Wednesday, December 26, 2007
First of all - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Scout - the chocolate dog with a caramel bow. The bow is courtesy of a box of Fran's nuts and caramels, and it is a testament to just how much I've eaten recently that the box still has any left in it . . . .
The baking continues since November. First, Dusen Cookies - little jam filled butter cookies. They can be made with an almond cookie base instead of a sugar cookie base, but the dough is more brittle and hard to work with, and the flavor is not that much better, so sugar cookies it is.
Then, just for fun, a dark chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and meringue mushrooms -so cute!
For Bryan's birthday party on 12/22. . . .
And yes, I know I am apparently crappy at taking pictures of the inside of the baked goods - the chocolate cake above is a case in point. I don't know how that happens - normally I just don't have the camera out at the cutting and serving point, and then poof it's gone!
But, here I have tried to take steps in the right direction - mom's stollen, whole and cut up, covered with melted butter and sugar. Won't last long.
And this doesn't even begin to touch the savory items, such as the puff pastry filled with Dungeness crab and cheddar cheese.
OK - more next year! XO - L
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A few weeks ago we stumbled on a quince tree - no one knows what to do with quince anymore, they're so old fashioned and definintely not available for instant gratification, but I love them - the smell is divine, they keep forever, and with a little sugar and some heat they get all soft and sweet and pink.
I poached mine until they were tender, pushed them through a sieve because they are a little stringy, and then made a crostata, the perfect Italian word to describe a lattice-topped jam tart. Since they don't really have pie this is as close as it gets - and as close as it needs to get as far as I'm concerned - nothing against pie, but I love these - kind of the foodie version of a pop-tart! Tender pastry, sweet fruit jam - mmm, perfect with a cup of coffee, healthy enough for breakfast (ok, my standards on that are admittedly not high) and fantastic with a bit of whipped cream.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
It was fabulous, and I am writing it here the way I made it, but lots of refinements are in order. The chocolate disks and chocolate cereal praline came out too hard, maybe some corn syrup is needed to make them soft even when they're cold. And frankly I think it could use another layer of chocolate sponge cake. More to come . . . .
Chocolate cereal praline
Hazelnut Bavarian cream
Hazelnut Bavarian cream
Chocolate ganache, poured as a glaze
Oooh la la.
Chocolate disks and cereal praline – Cut 3 pieces of waxed or parchment paper and trace a 9” circle on each. Take 13 oz. (380 g.) of bittersweet chocolate – chips or pieces are ok, or chop some blocks – melt over low heat with 4 oz. butter. I used Guittard bittersweet pieces for this – bigger than chips but not by much. Heat gently until just melted – it should be just soft and have some body – not super liquid.
Spread approx ¼ to 1/3 of the mixture onto the paper to fill the disk you’ve traced out. Repeat to make a second disk. Stir 1 cup rice crispies cereal into the remaining chocolate and spread to form a third disk.
Then make a Chocolate Sponge Cake – use a 10” springform pan, lined with parchment or waxed paper - I used a 9" pan for a planned 9" finished product and found that sponge cake shrinks. Kind of a lot. I would just use a chocolate genoise and maybe bake it in a jelly roll pan and then cut out one or two rounds. But these are the ingredients I used. Technique is too long to include here.
3 eggs, separated
¼ c plus 1T sugar
1/8 t. cream of tartar
¼ cup cake flour
3 T cocoa
Chocolate Mousse - from the Joy of Cooking – 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten; 4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, 2 T rum, ¼ cup sugar, 1 cup whipping cream, whipped. Make a syrup of the sugar and the rum. Melt chocolate with 3 T of the heavy cream. Stir in the syrup and let cool. Fold in beaten egg whites and whipped cream. This is the whipped cream going in - egg whites are already mixed in. Let chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Assemble by stacking the layers in a springform pan. Hold out 1 cup of the chocolate mousse and don't put the glaze on yet. Chill at least 3 hours.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
It's pear season, and we have them and then some. Our own Bartletts and d'Anjous, and Dad's exotic varieties from Australia and Germany - Peckham's Triumph, Forelle, and others I can't name. They say that the Boscs are the best for cooking, and I can't honestly dispute that, but we don't have any of those this year and with 40 pounds of free pears in the fridge, I'm not buying any!
This pear cake was inspired by a recipe of Mom's for a tea bread - after reading it, it struck me that it looked a lot like my carrot cake recipe. I will post the recipe as soon as I write it out, but if you use a carrot cake recipe, just substitute ripe diced pears for the carrot, and reduce the sugar by about 25%. Everything else stays the same. You could also substitute ginger and nutmeg for the cinnamon that is usually called for, and of course you could use pecans instead of walnuts. Leave OUT the coconut, pineapple and raisins that some heathens put in their carrot cakes.
My all time favorite pear recipe is French Pear Pie - an odd little pie crust made with oil and milk, filled with wine-poached pears, gingered sour cream, and topped with a nutmeg-scented crumble topping. It's a bit involved, what with all the different components - I usually make the crust and poach the pears the night before, then make the sour cream and crumble topping the day I bake it. It is pretty easy if you make the crust in the food processor first, then make the crumble topping, then make the sour cream filling, reusing the bowl without having to clean it.
2 cups sugar
juice of half a lemon
4 bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
9 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sour Cream Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1½ cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chilled butter
Poach pears. Combine wine, sugar and lemon and boil 10 minutes, add pear halves and simmer 10-30 minutes until they pierce easily with a knife. Remove pears and reserve liquid for reuse.
Make pastry. Stir flour and salt together in a bowl. Combine milk and oil but don't stir. Pour all at once into flour. Mix and form into two balls. Roll half the dough out between two sheets of waxed paper – do not try this any other way or the dough will fall apart – and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Freeze the other half for use another time or make two pies.
Prepare filling by mixing all ingredients together.
Prepare topping by mixing dry ingredients and cutting in butter until mealy.
Arrange pear halves in crust. Pour on filling and sprinkle topping over. Bake at 400°F for 25-30 minutes or until pie is golden brown. Do not overbake.
This is Billie Moreland's recipe from her restaurant in Spokane. I waitressed there my senior year in college and was captivated by her desserts. She never gave out recipes, so I was thrilled to find this in a cookbook 11 years later. It was a favorite of customers when she made it and it was always cut into 6 enormous pieces – I think it actually serves 8 unless no one has had anything else to eat.
Empirical testing has shown that pears poached in wine, even crummy wine you wouldn't drink, taste far better than pears poached in water - even if you dress the water up with lemon juice and sugar. Since we make our own wine, we have a fairly reliable supply of not-so-great bottles, extremely suitable for cooking. But a $4.99 bottle of Riesling or a $2 bottle of any kind of white from Trader Joe's is perfect, I promise. Heck, take a small glass for yourself if you want - the pears won't miss it!
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
OK - here is another non-chocolate post. Don't worry though, more chocolate ganache filled macarons are coming up, as well as a planned visit to Theo Chocolate upcoming in the very near future. But it's August and it's fruit season. And these bake very quickly, not heating up the kitchen. Not that that's been a problem - it was 60 degrees and pouring rain on Sunday. . . .
One thing that I'm learing quickly is how hard it is to photograph food and make it look beautiful, especially rustic type food that doesn't have the advantage of sugar paste flowers and food coloring and royal icing swags. That stuff, in pinks and purples and yellow and red and green, that stuff pops. These humble tarts don't really pop until you put them in your mouth!
Either way the texture and flavor are perfect with fruit or jam, though I think I make it sweeter when I plan to use it with otherwise unsweetened fresh fruit, and less sweet when it is going on top of jam.
The puff pastry is a dream - I found it at Big John's, premade, frozen perfectly flat, two sheets per package. $7.50 for the all-butter, less than that for the half-butter. It's good, it keeps, it's always ready to use, there's no waste. The only thing you miss is the "oh my god I can't believe I pulled this off" feeling you get when you make your own successful puff pastry. But I can live with that if the trade off is having a fantastic dessert in 30 minutes from orchard to table.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Macarons (the French kind made with ground almonds, not the coconut kind with two “o’s”) have been cropping up all over lately. You know how when you start looking for a new car and say all of a sudden you’re interested in a Volvo or some other brand you’ve never really thought about and all of a sudden you see them EVERYWHERE?
Well, it’s like that. First they were on Kuidaore http://brandoesq.blogspot.com/
Beautiful, but not my type, I thought. Then, as I clicked on random food blogs, there they were on Paris Breakfasts http://parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com/ David Leibovitz, http://www.davidlebovitz.com/ Our Patisserie, http://joakitchen.blogspot.com/2005/11/pistachio-macarons.html
and many many others. Then, as I Googled recipes there were – in addition to the chocolate ones – glorious pink raspberry ones, and pale green pistachio ones, and hazelnut ones. There was pistachio butter cream filling, chocolate filling, chestnut filling, peanut butter buttercream, and prune Armagnac filling. Just to name a few. It goes on and on – so far I keep chasing one link to another and have not run out yet. Good lord, there are Apricot ones . . . .
From what I read, they are addictive like few other things – many posts suggest a willingness to fly to Paris just to get one, and one post recounted how the author ate both of the ones that she bought as gifts on her trip home to London (a chocolate and a pistachio) – after all, neither of the recipients KNEW she’d bought them . . . .
And, they are a challenge to make. And they’re so dang pretty! So, last night I took my first shot. Summary – they are definitely worth making and I will do them again. Mine did not have the crackly top or the cute little feet that everyone talks about – I didn’t bake them quite long enough to sufficiently dry them out, and the feet only come if you fold the batter the exact right amount – I think mine were too fluffy. Also, the almonds need to be more finely ground – mine were a bit too coarse even after a long time in the food processor. BUT, a great start.
I made two different fillings - a dark chocolate ganache and a white chocolate buttercream flavored with Fiori di Sicilia – the exotic and delicious orange flower water that is the signature flavor of panettone. Wow, another exception to the chocolate and fruit thing – it was fabulous.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Wow, do I have a long way to go.
Luckily, I evaluated the rice crispy element and discovered that they lose their crispness and they have a plain/flat flavor that is terrible, even in combination with chocolate (at least the organic ones do – ok, I should have gotten the real ones, but Whole Foods only sells the cardboard ones). So, at least I didn’t waste a whole bunch of milk chocolate truffle filling. But if you roll the ganache in just plain crushed toasted hazelnuts, they’re really really good!
The truffle filling is a ganache made from 2 parts milk chocolate and 1 part heavy cream. I used Callebaut chocolate and the ganache comes out with a caramel-y flavor that’s very good. It is a little soft, so maybe I would back off the cream a little bit. I formed the filling into balls with a small ice cream scoop, but it was too soft to really handle so then I popped them in the freezer to firm them up a bit before rolling them. It would be easy and good to add an extract – almond, rum, etc., to the cream and flavor the filling that way.
The coating is another story – tempered chocolate could be my downfall. You have to temper the chocolate in order to have a glossy coating with a good snap. Tempering chocolate is hard. It has to do with heating the chocolate up and then cooling it back down so that it is still melted, but at some perfect temperature where the cocoa butter doesn’t separate from the cocoa solids and it hardens with a beautiful shine and the right texture. I am not qualified to explain how to do it, because apparently I can’t. If you fail to temper it properly, the chocolate hardens streaky and ugly, and not as crisp as it should be, though it is still very tasty. But not something you can put out for company. I have since read a lot about tempering chocolate, and short of a tempering machine there is no easy solution – you just have to be patient and accurate – traits I thought I had in abundance J. The good thing is, you can re-temper chocolate. You can also use the broken stuff in anything calling for melted chocolate, including brownies and chocolate gelato, to name a few things. . . . .
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Risotto with Molé Verde
OK – well, I have a million ideas related to chocolate, but that’s not what’s flowing right now. But traditional molé has unsweetened chocolate in it, right? So I’m going with the position that this entry is not disqualified.
This recipe was an accident, really. It started with a cooking magazine – I swear it was just three days ago and now I can’t find the magazine or remember which one it was – which inspired my need for a snack of quesadillas with roasted Anaheim chiles. Then, in a southwestern mood, there was a request for the mole verde to be used as a side with grilled beef porterhouse steak. Everything for the mole is fresh right now, and it’s been a long time since a trip to Santa Fe or since I have made tamales or anything that we’d normally eat the molé verde with, so it sounded really good. But we needed to run out for virtually every ingredient – oh well. . . .
This particular recipe is based on one from the Coyote Café Cookbook – it is fabulous, though admittedly a lot of work. But the flavor alone is worth it, and the quantity it produces allows you to have a big-ish dinner party or to freeze some of it for another meal or two.
After making the molé, it seemed like it needed rice to go with it, because rice really carries the sauce better than any other starch. So, why make ordinary rice when risotto is so good? Then, it was a fairly short leap to stirring in sour cream at the end instead of heavy cream, and topping it with a fresh pecorino-like cheese (goat milk) from the Bainbridge Island dairy that makes chevre, and with a huge handful of halved grape tomatoes on top. Stir the molé into the risotto right after the sour cream . . . . omg – I had it for breakfast today!
9 tomatillos – husked and washed in hot water
6 fresh poblano (pasilla) chiles – roasted, seeded and peeled
2 cups romaine leaves – no ribs
½ cup cilantro leaves
1 ½ - 2 cups rich chicken stock
½ t. cumim powder
1 t. coriander seeds and ¼ t. anise seeds – ground in a mortar and pestle
1 small corn tortilla OR 6-8 corn tortilla chips
2 T olive oil or canola oil or duck fat
Preheat the broiler, or heat up a large cast iron skillet. Broil the tomatillos on a foil-lined cookie sheet, turning once, (or dry roast in the skillet) until lightly charred on both sides. Let cool and then place in the container of a food processor. Add the chiles, the romaine, the cilantro and the chicken stock and process until fine. Add the spices, then add the corn tortilla or corn chips and process again until fine. You may need to do this in batches until everything is combined.
Heat the oil or the duck fat in a large cast iron skillet until nearly smoking – add the molé and fry it, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Then put it through a fine sieve in batches, stirring and pressing hard to make sure enough solids come through to make the texture of the sauce slightly thick – kind of the consistency of a regular tomato sauce.
The sauce should be used slightly warm or at room temperature, not hot. It is fabulous with tamales, roasted chicken, etc.
For the risotto I just used about 1 ¼ cups Arborio rice sautéed with some butter and olive oil, 4 oz. white wine and 4 cups of chicken stock. Then at the end I stirred in about ¼ cup of sour cream, took it off the heat and then added about a cup of the mole. Sprinkle on the grated cheese and the tomatoes when each individual serving is plated up.
Monday, July 9, 2007
So, there are usually two things – the raw material and the inspiration.
In this case the inspiration was a food blog that originates in Singapore that I love/am in awe of – brandoesq.blogspot.com - she just wrote about a kumquat preserve pound cake with white chocolate (there's the chocolate!!) ice cream. She usually doesn’t give recipes, but the inspiration factor is high. Raw material is the two jars of Austrian jam we were given while we were in Germany – one of them is a combination of apricot and yellow plum, I think, though but I haven’t looked up the translation for the label yet. Anyway, this jam is authentic stuff – the label, as noted above, is only in German, and the flavor is fantastic. That said, it is unlikely the we would actually use a 9 oz. jar of jam anytime soon, seeing as how we have tons of my homemade stuff and that we just don’t eat much toast. So. The thought of stirring some jam into a cake batter was quite inspiring.
Then, the peaches looked great in the Columbia City Farmers’ Market – wanted to use apricots but they are at least 48 hours away from being ripe. And there just happened to be peach schnapps in the liquor cabinet, courtesy of a wild hair of Jill’s probably.
At this point (July 4) no taste test has yet been done – except of course for the clean up on the ice cream transfer from one container to another – that one seems like a keeper so far! Anyway, the pound cake seems like it will be good in a few hours when we have some with the fireworks, but I do think that the batter probably should have had some sour cream in addition to the listed ingredients. [Late note - definitely add 1 c. of sour cream, alternating with the flour - probably unnecessary to adjust the other ingredients.]
Apricot Almond Pound Cake with Peach Ice Cream
Apricot Almond Pound Cake
8 oz. butter
5 oz. almond paste
4 oz. apricot, or yellow plum, preserves
1 ½ cups sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
½ t. almond extract
½ t. each baking powder and baking soda
¼ t. salt
¼ cup peach schnapps
3 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350, butter and flour a fluted tube pan, or an angel food cake pan is fine too.
Cream the butter and almond paste in the bowl of the Kitchenaid – I was going to say “in the bowl of a stand mixer”, but I have a Kitchenaid and everyone knows what I’m talking about, I hope, and no one says I have to be brand-neutral here, so what the heck – cream the butter and almond paste until fluffy. Then add the preserves and the sugar and cream some more, then add the eggs one at a time and cream until very light and fluffy. Add the extracts, the baking powder and baking soda, the salt, and the schnapps – stir until just mixed in. Then add the flour and stir it in until completely mixed, but don’t overbeat. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until just golden brown and risen – about 45 minutes. Cool on a rack and unmold after about 20 minutes, while still warm but not hot. Serve slices at room temperature with a scoop of peach ice cream and a mint leaf garnish. The pic shows an apricot as well. mmmmm.
Peach Ice Cream
2 large peaches, skins removed and chopped fine
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 T peach schnapps (optional)
Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds in order to be able to slip the skins off. Peel the peaches, then cut the fruit from the pit and chop fine – put into a large mixing bowl and put in the fridge. Mix the sugar into the milk and let stand in the fridge until the sugar is dissolved (I put the milk and sugar into a wide-mouthed mason jar and shake a few times to get things going. This is far better than heating the milk in order to dissolve the sugar). After the sugar is dissolved (30 minutes or so) stir the milk/sugar mixture into the chopped peaches, then stir in the heavy cream and the schnapps. The schnapps isn’t critical but it adds a nice flavor nuance and the additional sugar and alcohol keeps the ice cream from freezing too hard. Pour all into the bowl of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to directions, approximately 30 minutes in a Simac, which is what I have. Then transfer to a container and put it in the freezer for at least 4 hours until firm.