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Dulce de Leche Brioche Rolls

A little prep does a lot of good! Start these on saturday evening and you will be rewarded with the most comforting sunday breakfast or brunch. As a baker/cook I know that a little preparation and planning is best, but in the case of yeasted breads, I tend to get a craving at odd times of the day (read late afternoon) and find myself baking late at night, thus smelling fresh brioches and rolls right when I am about to go to bed. Granted it makes my dreams extra nice and warm but I get up to a slightly older loaf when I’d rather have a fresh piping hot roll on sunday morning.

I started these rolls on saturday evening as we decided to spend a cozy night at home, and relied on my stand mixer to do most the kneading. I divided the recipe in half, made a regular brioche with a portion of the dough and used the other half for rolls. I was thinking pecan sticky buns, or cinnamon rolls but then again I wanted creamy and caramel so I filled them with cream cheese and homemade dulce de leche, parked them in the fridge overnight and baked them on sunday morning….and reaped the rewards sitting on the couch reading the morning paper…my idea of a good day off.

Dulce de Leche Brioche Rolls, adapted from Epicurious:

1/3 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)

1/3 cup warm milk (105°F to 115°F)

2 envelopes dry yeast

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

3 large eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into 4 pieces, room temperature
1 egg, beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water (for glaze)

Place 1/3 cup warm water, warm milk, and yeast in bowl of standing heavy-duty mixer; stir until yeast dissolves. Fit mixer with dough hook. Add flour and salt to bowl; mix on low speed just until flour is moistened, about 10 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl.
Beat in 3 eggs on low speed, then add sugar. Increase speed to medium and beat until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding next (dough will be soft and batter-like). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Lift up dough around edges and allow dough to fall and deflate in bowl.
Cover bowl with plastic and chill until dough stops rising, lifting up dough around edges and allowing dough to fall and deflate in bowl every 30 minutes, about 2 hours total. Cover bowl with plastic and refrigerate an hour.

Take the dough out of the fridge and divide in half.

For the buns: roll out the dough to a 14×9 inch rectangle. Spread 1/3 cup softened cream cheese, leaving a 1 inch border. Spread the Dulce de Leche on top, it is messy, it will spread but hey! it’s good. Roll into a log and cut into 12 pieces. Place them in a buttered 9 inch round pan, cover and refrigerate until the next morning. The dough will rise slowly overnight.

In the morning, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

You can repeat with the other half or make a brioche loaf like I did (for another post).

Dulce de Leche:

I use "boil til done" method: take a 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk and put in a large stockpot or dutch oven. Fill with water well above the can. Turn the heat on high and let it boil for a couple of hors. Make sure there is always enough water to cover the can.

Nostalgia & Riz Au Lait

Rice pudding is not something I make on a regular basis. Adding to the things you did not know about me, I have carbs/desserts food quirks: I don’t know why I can easily justify the carbs of a cake but yet have a difficult time justifying carbs like bread or rice puddings for dessert…I guess it’s got to do with the visiualisation of the grain/sin at hand. I know, I know..I have probably passed a lot of wonderful recipes that way but I am changing…

I usually think about desserts like rice pudding as the ultimate cold weather food, the kind awaiting you after a long walk in the snow or a breezy stroll on a northern seashore. Well, I live in a warm region of the US and the numbers of cold days we have had so far is still in the single digits, not very enticing for long braised dishes, stews and warm puddings. We are grilling, in our shorts and sandals and enjoying massive amount of ice cream, tarts and cakes. I am not really complaining, but a little cold makes you appreciate a warm evening by the fire, and would give me the desire to turn the oven on. For my fellow bloggers up north: I am not complaining….!

If you have read this so far, I have just given you what would be perfectly good reason for me not to make Rice Pudding… so why oh why did I make it? Well, a couple of days ago I called my mom and we started talking about the few flecks of snow they had just had during the night, how my grandfather was feeling the cold weather in his arthritic knees, how much he was missing my grandmother and of course how much she dislikes northern weather being from Montelimar, but as long as there was sunshine she was ok. From that moment on and until we hung up, I could feel my heart fill up with nostalgia, the faint aroma of my grandmother’s rice pudding drifting through my kitchen and when I closed my eyes I could taste the soft vanilla sugar each spoonfull would leave on my mouth. Miles away from home and from the people I hold dear and miss everyday, I had found myself in their space, in their present thanks to another food memory, and if you knew my grandmother, it would not surprise you a bit.

While I was home this past Christmas, I asked my grandfather if I could look through her boxes of recipes. Two large biscuits (cookies) tins that she had filled over the years with various magazine clipped recipes, many handwritten ones for family favorites or from friends. There were many duplicates, which made us laugh aplenty…how many rabbit terrines recipes does one woman need? We found 5, all the same…. I was looking for a few specific ones: her apple tart, clafoutis, chocolate and lemon cakes, and her rice pudding. I am pretty sure I am the only one who remembers it. See, it was not real dessert…it was the magical dessert she would make us when we were sick. Hers was soupy if you were really bad, sweeter if you were on the mend. Me, I liked being in the middle, especially because she would add some fruits to it and she would never forget to put a whole vanilla bean in it.

If you have read my last post, you know that I am known as the "Queen of sticky rice". I don’t cook fluffy grain, I always end up with mush, no matter what tutorial or chef I follow. I think I gave Chef Roland a few grey hair back at the restaurant! But it’s grandma’s "Riz au Lait" we are talking about! You can imagine it took me less than 30 seconds to put the saucepan on, the vanilla out and the Nostalgia in! Here is her recipe, no specific source given which was rare for her, so I am guessing it was a recipe that evolved with time and she finally came to a combination if ingredient that she liked and worked for her.

Mamie Paulette’s Riz Au Lait (Rice Pudding):

Serves 4

3 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
2 oz arborio rice
1 vanilla bean
1 oz. butter

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean split in half, and the rice. Cook over low heat until all the milk is absorbed and the rice is nice and tender. Take the pan off the heat, remove the vanilla bean, and whisk in the butter. Pour into ramequins and serve warm or refrigerate if you have to wait to eat it…but that would be a shame!
Serve with fruits or plain drizzled with some honey.

I never realized how a simple bowl of this rice pudding would bring on such a complex feeling called Nostalgia: bitter-sweet memories that make you the person you are today an yet so difficult to visit.

I am entering this recipe in Ellie’s event "Nostalgia" for March. Head over to her blog for more details and scrumptious recipes written with care and witt.

In Case You Were Curious

A couple of weeks ago Mrs. B from Eating Suburbia tagged me to participate in the "5 Things Meme" going around the bloggosphere. So here they are, 5 things you probably don’t know about me:

1/ My husband is 19 years older than I am, we have been married 9 years (july). Yet, it feels like we were married yesterday and he acts like a kid, much like his own father. When I met my husband, I felt home for the first time in months. Something was telling me to stop running, that I had found inner peace…the first day we met. My husband wrote me a 2 page letter trying to make sense of our meeting and of what forces had brought us together and left it on my doorstep…the day after we met.

2/ I have diplomas, Masters degrees, I can speak and read many languages, I can pull sugar, run marathons, and yet I CAN’T cook rice…unless it is sticky rice you want!

3/ I listen to every genre of music. My dad played classical music all the time when I was growing up and I snobbed it for a while, the college years, then I came back to it. I remember quiet weekends with us doing crafts and my dad painting while listening to music. Music is always on at our house. B. plays trombone in a Jazz band and he is always humming or listening to something and I am never faithful to one genre of music. If you were to put salsa on then and there, I would get up and start shaking my hips….if you were to put on some rock, I would start jumping up and down….or calm down with a good classical piece. I am versatile.

4/ There is a dark pink mark on my right upper thigh…not a birthmark….but the place where my brother bit me over 20 years ago….I think I said something I should not have! Ah!!

5/ I am addicted to…”Cheez It”…Yep! Discovered them when I first moved here…don’t get me the white cheddar, the spicy jalapeno, the gourmet parmesan, don’t try to repackage the reduced fat ones or buy them at the healthfood store…I am addicted to the orange neon cheddar full fat '"Cheez It"….Na! I said it! I am sure in a few years I will glow in the dark!

I am tagging:

Esther from Boxcar Kitchen

Jen from Canadian Baker

Gilly from Humble Pie

On A Quest: Gerard Mullot’s Cerisai Cakes

Gerard I need your recipe! I want it so bad I am ready to make them as many times as necessary until I get the consistency right. The originals were divine.

When I went home for Christmas, B. and I left the family for a few days and booked a hotel room in the 6th neighborhood right across from the famed bakery of Gerard Mullot. Macarons, croissants, fig and walnut bread, chocolate ganache tarts became our regular fare for breakfast. One morning I asked for one mini cake called a Cerisai: a pistachio cake with sour cherries inside…and it was heavenly light, flavorful…and B. only got my crumbs… I vowed to re-create them once I’d be back in the US and since then I have been looking for a recipe that would come close or that I could adapt and play with until I find the right way to make them. Maybe Carol can coax the man into giving the recipe away…in the meantime I’ll keep trying.

I was playing catch up on my blog reading one day and visited one of my favorite French blogs, Eggs and Mouillettes, written by the talented and witty Fabienne. She posted a recipe that made me think I would have a good start reproducing Mullot’s original. It was close to a Financier recipe and full of pistachios. I had sour cherry jam on hand so I got cranking. I had planned to follow the recipe to a T…multi-tasking with dinner and a sick dog made me leave the butter completely out of the recipe. They still turned out nice in shape and pistachios flavor but I am sure that the butter would have added a little softness to the finish product. I will try it again just as Fabienne posted it, but I already have made a list of several changes to try in upcoming attempts in re-creating them. I am that fixated…I will keep you posted with each one I make until I find the right one!

Mini Pistachio and Sour Cherry Cakes, adapted from Florence Edelmann

Makes 6 -8 cakes

100 gr. powdered sugar

40 gr. flour

125 gr. unsalted pistachios, finely ground

(120 gr. melted butter…that I forgot)

5 egg whites, lightly beaten to a foam

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cherry jam

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift together the flour and powdered sugar. Add the pistachios, the butter (if you don’t forget it), the egg beaten egg whites and the vanilla. Mix with a spatula without working it too much.
Spoon 1/4 cup in the bottom of buttered muffin tins and add a heaping Tb. of sour cherry jam. Spoon another 1/4 cup of batter on top of the jam and bake bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, these were very good but they were no where close to what I had in Paris…so back to the drawing board!

All Dressed Up…

…as Lemongrass Panna Cotta on a Blood Orange Meringue Disk with Banana Fritters and Blood Orange Mousse…and no where to go…

It was really bad not having a voice. Never take anything for granted, never…So, big deal you might say, 'at least you were not coughing, you didn’t have a fever,…you were fine otherwise'. Yes! And that was the problem. I tried to go shopping and had to write everything down in my little blue notebook for the deli guy. At the cash register I pointed at my throat and mouthed a "hello, how are you?" just to hear the girl say "excuse me, what did you say? what is wrong with your voice?"…..ahhhh pleeeaaase!! Having to stare at the caller i.d while fighting the urge to pick up when friends would call. Relying on text messaging and emails (I type faster than I can text. message so I had to drop the former) to communicate with the world. It was all a little too uncomfortable…even if I tend to be the quiet one.

The connection with this dessert?

Since I had to be on complete voice rest for 3 days, I figured the easiest way to do this was to stay put, away from talking temptations. I spent more time at home enjoying the pier, walking the dog on the beach, baking and doing some craft projects.
I found myself being inspired by this book and got started on simple Panna Cottas and this is where the rest took place: I am not trying to get all fancy on you but I had time on my hands to bake and guild the lillies and so I did more than just Panna Cottas and I still have 4 of them in the fridge and still no where special to go.

Lemongrass Panna Cottas, inspired by Richard Leach:

Serves 4-6 depending on your mold size

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

3 stalks lemongrass, chopped

zest of 1 lemon

3 tsp. powdered gelatin

Soften the gelatin, by sprinkling it over 1/3 cup water. In a heavy saucepan, heat the cream and milk with the lsugar and lemongrass until almost to boiling point. Remove from heat, let cool 2-3 minutes. Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Add the lemon zest. Pour the cream into ramequins, molds or glasses and refrigerate until set (4-6 hours)

Blood Orange Meringue Disks (adapted over time from amny different recipes)

Makes about 30

3 egg whites

200 gr. powdered sugar

125 gr. ground almonds

30 gr. granulated sugar

zest of 3 blood oranges

red food coloring

Mix the powdered sugar, ground almonds and orange zest together. Set aside. Whip the whites to a light foam, incorporate the granulated sugar one TB. at a time until you get stiff, glossy egg whites (not dry)

With a spatula, incorporate the almond/sugar with the egg whites, taking care not to break and deflate the whites too much. Add a few drop of red coloring to intensify the color.

Banana Fritters, adapted from Richard Leach:

1/2 cup + 2 Tb flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup cold water

2 bananas, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

vegetable oil for frying

Heat oil to 350.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder ad water in a bowl until smooth. Dip bananas in fritter batter. Roll in breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden brown.

Blood Orange Mousse, adapted from different recipes

Prepare a blood orange curd:

grated zest of one blood orange

1/2 cup strained blood orange juice

1/4 cupsugar

1 egg

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tb. powdered sugar

Combine zest, juice and sugar in a small saucepan on the stove and bring to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until light. Beat some of the hot blood orange mixture into the egg. Scrape the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook, stirrring constantly and reaching all over the bottom and sides of the saucepan. Continue to cook and stir for 15 seconds. Pour through a strainer set over a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent forming a skin, allow to cool before use.

Whip the heavy cream to stiff peak with the powdered sugar. Gently fold the cream into the blood orange curd with a spatula.

To assemble:

Unmold a panna cotta, set it on a meringue disk, position 3 banana fritters on the side and pipe the blood orange mousse in the middle of the fritters. Decorate with sugar decorations if desired (see here)

The weather has been so nice and warm (upper 70s) that this was a great dessert to share with a loved one. The flavors really went well together and the fritters are so light, makes you want to go for seconds…or thirds!

Easy Like Sunday Mornings

After our baking group adventures into rich dark and buttery flourless chocolate, I wanted to take it easy…which for me means making dough and kneading bread. I prepared a Danish dough last night and assembled them this morning while a couple of brioche were taking it easy rising on the countertop.
You could say that there is nothing grand about a danish but if you ever had one fresh right out of the oven I know you would disagree (unless you dislike them of course). That buttery and flaky goodness, topped off by a dollop of cream cheese, jam or frosting…Mmmm!
That’s how I like my morning: sweet, soft and looking like a pillow.

I thought about using my usual Danish dough, but I had bookmarked another one weeks ago so it was great timing to give it a try. If you have not visited Gattina's blog yet, go…no run…move those little fingers across the keyboard fast and enjoy…The girl knows her dough!
This particular version attracted me because of the way the butter is incorporated, not as a block and then tucked it, but dispersed throughout the dough. Hey! I said I like my sunday mornings easy, didn’t I?!

Rapsberry Danish, adapted from Gatttina’s:

(Recipe courtesy Beatrice Ojakangas’s The Great Scandinavian Baking Book )

Yield: 24 servings

14 g active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
330 g chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 slices. (about 3 sticks)
1/2 cup heavy/double cream
2 pinches of salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup to 1 cup raspberry jam or preserve

Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in cream, salt, eggs and sugar .
In a large mixing bowl, add flour and sliced butter, use a pastry blender to further cut the butter to the size of kidney beans
Add the yeast mixture into flour mixture, combine carefully with a big rubber spatula, the mass is just moistened enough and hold together. Cover, refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Lightly flour the work table, turn out the chilled dough, pound and flatten to make a 16 – 20 inch square. Fold into thirds making 3 layers. Turn dough around and roll out again. Fold from the short sides into thirds.
Rest in refrigerator for half an hour, repeat folding and rolling one more time. Wrap and chill the dough 30 minutes or overnight before you proceed pastry making.
Cut the dough in half and working one portion at a time (refrigerate the unused one in the meantime), roll the dough to make a 12X9inch rectangle. Cut out 3 inch squares. Fold the corners of each square toward the center and make an indentation with the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes.
Before putting them in the oven preheated at 375, brush with eggwash (egg beaten with a dab of milk) and fill the centers with jam (or cream cheese,…)
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Ice if desired with a mixture of owdered sugar dissolved in milk.

As I said: Mmmmm! No icing necessary!

Chocolate Intensity…Heaven

The flavor and taste of this cake is heaven, but I know I will probably go to hell because I am lusting after a cake…. It is facing me…sitting pretty…there….chocolaty, bittersweet, all glazed up, all dressed up…and it is too early for cake… But I think my throat could use a little love right now….and I need to take my meds with food….See what a simple flourless cake does to your head?!!!

After our croissant making weekend, our little baking group decided to go for a slightly less time consuming dessert and we settled on a flourless chocolate cake. There are as many ways to make a flourless chocolate cake as there are ways to bake them. I have some before where egg whites were beaten stiff then incorporated into the chocolate mixture, most of the time with very little butter and you end up with a very light almost meringue like cake. Not this one! My arteries kinda screamed a little when I looked at the ingredients: 3 sticks of butter, 6 whole eggs…oh! Wait! There is actually 8 ounces of Antioxidant Powerhouse dark bittersweet chocolate so I should not feel so bad!!! Even more if you count the glaze…why worry?!

Worried I became last night when I pulled these babies out. The original recipe calls for baking the cake in a 9 inch pan in a water bath. As I went to get the pan out of the cupboard, I figured I could try to make some demi sphere or pyramid cakes with the silicon pans I had, and pour the remaining batter in a 6 inch pan. The recipe is a breeze to make, seriously…I did not use the recommended chocolate but Lindt 70% bittersweet, and a dip of my fingertip in the prebaked batter gave me confirmation that this cake was going to be intense.
I baked the cakes, let them set to cool and then I could not wait any longer and cut one…and then the worrying begin. Let me explain: the taste was awesome, but the texture did not appeal to me. I don’t like puddings that much and that’s what it was, 20 minutes after sitting on the counter top….Normal I thought, I am sure that a good 6 hours in the fridge is going to concentrate all of that.. Around midnight last night, I was still up reading and decided to go ahead and make the glaze. The little spheres looked so good…They seemed a little heavier in my hands, as if they were "fudging up" so my worrying was going away.

Since I can’t talk, I can’t teach my classes or train my clients, so I have plenty of time on my hands…something I am not used to…but took the opportunity to play around with the dessert and give justice to its name by dressing up a little. I added caramelized hazelnuts, hazelnut and cocoa nibs praline and banana chips.
Thank you Mary for putting the recipe up. Head over to her blog to get the full lowdow and go check out what my other talented and witty partners in crime have created!

Here are the elements I added to plate the cakes and their respective recipes:

Caramelized Hazelnuts: (You will use the leftover caramel for the praline)

200 gr. sugar

12 hazelnuts, skin off

Fix a toothpick into each hazelnut. Cut a large block in styrofoam or use a sturdy piece of carboard. You will fix the hazelnut on it after they are dipped in the caramel.
On medium high heat, melt 100 gr. sugar to a light amber color. Add the remaining 100 gr. sugar and stir and cook until deep amber. Stop the caramelization by setting your saucepan in bowl filled with ice and water. Wait 30 seconds for the caramel to thicken a bit and dip the hazelnuts. Fix each on the styrofoam and invert it on the edge of your countertop with a pan underneath to catch the sugar. I have got an easier way by inverting the styrofoam on the edge of the open dishwasher so that any piece of caramel is washed away next time I turn it on.

Hazelnut and Cocoa Nibs Praline:

Over medium heat, re-heat the caramel you have used for the hazelnuts until liquid again, Quickly stir 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts and 2 Tb. cocoa nibs. Pour on a parchment lined baking sheet. Allow to cool completely and break in pieces.

Banana Chips:

1 ripe banana
granulated sugar

Puree one banana in a food processor until completely smooth. Cut out stencils in plastic or heavy paper. Line a couple of baking sheet with silicone mats and pour some puree into each stencils. Remove your patterns, sprinkle a bit of granultated sugar over the shapes and bake at 200 degrees F. for 40 minutes.
Peel them carefully off the mat and use a rolling pin if you ant to bend and shape them

Voiceless for Scones

No, no, you read right. I am not speechless for scones, I am voiceless. Apparently there is a new strain of allergies out there that cause people’s vocal cords to become so irritated that they become voiceless. Right this minute I am staring at a lovely cocktail of different medications supposed to make me feel better in the next 48 hours. In the meantime I am required not to talk…I am on voice rest until monday. You would think that such a situation would prevent me from eating or wanting to eat…Nope! Seems like my body has a way to accept food no matter how sick I am…Yippee!! I don’t have much of an appetite actually but the only thing I wanted this morning was a fresh hot batch of scones… and I knew exactly where to get them.
I have fallen in love whith every scone recipe I have found in Dorie’s book. They are so satisfying, tender and moist that they can make anybody feel better instantly…. B. provided me with a small pad on which to write so I would really follow the doctor’s orders and I could only come up with "Mmm..Mmmm…Mmmm. Hands off!"

If you feel really bad, these will make you feel really good. That simple. They were delicious plain, still hot right out of the oven. They were even better with some Coconut Honey.

Toasted Almond Scones, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

Makes 8 large

1 cup almonds, toasted

2 Tb. brown sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup cold heavy cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 Tb. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 stick, cold butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400.
Finely grind the nuts in a food processor with the sugar.
Stir the egg, cream and buttermilk together.
Combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and with your fingertips or a pastry blender mix the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture ressembles coarse crumbs.
Pour the liquid ingredients in the bowl and stir just until the dough comes together. I usually do everything by hand but you can use a fork.Gently and quickly knead the dough and turn it onto a floured board. Roll out the dough to about 1 inch thick and cut out desired shapes with a cookie cutter.
Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.

How do I feel now? Better but quiet. All that silence…! I sure I am glad I have not lost my tastebuds!

Soup’s On

I can see you ..eyes wide open wondering if I have gone mad…Soup? On a dessert blog….Well, what if I whisper Sauternes Poached Peach a la Herme, Luscious Lemon Ice Cream via Lori Longbotham and Ricotta Lemon Beignets thanks to Richard Leach….would you keep on reading? I am going to take a chance and assume yes. What if I add that all these found the way to make a beautiful sweet dessert soup….do you think you would want to know more….?

The February I remember was cold, rainy, grey and magical. It was the perfect time of the year for hot chocolates, hearty stews and soups. My mom made sure that every meal during the winter started with a bowl of vegetable soup, a few croutons and a dash of cream were sometimes added to make it special. I remember my grandmother making me a weird concoction when I was sick: milk and alphabet pasta soup. Most of the time I’d only take a few spoonfulls and leave it aside, it was not that flavorful. All this ended the day my grandfather added a couple of spoons of sugar…and the medecine went down… A sweet creamy soup is the best when your throat kills you, your eyes are red and your nose is numb… That moment of my life was the inspiration behind this dessert and so were the three pastry shef mentionned above….what an eclectic cast!

Two of the components of this soup can be prepared ahead of time, over several days except of course for the beignets. By the way, I realized after making those that today was Mardi Gras, how appropriate! I guess that 30 something years of celebrating that day somehow has become part of my being (or is in my DNA).
The soup is served warm, not hot which provides a great contrast to the lemon ice cream. Use the beignets just like you would bread and soak up every bit of it.

Sauternes and Honey Poached Peaches, adapted from Pierre Herme:

Yields 2 cups

4 white peaches

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey (I used fig syrup)

2 cup Sauternes

In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the peaches are cooked through. Remove the fruits from the liquid and let cool. Remove the skin and puree in a food processor. Set aside until ready to use.

Lemon Ice Cream, adapted from Lori Longbotham

Yields 1 1/2 quarts

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups fat free half and half (picked up by mistake…not quite awake when I went shopping)

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

6 large egg yolks

1/3 cup lemon zest

3/4 cup lemon juice

Bring the cream, half and half, sugar, honey and zesr just to a boil in a saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Slowly temper them by adding the hot cream in a slow stream. Add all of the cream to the yolks and stir until blended. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until it thickens. Stir constantly. It is ready when the cream coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow the cream to boil.

Remove from the heat and let cool. Add the lemon juice and stir until incorporated.

Refrigerate until completely cold and process in an ice cream maker. I did have my ice cream container ready so I poured the custard in a large bowl and froze it. I took it out after a couple of hours and give it a whirl in the Kitchen Aid. I did that twice and achieved a really nice, smooth and light texture.

Ricotta Beignets, adapted from Richard Leach:

1 egg white

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup semolina flour

1/4 cup cake flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tb. baking powder

zest and juice of one lemon

confectioners sugar for dusting

vegetable oil for frying

Combine all the ingredients except the lemon juice, oil and confectioner’s suagr in an electric mixer and mix until well incorporated.
Heat oil to 325 degrees and deep fry the beignets using a small ice cream scoop, until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels. With a spoon, drizzle some lemon juice over them and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

To assemble the dessert:

Heat up the peach soup until warm, scoop some ice cream on top and serve the beignets alongside.

I am not the only one to think February is Soup Month: head over Alanna’s A Veggie Venture and add your favorite recipe to the lot. I figured I could contribute a sweet one and trust me this one rocks!

I also would like to dedicate this post to Yvonne, my favorite Cream Puff, for making me a fabulous cake. You made my day!

Muffin Monday: Lemon

Some might say I am obsessed, some might say I am crazy, some might add I have gone wild…I will just call myself smart: when your grocery guy hands you a case of lemons at half price, you just buy it… He does that trick once in a while. I fondly remember 2 cases of pears I worked my way through a couple of years ago when I was a the restaurant. The pear special of the week quickly became a joke between the waiters and me…but I disgress.
Back to yesterday when I brought my Precious (insert Lord of the Ring voice here) cargo home. I had to start somewhere and since we love our relaxing Sunday brunches, I made these little puppies. They turned out super puckery thanks to the couple of changes I made to the original recipe.

I use the base a lot in baking muffins as it allows for number of additions such as fruit zests, dried fruits, nuts, etc… I don’t know why or when I started dipping my muffins in a mixture of butter and sugar when they come out of the oven, but it adds a little dimension to a plain muffin. No matter what is inside your muffin, you can dip nut mufins in a mixture of melted butter, cinnamon, cardamom, pumpkin pie spices, fruit muffins in melted butter and lemon juice. Always sprinkle with granulated sugar and allow to set. One of our favorites is a plain muffin dipped in a combo of spices that make them taste like donuts.

Lemon Muffins, adapted from All Recipes:

Yields 12

1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin, or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, egg, and, if using, lemon extract. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just blended. Spoon batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining sugar over the tops for decoration, if desired.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool muffins in the tin on a wire rack.

Dipping the Tops:

1/4 lemon juice

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

Dip each muffin in the lemon juice, butter and sugar. Let set.

A few days ago I was reading Is My Blog Burning when I came across this event held by Elena at Experiments , and even though I am early I think these muffins would be a great way to start the day on Monday.