Skip to main content

Chocolate and Praline Tart

This tart was really a spur of the moment "what is in the fridge" kind of dessert. As I mentionned the other day, we never really don’t know how our saturday gatherings with the neighbors are going to be like or if we’ll have one altogether (holidays, weather, …) Around 4pm, I got a call from the bachelor next door asking me if I had a good recipe for clam chowder. I looked around at all my cookbooks and realized with a good laugh that 99% of them were baking/dessert related ! I have a couple of French cooking "bibles" and a collection of southern recipes in case B. wants gumbo and biscuits… you get the point… the neighbor was ringing the wrong person. I did not want to shatter his image of me being a great chef (hm, hm) so I quickly went online and found one that sounded fairly easy for him to make. That’s when the inevitable question followed: what was I going to bring to the party?

I had made a Banana Poundcake from Dorie Greenspan’s latest book but I wanted to keep that more for breakfast or snacks. Dang! Quick come up with something that has time to bake and cool! As I said previously, sometimes leftovers are a good thing: I remembered I had a batch of tart dough in the freezer and leftover ganache from the macarons. A chocolate tart! I added 1/2 cup of crushed up pecan pralines (nut toffee of any knid would work too) to the ganache and there it was, dessert, on the fly.

Chocolate Praline Tart:

One recipe "pate sucree":
In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 stick of butter, pulse until it ressembles coarse meal, add 1 egg yolk and pulse until combined into a ball. I flattened it into a disk in between sheets of plastic wrap, refrigerated it and rolled it out to cut rounds big enough to fit into my mini tart pans. The dough gets soft very fast so you can flour your fingertips to push it up and down the sides and bottoms of the pan. Cover with parchment paper, add pie weights (I use dry beans) and blind bake at 350 degrees until the crust is completely baked through. Let cool.

One recipe chocolate ganache:
In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of heavy cream to scalding point, remove from heat and add 1 1/2 cups good quality chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes and slowly stir until well incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of crushed up praline or toffee. Pour the ganache in the tart shell, let cool 15 minutes and refrigerate until the ganache is completely firm.

I have a tendency to cut small slices because it is almost like eating a big truffle, nothing wrong with that I know. It is easy to put together even if you don’t have all the ingredients beforehand, and it goes real well with a nice cup of coffee.

Key Lime Squares


You must be in the same situation I am: you read blogs everyday, your mouth waters at gorgeous pictures and great recipes. You copy them, you print them and your collection keeps on growing. I have binders full of recipes I see on blogs and it ususally takes me longer than a few days to get around one of them, but these were the exception. When I saw the original recipe on Mary’s blog, I knew I had to make them almost immediately. I love anything lime or lemon as much as I love chocolate.

I made them last week, early saturday afternoon, you know, in case of a snack attack, and I had no idea that they would part of our weekly saturday neighborhood gathering. You probably think we live on Wysteria lane the way I talk about my block, but take away some of the drama and you are not far from the truth. There are bachelors and young couiples, plenty of kids, cats and dogs. It is a fun and crazy mix. The doors are wide open, the kitchens shared and ingredients travel from one pantry to the other. No phone required, just step out on the balcony.
Around 4pm, there is an oyster roast or a clam chowder in the making, ribs and vegetables on the grill, finger foods being set out as well as am assortment of drinks to be passed around.
Around 6pm, the kids gather under my balcony and want to know what is for dessert. Tonight it was something chocolate but last week it was Key Lime Squares.

I altered Mary’s recipe a little and the bars still came ou perfect. For starters, I did not have Meyer lemons but a big supply of Key lime. I also baked the crust in a bigger pan and tripled the filling quantities. These bars or squares are close to perfection. The filling has that perfect balance of tartness and sweetness. The crust is buttery but never soggy or too hard. This recipe is already part of "my favorites" binder.

Key Lime Squares, adapted from Mary at Alpine Berry:

Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Filling:
6 large eggs
3 cups superfine or bakers' sugar
6 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt2 Tb finely grated key lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and line a 13×9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
To make crust:Combine flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is pebbly. Press evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 18-20 minutes. Set aside crust.

To make filling:In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in lime zest and juice until well combined. Pour over crust (it’s okay if crust is still hot). Bake until filling is just set, about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.

Thank you Mary for sharing such a great recipe! Tonight’s installment with our weekly gathering was not bad either, but that post will have to wait.

Orange and Cranberry Muffins

I started wondering if people thought we only have egg yolk omelettes and macarons for breakfast given my sunday SNAFU, and decided to make a proper breakfast item. I read throughout the blogosphere about some wonderful foods and flavors of Fall but I have to tell you I am having a difficult time getting in the mood for pumpkin, persimmons, pomegranates and other items when it is still 75-80 degres and I am still in short sleeves. I don’t even want to think about turkey! I know most of you want to throw me a stone right about now and tell me to count my blessings because it is either rainy or cold where you are but seriously all I want right now is a juicy piece of watermelon.

Back to breakfast. One of the things we enjoy a couple times a week, especially when B. is late for work is a good scone or a couple of muffins. Easy to eat on the go, in the car, in a rush or if we have time enjoyed on the deck wishing the leaves would fall. I decided to give myself a little pep talk the other day and finally put a couple of pomegranates and a bag of dried cranberries in my cart (ok, they were also on sale).
There are so many great cranberry recipes out there right now it was difficult to settle on just one. I found one with so many good reviews that I decided to go for it and tweak it to our taste.

Orange Cranberry Muffins, adapted from allrecipes:
Yields: 12 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temp
1 egg, beaten
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pan, or use paper liners.Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together until light. Add egg and beat until smooth. Add orange juice and grated zest. Add flour mixture and stir just until mixed. Fold in cranberries.
Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 20-25 minutes.

No Eggs For Breakfast


And there you have it…these macarons are the reason why we did not have eggs left for or breakfast sunday morning…that and the lime squares I took to T&D for dinner that night.
I am a little late in catching the macarons bug but now I don’t wish for a cure. They have become very enjoyable to make and after the fear of the first batch I have spend many hours dreaming of different flavor combinations. Some I came up with were interesting, not to say weird and some complemented the arrival of fall and its chilly days. I have to dream of chilly weather because here it is sill 82-85 degrees (!)

I use the same basic recipe everytime and vary either the topping or the flavor. This time I made plain ones dusted with cocoa powder and filled with a raspberry ganache, vanilla flavored ones with coarse brown sugar topping with a rum ganache and coffee ones with a hazelnut praline ganache. I made a firm ganache as I was going to package some for D. as a hostess gift and wanted the texture to withstand the car ride. Basically, 1/2 cup of heavy cream for one cup of chocolate. Also remember that for every ounce of liqueur, you have to increase the chocolate of one ounce also or you will end up with a runny texture.

Lisa, I have not forgotten your wish and I promise to send you some very soon!

—————————————————————-

Note: maman, Arnaud et les reste de la smalla, n’hesitez pas a laisser un commentaire si le coeur vous en dit!

Applesauce Spice Bars…Another Great One From Dorie

Apparently I like the book! I have tried some of the recipes and so far there has not been one we did not like. It is a great read for novice bakers as it contains all sorts of basics from breakfast treats, cookies, bars, cakes, ice creams and more. It appeals to the intermediate cook who wants to broaden his/her repertoire with all the variations Dorie gives on the sidebar of the recipes. It is full of homey, uncomplicated delights for the seasoned chef who wants to return to the basics or does not want to fuss with complicated techniques and hard to find ingredients.

Sunday afternoon, the boys were working on the boat and given that the weather was a little bit in the chilly side I thought that a batch of these apple bars with a nice cup of coffee would be totally appropriate to make them take a break. The bars are rich but not heavy, you can play with the kind of apple you use as well as the amount of spices. The recipe called for raisins but B. has a childhood aversion to them so I used dried cranberries instead and it worked even better (at least in my book). I also used Calvados instead of applejack because that was what I had on hand.

Applesauce Spice Bars, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

For the bars:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tb. applejack
1 baking apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the glaze:
2 1/2 Tb. heavy cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Butter and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350.Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat.Still in the saucepan, whisk in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well until blended. Add the applesauce, vanilla and liqueur until smooth. With a spatula, add the dry ingredients, cranberries and nuts and mix until combined.Scrape into the pan and bake 20 -25 minutes.
Let cool and prepare the glaze in the meantime.

In a saucepan, whisk the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minuts. Remove from the pan and stir in the vanilla.
Remove the bars from the pan and set on a wire rack positioned on top of a sheet pan to catch the drips. Pour the glaze over the bars and let set, cut as desired.

Sunday Breakfast

I usually make us some eggs on sunday morning since B. has more time to enjoy breakfast. We sit quietly looking at the river without the t.v or radio on, just looking at the herons or the crabs. When I woke up this morning, the first words out of my mouth were "Oh no! How did I let this happen?", to which B. gave me the most puzzled look. Him: "Did you have a bad dream hon?" Me: "This is no dream. We are out of eggs!" How could I let this happen? Well, the answer is easy: I made a double batch of macarons and lime squares yesterday and I am left with 4 egg yolks. After many funny and interesting ways we devised to cook those yolks for breakfast, we quickly abandonned the sunday egg fix. B. nicely suggested we could go out for brunch, but I like to lounge in my pjs, hair undone, having as many refills of coffee as I want without a frown from the staff. No! I will think of something!

In one of my moments of recycling or using items I have on hand I came up with one of my childhood favorites, a "chausson": a little pocket of buttery dough filled with anything sweet and yummy. Fifteen minutes these little pastries were getting golden brown in the oven. Some leftover puff pastry dough, some homemade pear jam and the use of one egg yolk for color and we would have breakfast!

Pear Filled Pastries:

Homemade Pear Jam, adapted from Recipezaar:

8-9 pears, peeled cored and chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 (1 3/4 ounce) box pectin, Sure-Jell no-sugar, powdered
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 cups sugar

Place the chopped pears and the lemon juice in a heavy pot.
Mash pears with a potato masher to desired chunkiness. If you like it fine you can coarsely grind it. But a food processor will make it too pureed for this recipe.
Stir-in the powdered pectin, spices and ginger.
Bring to a boil and boil hard for one minute.
Add the sugar.
Bring back to a boil and boil hard for 4-minutes stirring frequently.
Ladle into sterile jars, seal and process for 10 minutes.
Yield 7 half pints.

For the pastries:
1 sheet pastry puff
pear jam (or your favorite)
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 Tb. water

With a large cookie cutter, cut out rounds in the puff pastry. Layer 1 or 2 tsp. jam in the middle of a round, brush the edges with the egg wash, layer another round on top and press the air out of the pocket. Brush more egg wash on top and prick the edges closed with the tines of a fork.
Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and jam. Bake 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.

Seriously easy, seriously good, even the crabs and herons wanted some!

World Bread Day: After Hours

When Zorra suggested a World Bread Day event back in October I had no idea how many people would participate: over 100 bread recipes were submitted. I was extremely impressed with the round up as that many posts to post about might have turned into a headache. I was even more imoressed when she suggested an "After Hours Party" in which we could try somebody else’s creation and post about it. I think I spent hours on it but I actually went through every post, yes, I am that dedicated to bread! I discovered new blogs, plenty of great recipes and amazing photographs.

I finally settled on a multi grain bread as this is one that we like the most in our house. I found it on The Barmy Baker, a blog written by Jen out of California. Click here to see her original post and picture.

Rustic Pain de Campagne or Muligrain Bread, from Jen, adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice :

1 recipe pate fermentee:

1 1/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/8 cups unbleached bread flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp instant yeast

3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water, room temp

Mix flours, salt and yeast in a bowl, add the 3/4 cup water and stir until everything comes together. If you feel things are a bit too dry or stiff, add the other 2 Tbsp of water and mix in.-Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes or until the dough is soft and pliable and tacky.Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat the top with oil. Cover and allow to ferment for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead to de-gas, return it to the bowl, cover it tightly and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to three days.

1 recipe "soaker" for the seeds:

3 Tbsp whole flax seeds

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

3 Tbsp cornmeal (coarse ground if you can find it)

1 cup water

Mix all together, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. The seeds and cornmeal will soak up a good deal of the water.

For the rest of the recipe:

1 3/4 cup unbleached bread flour

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp instant yeast

2 Tbsp wheat germ soaker, from above

1/2 cup lukewarm water

Remove the pate fermentee from the refrigerator, cut into about 10 pieces, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temp for an hour to remove the chill.

Sift flours, salt and yeast together into a bowl with the pate fermentee.

Add the soaker and the water and stir until the mixture comes together (you may need to add a little more water).

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough inside, turning it to coat in oil. Cover and let bulk ferment for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.

Gently remove the dough from the bowl so as to de-gas as little as possible. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and gently shape into batards. Sprinkle cornmeal lightly onto sheetpans, or a peel and place the loaves on the sheetpans. Cover with plastic and allow to proof for about 1 hour, or until they are about 1 1/2 times their original size.

Preheat your oven to 500f. If you are going to use steam, put your pan in the oven now, and get some water heating about half hour before you are going to bake the bread.

When the loaves are ready, uncover and slash the loaves as you see fit. Either slide the loaves from your peel to your baking stone, or slide the sheetpans into the oven. If you are using steam, pour a cup of the hot water into your steam pan and shut the door (beware of evil steam burns!) After about 5 minutes, lower the oven heat to 450f. After 5 more minutes, if there is still any water in the steampan, remove it carefully. Bake for at least 20 more minutes, checking the loaves and rotating as needed. The bread should be a deep golden brown, and feel light for it’s size.

Thank you Jen for a wonderful recipe! It was an intense labor of love but the end result was quite worth it!

Lavender Madeleines


It’s been a while since I have made Madeleines and while I was reading this book again I found a recipe for Earl Grey Madeleines. Great! I did not have Earl Greay at the house. Looking on the side bar titled “Playing Around”, Dorie Greenspan gives variations for the recipe using rosemary-orange, cinnamon and ginger and lavender. That I had plenty of! Her instructions are to infuse the melted butter with the tea leaves or lavender buds. I decided to play around a little and actually keep some of the buds in. I was afraid it would take on a bitter aftertaste but it actually did not. Definitely a repeat!

Lavender Madeleines, adapted from Dorie Greenspan "Baking: From My Home To Yours"
Makes 12

5 Tb. Butter
1 Tb. edible lavender
¾ cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
Grated zest of half a lemon
2 large eggs
2 Tb. honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven at 400 degrees.
Melt the butter with the lavender and let sit for 10 minutes to infuse. Strain but keep half of the lavender in with butter, or discard the whole amount.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and lemon zest until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the honey and vanilla and beat for one minute more. Switch to a rubber spatula and incorporate the dry ingredients. Fold in the butter. Refrigerate the batter at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (helps with the bumps characteristic of the madeleines).

Butter and flour your madeleines molds and divide the batter evenly. My molds are smaller tan hers so I got 24 small cookies. Bake 12-14 minutes until they are golden brown.


No story to go along…except they are almost gone and the neighbors did not get any…(hoping they forgot the blog address)

Pan De Muertos

In my family November 1st is known as "All Saints Day" but for Isabel it was her day to make "Bread of the dead". I recall her telling me that she got into the habit soon after she started dating a man from Mexico named Anton and was trying to please him by making his mom’s Pan de Muertos. From what I understood, she came very close but any married woman will tell you that there are dishes that only "his" mom will ever get right.

Well, I knew I would not be able to replicate the exact same bread that Isabel used to do, much like she had not been able to make hers exactly like Anton’s mom. She had only given me spoken instructions for this bread and I was a little worried to mess it up so I did an online search and found a recipe that looked very close. The breads are usually shaped into rolls having the shape of bones or limbs and glazed with a light orange sugar syrup. I wanted these for dinner tonight so I skipped the glazing part, I might use it for the remaining rolls tomorrow morning. As you can see I have also skipped shaping the buns into bones and such, a little too morbid for me.

Pan De Muertos, adapted from Global Gourmet:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs

In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling.
Meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. Beat in the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and paint on glaze.

Glaze
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest

Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
If desired, sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.

I Need A Sugar Fix

Happy Halloween!

And yippee today was the day to get one (sugar fix). I have been meaning to post this since this morning but we are having terrible internet connections these days…off/on/off/on…enough to drive you crazy!
These cookies may not look like the ones you will find on the shelves of professional decorators but this is what you get for working with a dinosaur, two knights, a mermaid, a pirate and a zebra…yes, we had a slight chance of costume programming! We took the kids trick or treating on an old golf cart with a trailer attached to the back and they had a great time!

Cut Out Sugar Cookies, adapted from allrecipe site:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Refrigerate dough, roll out and cut as desired
Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Royal Icing, from Joy of Baking site
4 cups (440 grams) confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons (30 grams) meringue powder
1/2 teaspoon extract (vanilla, lemon, almond)
1/2 – 3/4 cup (120 – 180 ml) warm water

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. To cover or 'flood' the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.
The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
Makes about 3 cups

Sometimes it’s good to just bake with the kids and be one again!