buy a candy thermometer, it is cheap and will make your life so much easier
-be patient. Depending on the humidity or heat in your house, your caramel might take longer to cook than what the recipe says…but always read your thermometer and don’t try to outsmart burning sugar…

Salted Butter and Chocolate Caramels, adapted from Guillemette:

100 gr. salted butter
3 gr. sea salt
50 gr. bitter sweet dark chocolate
20 ml. water
100 gr. light corn syrup
250 gr. sugar
200 ml. heavy cream

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over hot water bath and set aside. Heat the cream to lukewarm in the microwave also, and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, set over medium heat, combine the water and corn syrup. Add the sugar and let it caramelize until it reaches a light golden brown.
Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream to the caramel. It will bubble like made but do not worry…it will not bubble over and things come down eventually.
Return the pan to the heat and add the butter and the salt. Let the mixture cook until a thermometer registers 118 C ( about 245 F). Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until completely smooth.
Pour into a parchment lined 8X8 inch baking dish. Let sit overnight.
Unmold and cut squares the next day. Wrap them in parchment paper or candy foil if they last long enough to be packed up for guests.

Here are the converted measurements, thanks to Lisa from La Mia Cucina:

½ c. salted butter
½ tsp. sea salt
2 oz. bitter sweet dark chocolate
2 Tb water
1/3 c. light corn syrup
1 ¼ c. sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

Spinach Chappatis: Thinking Outside My Bread Box

It is an understatement to say that B. and I love Indian food. We particularly love it when it comes from a small restaurant down our street. We have visited them quite enough to be familiar faces, but we always come back because of their sincere kindness and love of good food. You can’t be in a rush while visiting them. Everything is prepared fresh so it is not unusual to wait 45 minutes for an awesome lamb curry and a plate of piping hot naan, chappatis or parathas. It’s not that we go there every week but each time we never order from the menu and instead surrender to whatever the chef feels like cooking. There is nothing like giving him carte blanche because he then prepares foods the genuine way, does not shy on the spices and even agrees to give me some cooking secrets and tips.

Many moons ago, he told me how to make chappatis and since I make curry or other related Indian dishes a couple of times a month, I always end up calling the restaurant for an order of bread for fear mine won’t be as tasty as theirs.

It’s funny how a couple of things prompted me to make these awesome spinach chappatis. I have this big blue binder in which I collect recipes found on other blogs, cooking sites and such and every three months or so I pull it out and weed through the ones that I know I will never make, the ones I can find again easily, or the ones that have actually ended up on this blog. As I was looking for a brioche recipe (yes again), I found one I had printed exactly a year ago for 'cottage cheese and spinach chappatis". I was making lamb curry that night and since on Sundays, I usually prepare a couple of bread items, rolls, baguettes, sliced bread, brioche and things like that, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to think outside my bread box and make a batch.
I followed the recipe to the letter and ended up with six beautiful flat breads. We ate a couple that night and I have used the remainder throughout the week for lunch wraps and for individual pizzas. Perfect!

I found the recipe on Saffron Hut and since I did not change a thing from it, I will just give you the link. I followed the basic version for the chappatis (meaning no potato stuffing) but given how good they turned out, I plan on making Saffron’s full recipes for the parathas. Undoubtedly, I will still order some from the restaurant but I intend to broaden my horizons of Indian breads.

Happy baking!

Carrot Cupcakes: Celebrate A Birthday And A Craving

Today is my brother’s 34th birthday so "Joyeux Anniversaire Arnaud"!

I had a serious craving for carrot cake or muffin or cupcake last night so I figured I would make a small batch and send him one via this blog as a token of my love and friendship.

I don’t mean to get all too sugary sweet but I am fortunate that over the years our relationship evolved as well as it has and from being bickering sibblings with a short age difference we are now able to go on vacation together, share a kitchen and forget about the small stuff. I only wish, now that I have finally discovered what a great guy he is, that we did not live that far away from each other as he and his family are in Toulouse, France.

Back to the recipe…I often precook vegetables on the weekends for the days I have late evening training sessions and the last thing I want is to spend one more minute on my feet. I remember I had cooked carrots, broccoli and cauliflower in the hope I’d get around to making pretty vegetable purees or souffles one night…did not happen so when I opened the freezer and found 2 cups of cooked pureed carrots the only thought that came to my mind was "carrot cake"…Eh Doc! At least I am getting my vegetables in…!

I had bookmarked the recipe ages ago and just got around to doing it, killing two birds with one stone by celebrating a birthday and indulging a craving. I decided not to use nuts or other fruit such as pineapple or raisins in the filling because all I wanted to taste was the sweetness of the carrots, but feel free to add them if you fancy them. Thank goodness I ended up giving most of them to the neighbors because I could have easily polished off a whole tray!

Carrot Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting, adapted from Joy of Baking:

Makes 12 cupcakes

2 cups cooked and mashed carrots, cooled
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup (240 ml) canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups (230 grams) powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a muffin pan with cooking spray. I did not use muffin liners but feel free to do so.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
In bowl of electric mixer, beat the eggs until pale. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light colored. Add the oil and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Fold in the carrots and chopped nuts. Evenly divide the batter among the muffin tins and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Frosting:
In bowl of electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter, on low speed, until very smooth with no lumps. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat, on low speed, until fully incorporated and smooth.

Decorate with nuts or coconut or anything you like.

Pillow Cheesecake With Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

Yep…a cheesecake….If you are new to blogging or this whole food blogging thing you might be wondering why so many of us are baking and writing about cheesecakes this week. Why? We are answering "The Call" shouted by Peabody a few weeks back inviting to participate in "Hay Hay It’s Donna Day" #10, originally created by Barbara.

There are a few reasons why this one got named "Pillow Cheesecake". It came from a conversation I had with B. one night, comfortably resting our heads on our mountain of pillows as we were contemplating going to sleep but found ourselves completly captivated by the subject of cheesecake. Why sleep when you can spend the next 45 minutes pondering a mighty important question: "what constitutes a great cheesecake?"
Disclaimer: the upcoming answers only apply to the author of this blog and her husband. Individual experiences may vary.

"It has to be fluffy…can’t be dense or a block…"

"yeah….Pillow Soft…"

"gotta have some chocolate, somewhere…"

" and a hint of citrus…"

"pass me another salted caramel (brought back from Normandy)…."

"I think I just took the last one…"

"allright, then it has to have some salted butter caramel something somewhere somehow…"
…..and then we decided to go to sleep….Mom always told me never to go to bed angry, but she forgot to tell me about not going to bed hungry…we had cheesecake dreams the whole night!

Kidding aside, here were my directives for this cheesecake: chocolate, citrus, fluffy texture and salted butter caramel. How to put it all together without creating something utterly weird?

I opted to put the chocolate in the crust and settled on a recipe by Trish Deseine simply because I have been telling myself every single day that even though I have already made the same recipes at one point or another in my life, I have not made hers and maybe I should…and there it was, the perfect picture of a perfect chocolate shortbread cookie. I made the entire batch but only used half for the cheesecake bottom and froze the remaining for a later use.

For the batter, I have plenty a recipes on file in my memory bank from my days at the restaurant. For the citrus element, I grated a whole lemon and added the zest to the batter (no juice). Since i was not making a lemon cheesecake per se, I just wanted that extra bite in the background.

The secret to that "pillow" texture that B. was talking about (or was it me….can’t remember…I agreed anyway), I separated the egg yolks from the whites and whipped the latter to stiff peaks before incorporating them to the batter. I admit that my days were so full at the restaurant that I skipped this step 75 % of the time. The cakes were denser but still not brick, because I used less eggs and added a Tb of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of creme fraiche.

For the sauce, I perused a few of my favorite French blogs in search of the perfect salted butter caramel sauce and found one that I liked too much to change or alter. If you read French, head over Guillemette’s blog Chocolat & Caetera, you will not be disappointed but you are sure to get hungry!

Pillow Cheesecake with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce:

It is better to start the cake a day ahead of time, as it needs to refrigerate for a leat 6 hours.

Serves 12

Chocolate Shortbread Base, from Trish Deseine:

250 gr. butter, very cold, cubed small

85 gr. sugar

300 gr. flour

25 gr. cacao powder

Preheat the oven to 350.Work the butter, sugar, flour and cacao with a food processor or your fingers to get a sandy mixture. Work the dough for a minute. Divide the dough in half. Reserve one half to make shortbread cookie or refrigerate for another time.Press one half into the bottom of a 10 or 12 inch springform pan. Bake for 40 minutes.Let cool completely.

Cheesecake Batter:

2 pounds cream cheese, softened

1 stick butter (115 gr), softened

1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

1 cup sugar

5 eggs

2 Tb. cornstarch, sifted

zest of one lemon

Combine the cream cheese, butter, sugar, lemon zest, creme fraiche and cornstarch in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until combine. Do not incorporate too much air or the cake will crack. Make sure the cream cheese and butter are very soft. Add the egg yolks one at a time and whip just until combined.Whip the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold them in the cream cheese batter.
Pour the batter over the chocolate shortbread crust. The batter will reach the rim of the cake. Wrap your springform pan with heavy duty aluminium foil, set it in a large roasting pan, add enough hot water to come up halfway up the side of the pan. Bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. Turn the oven off, crack the door of the oven open and let your cake cool in there for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and refrigerate completely for a few hours or better yet overnight.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce, adapted from Guillemette:

240 gr. sugar

80 ml water

115 gr salted butter

150 ml heavy whipping cream

In a heavy saucepan set over low heat, combine the sugar and water and heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter. Let it come to a boil and cook until it reaches a golden caramel color. Remove from the heat and add the cream ( it will splatter and get crazy, but do not fear and trust the recipe). Whisk to combine and put back on the stove. Let it come to a boil again over low heat and cook 10-15 minutes until you reach a nice creamy consistency. Pour into a jar and try to refrain yourself from drinking it!

This one was a keeper. We had friends over that evening and we could not stop pigging out. The cake was so light it was a sin. The sauce was so incredible we are all guilty of gluttony….it is decadent over ice cream.

Pear And Blue Cheese Mini Cakes With Cardamom and Rosemary

Let me start by saying "thank you" for understanding my frustration last night and for your support which prevented me from banging my head against the computer screen or eating half the cheesecake I had baked earlier. I love the blogging community because whatever ails you, evening something trivial as losing your post, a lot of you came and offered advice, humor and great relief that I may not be a complete 'puter moron after all!

Now back to our regular programming.

It is no news that I have been hooked on blogging events… like an addict I impatiently await my directives every month and the creative and talented Meeta did not disappoint with her latest Monthly Mingle focusing on savory cakes. I was happy to come up with something that would combine my love of savory and sweet foods. Yes, B. and I do not live on desserts and pastries only….well except on sundays it seems like!

The first time my mom made a savory cake I thought it to be the strangest thing in the world…back then I already knew I would live for all things sweet! She would bake, slice thick and cubes perfect morsels of cakes with ham and gruyere, roasted red pepper and feta, crab and dill, etc…her combinations were endless. They became some my favorite items to make and serve with a glass of wine before dinner, at a cocktail party and other events involving finger foods. I regret not copying her recipe down when I visited this past Christmas and my parents are relax in the Alps I chose not to bither them with such a small inquiry. I figured I could easily come up with my own and so I went googling around. After reading many a savory cake recipe I finally settled on this one.

I already had an idea of what I wanted for this challenge: something sweet, something salty and one or two spices and/or herbs to complement them. I played around for a couple of days and came up with a dozen combinations of fruits such as figs/prosciutto, pineapple/ham, peppers/feta, seafood/mascarpone. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination. I decided upon pear and blue cheese because of their classic sense of companionship. I love cardamom in everything, especially crushed up over roasted pear, and the grassy flavor rosemary goes well with both fruit and blue cheese.Instead of my mom’s usually little cubed morsels, I chose to bake these in regular sized muffin tins.

Pear And Rosemary Mini Cakes With Cardamom and Rosemary, adapted from Regal:

Makes 12 muffin sized cakes

200 gr. flour (about 2 cups) You could use half regular and half whole grain flours.

2 tsp. baking powder

pinch of salt

3 eggs

10 cl. milk

5 cl. olive oil

1 pear, peeled, cored and diced

5 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

1 tsp. ground cardamom (I used fresh green pods that I crushed with the back of my knife)

1 Tb. dried rosemary

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, olive oil, and milk and whisk until well combined. Gently fold in the pear, cheese and spices/herbs with a spatula until incorporated.

Pour into muffin tins (use paper molds or grease well), and bake at 350 for 25-20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clear.

Let cool to room temperature.

Notes: baked as the recipe is written, we both regretted not taking a more pronounced stance: sweet or savory. In the morning, I would not mind a little bit more sugar whereas in the afternoon a little bit more salt would be appreciated. I am just so bad at choosing that I have come up with my own solution: a spat of strawberry jam in the morning and a spat of salted butter in the evening.

These are great for a sunday brunch, dinner party and they are great as mid morning or afternoon snacks. They taste fantastic with a cup of tea.

A Mouthful Of A Name…

Pear And Blue Cheese With Cardamom And Rosemary….

Problem is I have just spent the last hour blogging about them and Blogger &%^$$(# lost my post in cyber space and I stared at the error message on my screen cursing in French…

Right now, I don’t have the energy to re-write it….and I am still fuming… give me one hour or a day and I’ll tell you all about them escpecially since I made them for lovely Meeta's Monthly Mingle.

Sunday Baking Makes For Good Eating

People think I am crazy when I tell them how I relax on the weekends….I knead dough, I watch yeast proof and bubble, I covet the rising of my loaves and delight in the smell pervading through the house. The week has been strange and hectic as I mentionned a couple of days ago and yet the only way I know to relax and recover from it is by making breakfast treats for us or the neighbors. I have got scones in the oven as we speak and we just devoured a half of this beautiful cream cheese braid you see up there.

It seems that I have done a lot more bread baking than actual dessert making this week but what you don’t see is the behind the scene…There was a couple of birthday cakes, a French croquembouche for a wedding rehearsal and a whole lot of chocolate making. Granted some weeks my kitchen ressembles more a bakery than a restaurant but I am ready for a change with a couple of great events that are coming up. I also have to confess that the weather has been so nice that I have been caught playing outside when I should have been doing more adult chores (paying bills, cleaning, etc…no fun!)

What is special about this braid…? The cream cheese replaces most of the butter and leaves you with a very soft dough, very creamy without being over the top. The same dough can be the base of multiple variations and I usually do a hazelnut or almond filling alonside this one because it seems that one is never enough!

The inspiration to replace the butter with the cream cheese came from this recipe. The Fresh Loaf is a mine of knowledge and ressources for novice or advanced bakers and this blueberry braid filled with all that creamy goodness made me want to incorporate the cream cheese in the dough to see if the flavor would mellow through it and if the dough would be nice and soft as a pillow. I also have to say that I was getting a little lazy with the whole rolling, spreading the cheese inside, braiding, etc… thus dumping the cheese in the Kitchen Aid alongside the butter. It worked one night and I never looked back!

Cream Cheese Braid, inspired from the Fresh Loaf:

Makes 2 braids

Sponge:
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup warm milk
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough:
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 oz. butter, softened

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tb. melted butter
milk

For the sponge: mix the sugar, yeast, and flour together in bowl. Pour in the warm milk. Beat until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1/2 hour.
Add the eggs, salt, sugar, and one cup of the flour to the sponge. Beat until smooth. Then add the cream cheese and butter in small chunks and beat well. Add the remaining flour a handful at a time and mix in until you get a soft dough.
Knead the dough by hand or with a mixer about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise and room temperature until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Deflate the dough, recover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge, deflate and divide in 2 equal pieces. For the braid, I divide one piece in too and twist them together (so not exactly the conventional braid, but at this point I can’t wait any longer!!). Place it on parchment paper lined baking sheet, allow to rise 45 minutes, brush with some egg was and bake at 375 for 20- 25 minutes.

Take out of the oven, and while it cools a little, prepare the glaze. Add enough milk to the powdered sugar and melted butter to make a soft spreadable glaze and our all that goodness on your braid…and go ahead and eat because after all that you really deserve it!

Do the same for the other braid, or roll out into a rectangle and fill with your avorite filling and braid it according to the recipe on the Fresh Loaf. The details are great and you can’t mess up, makes me wish I ad blueberries left because I have the other loaf awaiting its fate in the fridge…