Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and buche de noel!

Ah, the fabulousness of a lazy day, with nothing to do but walk the dog and cook and eat dinner! Last night was lobster and salad and fresh bread. Today is crab cakes and duck on the rotissiere. And if I eat enough of that, plus the aforementioned bread, and save room for the dessert, well, then, the fresh pasta with mushrooms might just have to wait until tomorrow!

We have suffered mightily over the past two weeks here in the pacific northwest, home of the green and soggy Christmas - my personal favorite actually. Tons of snow finally melting, shoveling muscles very sore, many cars (not mine tho) injured in the slip slidey conditions.

The buche de noel is easy and delish - as many or as few little decorations as you care to add. This one is pretty plain, but the rich chocolate roll is filled with white chocolate mousse and frosted with chocolate buttercreammmmmmmmmmm. That is not a typo. It is very good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ultimate Fruitcake

This is a fruitcake to love, and to change people's minds about the whole fruitcake-hating thing. Which I have to say I don't mind the fruitcake haters too much because it leaves more for US, the smart and talented fruitcake lovers. This recipe benefits from lots of rum, and lots of yummy candied and dried fruit and nuts, with the candied cherries in there for a hit of color and tradition. Bake in a jellyroll pan, cool, remove from the pan, brush with more rum, then drape with a thin and lucious sheet of marzipan.

Check out Kim's posts at A Yankee in a Southern Kitchen for another really lovely recipe and some beautiful pictures!

The best part of this is baking it with friends right after Thanksgiving. I love the process and ritual of that so much that I wouldn't even mind if I ended up giving it all away, but of course I don't!

Ultimate Fruitcake

The Fruit and Nuts

8 oz. dried figs, stemmed and cut into pieces
8 oz. pitted dates – chopped
8 oz. candied orange peel
8 oz. raisins
8 oz. golden raisins
8 oz. currants
8 oz. candied cherries – cut in half
6 oz. almonds
6 oz. walnuts
½ cup dark rum

Cake Batter

2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ pound butter at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs

The Marzipan

½ pound almond paste
½ pound powdered sugar
2-3 T. corn syrup

The Syrup

1/3 cup corn syrup
3 T. dark rum


Toss the fruit and nuts with the rum and let sit overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees; butter an 11x17” sheet pan and line with baker’s parchment. Stir dry ingredients together in medium bowl (flour through cloves). Cream butter and brown sugar in electric mixer – add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Scrape the batter over the fruit and nuts and fold everything together by hand – this may take a while, but be patient, it will all come together. Scrape it into the parchment lined pan and spread evenly, smoothing the top. Press a piece of parchment onto the top of the cake and bake 50-60 minutes or until the cake is just firm – do not overbake. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. Take the top piece of parchment off right away.

Make the marzipan frosting – pulse the almond paste in a food processor with the confectioners’ sugar and corn syrup until it comes together. Knead by hand to form a smooth dough and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Stir the rum and corn syrup together.

When cake is cool or just barely warm, flip it out onto a board or another cookie sheet and remove the baking parchment. Brush the entire cake with syrup until it’s all used up. Roll out the marzipan to make an 11x17 inch rectangle. Drape it over the top of the cake and press down to make sure it sticks.

If you really want it to look perfect and beautiful, trim ½” off of each side of the cake, but I don’t think that’s necessary. The cake can then be cut into 6 squares, about 5”x5” each, that make a great size to wrap up and freeze or give away. The cake is somewhat difficult to cut when fresh, but if you refrigerate or freeze it, it then cuts beautifully into small squares. It keeps in the fridge for several weeks or many months frozen.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November Challenge!

November's challenge was a caramel cake with caramel butter frosting. The author of the recipe is Shuna Fish Lydon ( … he-recipe/). The hostess of this month's challenge is Dolores at, where you will find the recipe for the challenge. The rules required us to bake the cake and make the frosting - size and shape of the cake and any flavor add-ins optional. I made the cake exactly according to the recipe - did not add anything in vecause the caramel seemed like a great taste on its own.

I baked it on thanksgiving day - of course - because there's LOTS of empty oven space that day :) So I ended up using the tiny oven, which meant I used a 6" round pan and a small cupcake pan. The flavor on this cake was fantastic, and I would try to make it again, but it was a bit heavy and dense - I would have liked it to be a lighter texture.

Here is the completed cake.And here is the caramel sauce - very flavorful!

A small slice.

The iced 6" cake.

The little cupcakes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ginger Scones

Oh yeah, we made Ginger Scones too! And sat with our lattes and gazed out the window for 10 minutes. These are really fantastic. I hear they're not bad as a hangover cure too :)
400° F for 12-14 minutes

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for topping
1 T. baking powder
1 t. ground ginger
pinch of salt
6 T. unsalted butter
2 oz. crystallized ginger, chopped
1 egg
½ cup milk

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter until the butter is the size of small peas (it is fine to use the food processor for this), then stir in crystallized ginger. Mix egg and milk together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg and milk mixture. Mix lightly until just combined. Turn out onto a floured board, knead for 30 seconds. Pat/roll into a round, cut into 8 wedges. Place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake until golden brown.

I created this recipe after Mom and I visited Chris in Mill Valley and had something very similar at a café/espresso bar in downtown Mill Valley. I think it was called the Depot, and was located in the old train station. They used a star-shaped cookie cutter on theirs, which was nice because it makes for a lot of crunchy edge on each scone. These are interesting because they’re very delicately flavored – usually ginger comes with cloves and molasses and is very heavy and wintery, but these aren’t.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baking Day with the Girls!

Eeeeeeee! Sunday was absolutely the most fun day EVER. 60's and 70's music on the radio, and baking baking baking. We made 8 pounds of fruitcake, 6 dozen peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, the caramel pear tarts from the prior post, but in 5" shells instead of 3", and we split and filled and iced some little 6" cakes as pictured. The cookies were inspired by the discovery of tiny little peanut butter cups at Trader Joe's - they melted into the cookies instead of retaining their shape like chocolate chips, but this was not a negative! And, we did not bake the Panettone because we didn't have the secret ingredient extract at the bakery with us, but we will live to bake again another day. Recipes to be posted with pics upcoming.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

100 Best Foods in the World

Happy Birthday to me :)

This list is a work in progress - I am giving myself at least 30 open slots for new stuff!

100 Best Foods in the World

  1. lasagna
  2. BLT on toasted sourdough with mayo
  3. risotto
  4. french fries with ketchup
  5. Italian chocolate with hazelnuts
  6. Manchego cheese
  7. YooHoo
  8. marcona almonds
  9. artichoke hearts
  10. grilled sweet peppers
  11. pizza margherita
  12. nocciolo gelato
  13. giandiujia anything, especially gelato
  14. Reese’s peanut butter cups
  15. raspberry jam
  16. apricot jam
  17. croissants
  18. brioche
  19. champapagne
  20. pasta with pesto
  21. duck breast with Chinese 5 spice
  22. chicken fried rice
  23. hot and sour soup
  24. Coquille St. Jacques
  25. lobster tails with melted butter
  26. Dungeness crab with melted butter
  27. almond pear tart
  28. artichoke and parmesan dip
  29. arancini – preferably with mushrooms
  30. tortilla chips with lime
  31. chocolate almond cake
  32. porterhouse steak grilled outside
  33. blackberry pie
  34. roasted chicken with rosemary
  35. mashed potatoes
  36. salted cashew nuts
  37. chicken with peanut sauce over spinach
  38. Green curry anything w/ coconut milk
  39. fried goat cheese rounds on a salad of wild greens
  40. Homemade turkey on rye with stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo
  41. tuna salad with sweet pickles and lots of mayo
  42. ginger scones
  43. napoleons
  44. new potatoes and peas in cream
  45. macaroni and cheese
  46. snickers bars
  47. homemade potato chips
  48. Dairy Queen soft serve vanilla cone dipped in chocolate
  49. fresh mini doughnuts
  50. herring in sour cream
  51. fried egg sandwich with cheese, mayo and ketchup
  52. rum cake
  53. grilled cheese sandwich
  54. grilled beef tenderloin
  55. Rose’s Cheesecake – the Cake Bible
  56. blueberries
  57. noodle salad with egg roll and bbq pork
  58. figs with manchego
  59. orange hazelnut pinwheels from Macrina bakery
  60. mezzelune stuffed with ricotta and herbs in a porcini sauce, garnished with shrimp
  61. leberkasemmel with sweet mustard
  62. Ritter Sport white chocolate and blood orange
  63. seafood louie salad
  64. duck pate
  65. Sfoglie di riso
  66. pappardelle with cinghiale sauce
  67. Ravioli rose’, with ricotta spinach filling
  68. stollen
  69. guacamole
  70. white chocolate mousse with raspberries

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Camera's broken, but still eating!

Pappardelle with wild boar ragu

OK - the Canon is in the shop - "lens error". Crap. though I am happy to have the excuse not to post any pictures - pulling them off the camera and putting them on the computer and then uploading to the blog site is a task that I dislike in a way that is way out of proportion to how much time it actually takes. I personally can't wait until the day that I just hold my camera up next to the computer and tell the photos to hop on over - wouldn't that be great??
Had potato chips and petit syrah for dinner the other night. Don't knock it until you've tried it! Ruffled, and salt and vinegar. You kind of have to make a potato chip sandwich with them to get the exact right blend of crunch and salt and tang. The salt and vinegar are too intense, and the chips are too thin, while the ruffled ones are too bland and too thick - together they are sublime! This always makes me think of sitting outside in a cafe in Italy at about 5:00 and having an apperitivo with some of those little dishes of chips and peanuts and olives - I LOVE that!
Last week we had dinner at il Fornaio - one of the best lasagne ever! Seriously - beschamel, a nice meat sauce, fresh pasta - it was really really good! But not as good as the ravioli pictured below - in Florence, near the central market - filled with ricotta and herbs with a light tomato sauce and pareggiano reggiano on top. This is clearly what the pillows in heaven are made out of!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tomato Cheddar Pie

This is from a Laurie Colwin column in the August 1992 Gourmet - I still miss her. I think her food writing was some of the first that inspired me, and during all my "I'm taking all of this stuff to Goodwill" phases, her books stay on the shelf, never at risk.

This pie is so good, kind of like a baked tomato sandwich. It is best if it is reheated in a 350°F oven so the cheese is melted and the pie is hot. The recipe says you can use canned tomatoes, but I never make it with anything but fresh, preferably ones you picked yourself. Or someone picked for you :)

2 cups flour
1 stick butter
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk

2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and sliced
or 2 28-ounces cans of plum tomatoes, drained and sliced
chopped basil, parsley or chives, to taste
1½ cups grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise mixed with 2 T. lemon juice

Make crust as for biscuit dough. Roll out half and line a 9-inch pie plate with it, add the tomatoes, then the herbs, then 1 cup of the cheese, then the mayonnaise mixture and then the rest of the cheese. Roll out the rest of the dough and fit it over the top, pinching the edges to seal the crusts together. Cut several steam vents in the top and bake at 400°F for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hazelnut Frangipane and Pears

Got the macro working!

Oh, and they were yummy too!

Take the tart shells as described in my August post, fill with hazelnut frangipane and bake 10 minutes at 350, then top with some pear compote. Vanilla ice cream on top is good, but not stictly required. Try not to eat them all at once!
Hazelnut Frangipane
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
3 eggs
6 T melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Whirl hazelnuts in a blender until pretty fine - you should add the eggs after they are pretty well chopped up and that will keep the mixture moving. Then add the butter and sugar and blend until fine. Spread in pre-baked shells and bake until puffed and firm - 10-15 minutes.
Pear Compote
2 medium pears - bosc or d'anjou work great
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
Peel and dice the pears. Put them in a small saucepan with the sugar. Cook over low heat until the pears are just tender - stirring as necessary to keep them from sticking. Add vanilla at the end. Use on top of the tarts, or over ice cream, or as a filling for a danish braid.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chocolate and Fruit

OK - we might as well get down to it because I KNOW I am in the huge minority here, but in general, I hate fruit and chocolate together. It's not so much the flavors, because that can be pretty good and I will get to that in a minute, but it's the textures - for example, a chocolate-dipped strawberry is just all wrong – the chocolate makes the strawberry taste sour, and the acid juiciness of the strawberry makes the chocolate go all grainy and nasty. Nope, nothing to like there. Other fruits fare similarly badly – I mean maybe banana isn’t so bad from the texture standpoint because it’s more creamy, but still, neither one enhances the other, really. And pineapple and other juicy and acid fruits produce the same results as the strawberries. And blueberries and chocolate – well that’s just wrong, because it puts two lovely things completely at war with each other and why why would you do that?? Chocolate and raspberries same thing – great apart, terrible together. . . .

BUT, BUT (and this was a big revelation for me) there are some fruit flavors, if not the actual fruit, that go actually really well with chocolate. Last year, for example, I made a chocolate chiffon cake with a blackberry coulis (I love that word – but I think it just means sauce!! – hee!!) ANYWAY – chocolate chiffon cake is like the end – it is SO good – way richer than angel food, but not super dense and heavy. It sat so pretty in a pool of blackberry sauce – sweetened of course so it didn’t fight with the chocolate – amazing!

AND, now, this year, I find that a lovely chocolate bundt cake flavored with orange essence and covered in an orange glaze is totally sublime! I mean who would have thought I would like something like that – la la la – it’s so great!

Pictures to come. . . . .

Chocolate Chiffon Cake
2 cups sifted cake flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 liquid melted butter
7 large eggs, separated
3/4 boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

One ungreased 10-inch tube pan

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cocoa, all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder, and salt and beat 1 minute to mix. Make a well in the center. Add the oil, egg yolks, and vanilla and beat 1 minute or until smooth. Add the boiling water and mix again.

In another large mixing bowl beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until just blended.

Pour into the tube pan, run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets, and bake for 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Invert the pan, placing the tube opening over the neck of a soda or wine bottle to suspend it well above the counter, and cool the cake completely in the pan (this takes about 1 1/2 hours).

Loosen the sides with a long metal spatula and remove the cake from the pan. Invert onto a greased wire rack and reinvert onto a serving plate.

Serve with Blackberry Coulis and a dollop of whipped cream.

Blackberry Coulis

2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar

Cook blackberries and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until the fruit breaks down and the sugar is dissolved. Push through a sieve to strain out seeds, but press down hard so that the resulting sauce is thick with fruit puree. Yum.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Crab cake sandwich with fried egg and cheese. OMG - seriously. I could have this as my breakfast every single day and never be sorry there wasn't something else. Chanterelles - sauteed with butter and oil and stirred into pasta or risotto.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eclairs - Darking Bakers' August Challenge

This month we were challenged by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK to make Pierre Herme eclairs. You can see the recipe and technique on their blogs. I've made eclairs before, but it's always fun to have an excuse to make a dessert, and to try variations on a recipe. I waited until the last possible minute and made these last night! The pate a choux was easy - I like the food processor method. And I got 22 little eclairs - very close to what the recipe predicts. That said, I agree with other posters that they were too eggy and too soft. I don't know that there is any particular benefit from adding milk - so I will stick to my old recipe - four ingredients, perfect and crisp every time - 1 cup water, 1 stick butter, 1 cup flour, 4 eggs.

I elected to do my variation on the pastry cream filling - I added a few tablespoons of hazelnut praline to the pastry cream as it was cooling down. This is a very good recipe and I will make it again, though I have a tendency to want to shortcut the tempering process and nearly scramble the eggs everytime. Ah well, that is what the seive is for, no?

As far as the chocolate sauce, all I can say is hmmm. There are a damn lot of steps and ingredients to get something that is no better than ganache. OK, maybe that's not fair - is anything better than ganache? But you know. I would be interested to hear what others think, but it seems like a darn lot of steps to get essentially a chocolate ganache. I kept waiting for the secret to reveal itself, but I got nothing - add water and then boil it off? How about we start with heavy cream instead? Ah well, that's why these challenges are so fascinating - you get other people's view of the world!
I think I will definintely make the pastry cream again, and make eclairs more often, but i will use my own pate a choux recipe and a simple ganache for glazing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

White Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream for Dessert

I've been reading blogs all along, even while claiming to be too busy/tired/out of memory to post anything. Finally got inspired (read, overcome with guilt thinking I am a slacker) and decided to cook, photograph, and eat, in that order. The mandarin orange bundt cake came out much better the second time, but I still have no photos for that, so more to come later.

Last week I had a good but ultimately less-than-satisfying crab roll for lunch - clearly, more crab was in order to scratch that itch. Dilemma - to buy the ready to go crab meat out of the shell, or buy the whole crab and pick the meat out? Thank god I chose the latter - apparently the guys a the fish counter wanted to reward me for making the right decision cause when I told them I wanted two whole cooked crab, they didn't pull them off the ice in the case, no, they pulled them out of the boiling water steaming hot!! Oh man oh man oh man. The crab was buttery and sweet - as good as I have ever had.
Crab cakes for dinner, with a tomato salad and fresh corn on the side. As Homer would say - can't talk, eating . . . .

For dessert I wanted something rich, but with fruit. So, I searched David Lebovitz's site for an interesting ice cream recipe and came up with the White Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream - simplified as a non-custard ice cream, with fresh figs. . . . .and balsamic vinegar. . . . . A little blurry, yes, but no less delicious!

White Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream

About 1 quart

2-inch piece fresh ginger

½ cup sugar1 cup milk
1 t. vanilla extract

2 cups heavy cream - divided

4 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1. Slice the ginger into very thin rounds, cover it with 1 cup of the heavy cream in a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat off. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Let steep for at least 30 minutes, preferably in the fridge to cool it off.
2. Put the chopped white chocolate in a large bowl. Warm up the other cup of heavy cream until very warm but do not simmer or boil. Pour over the chocolate and stir to melt the chocolate. Add the cup of milk to this mixture and then stir in the vanilla. Put this in the fridge too.
3. After the two mixtures have cooled, strain the ginger cream mixture through a sieve into the white chocolate cream. Discard the ginger. Put the combined mix into an ice cream maker and then freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More eating . . . .

Dungeness crab roll from Pike Place Chowder

Orange ricotta brioche with currants - the Dahlia Bakery . . . .

Corn fritters from - thanks Kim!

Mandarin Orange bundt cake - no link, it was a disaster! But I think I know how to fix it. . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What I've Been Eating

This is just a gratuitous pic to distract you from the lack of current ones . . . .

OK - I KNOW that 99.9% of blogging is the photos, but the one memory card died and the other one is full of wedding cake pictures and I just don't want to lose track of all the amazing stuff I am still managing to eat, even if I can't take pictures of it.

Roast pork with a blueberry-white-wine reduction. Green salad. Fresh corn.

Blackberries and cream and cake - layered together for a spontaneous triffle.

Raspberries - warm from the sun and cool from the shade.

Shrimp sauteed with garlic and butter and olive oil - parsley on top, fresh corn on the side.

Tree- ripened apricots - I've only had three, but I think they'll hold me until next year!.
Green curry rice with cream and corn and shrimp. OMG - really could eat this until I am sick!

Carne asada (steak) and carnitas (pork) tacos with green salsa from the taco truck in Monroe - hot and spicy and salty and perfect!

Insalata caprese with lots of fresh basil.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Berry Tartlets

I couldn’t commit to just one berry – I’m pretty sure if I had to pick a favorite berry, it would be blackberries, but I figure there’s still time in August and September to use those – so I went with raspberries and blueberries. These are variations on a couple of recipes, and make a perfect little dessert buffet, or breakfast, or whatever . . . . I am a huge fan of dessert and coffee for breakfast, and these seem almost healthy if you think about it. Heee!

OK – true confession time – I am going to give you the recipe for a fabulous all-butter pie crust that you can use for the tartlet shells, but I do not use it for these tartlets – I buy frozen pre-made tartlet shells (raw) and bake them fresh right before I assemble the tartlets. The shells are GREAT, and this is one of those “life’s too short” sort of things . . . .

Raspberry Tartlets

Tartlet shells (recipe below)
Pastry cream (recipe below)
Fresh raspberries

Mint leaves
Sweetened whipped cream

Assembly: Prebake the tartlet shells – approx 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Cool. Fill with pastry cream. Top with raspberries. Garnish with whipped cream and mint leaves. The really swanky among you might want to brush the baked shells with melted dark or white chocolate, for an additional flavor hit. Also, brushing with chocolate ensures that the shells stay crisp if you want to assemble them a bit ahead of time.

Double Blueberry Tartlets

Tartlet shells
4 cups fresh blueberries
¾ cup sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. butter

Thin strips of lemon zest
Sweetened whipped cream

Assembly: Prebake the tartlet shells as above and cool. Take half of the blueberries and cook them with the sugar and cornstarch until they are cooked and thick, low heat, approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the lemon juice and the butter. Let cool a little bit, then stir in the fresh blueberries and use this to fill the tartlet shells. Garnish with whipped cream and strips of lemon zest.

Pastry Cream

1 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream

Scald the milk. In a clean pan whisk together the egg yolks, the sugar, the cornstarch and the vanilla. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Simmer for 3 minutes -- it will be very thick --transfer it to a bowl and chill it, its surface covered with plastic wrap, for 4 hours or until it is firm. (May be made one day ahead.) Beat the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks. Whisk the pastry cream until it is smooth, whisk in half the whipped cream, fold in the remaining cream gently but thoroughly.

All Butter Pie Crust

2 cups flour
12 tablespoons chilled butter, cut in bits
1/2 t. salt
5 tablespoons ice water (more as needed)

Pulse flour, butter and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water and pulse until the mixture just clumps together. Form into two balls, flatten each slightly and wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate at least 15 minutes until firm. If you really need to use these right away, you can probably get away with it if you roll the crust out between sheets of waxed paper or plastic, or flour the rolling surface really well.

Makes one double crust, or use in tartlet shells – roll out to about ¼” thick and cut into rounds to fit into 3” or 4” tartlet shells.

The best part about this recipe is that the formula can be adapted for any quantity. Just use 2 tablespoons butter for every 1/3 cup flour. So a small, single crust works out very well with 1 cup flour and 6 tablespoons butter, while a larger single crust would take a stick of butter and 1 1/3 cups flour.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Raspberry Tarts ala Z

This is great! Z does a great deal of the work, and I get to post the picture! We baked off the tart shells on Thursday the 26th of June, then painted the inside with chocolate to protect the crispiness of the baked shells. Then we packaged them up, and Z took them to eastern Washington along with a cooler filled with pastry creme, (some cookbooks list this as creme patisserie), raspberries, fresh mint, and piping bags. Then the assembly - pretty self explanatory really - fill tarts with pastry creme, arrange raspberries decoratively, pipe on some whipped cream, add a mint leaf or two and a shaving of chocolate and voila, you've got wedding dessert for 80 people.
Now I personally think you should always have a wedding cake, but this turned out wonderful. And we threw in a side serving of pine nut tarts!

Pastry Creme

1 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream

Scald the milk. In a clean pan whisk together the egg yolks, the sugar, the cornstarch and the vanilla. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Simmer for 3 minutes -- it will be very thick --transfer it to a bowl and chill it, its surface covered with plastic wrap, for 4 hours or until it is firm. (May be made one day ahead.) Beat the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks. Whisk the pastry cream until it is smooth, whisk in half the whipped cream, fold in the remaining cream gently but thoroughly.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Danish Braid - Daring Bakers' June Challenge!

Cherry Cream Cheese Danish

June's Daring Bakers' Challenge - Danish Braid.

This is a lovely and versatile recipe - for the complete text see Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? Thanks to them for being the host and hostess this month - the recipe was well written and the explanations were great, with one exception. You cannot make this "on the counter" if you don't have a mixer - it will be a huge stinkin' mess! You have to just put it in a bowl and mix it up by hand - the dough is not that big, and it can be done in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon with no problem.

I made it twice - once with lemon and vanilla in the dough, once with orange rind. Both times I made sweet and savory versions - cherry cream cheese for the sweet, but oh the savory ones were fabulous - the sweetness of the danish dough is a great counterpoint to the saltiness of a savory filling.

Below is the individual danish with goat cheese and carmelized onions. I also did a cheese/tomato/basil braid, and a shrimp braid. All of them were so good! Though I can't say that eating an entire recipe of this dough in one weekend is really wise . . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lemon Glazed Cake

This cake is a delight - very verstatile to change the flavors around - lemon, orange, almond, rum - you get to be creative with whatever is around. And frankly, I haven't baked it in a while - confession - this is an OLD picture. But I get tired of seeing the same old thing on my page, and I am flat out of time this week, so here ya go! Z and I are baking tomorrow, so there may be tartlettes to post later this week. Then, the Daring Bakers' Challenge gets posted on Sunday the 29th - whee!!! It's a good one!

Lemon Cake

3 cups flour
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
Grated rind and juice from one lemon
1 cup buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients together, set aside. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, vanilla and lemon. Beat with an electric mixer 3 minutes. Add dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour batter into a very well greased and floured tube or bundt pan and bake 60-70 minutes or until golden brown and cracked on top. Do not remove cake from pan until it is completely cool. It should come out perfectly.

Lemon Glaze: Mix confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice to make a thin glaze. Brush/pour over cooled cake.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I don't really like graham crackers - never have - I think it has to do with their early pairing with lukewarm milk out of the carton in grade school. Anyway, they're ok in a cheesecake crust, but that's about it . . . .

So, I have been feeling like I am significantly missing out on the "s'mores" phenomenon, but overall not feeling too terribly deprived, what with the entire other universe of desserts out there . . . . But still, in the back of my mind - you know . . . .

Yesterday at Trader Joe's (god I LOVE that place - now there's a place that should deliver) they had the whole little s'more set up - swiss chocolate, artisan vanilla marshmallows, cinnamon graham crackers, etc. I almost fell for the whole package, but I had a chance conversation with a woman in there when we almost backed into each other, and her solution was pure genius - just use a different cookie. (doh!) well, of course. Patrolled the cookie displays for 15 minutes - shortbread? gingersnaps? almond biscuits? All have promise, but finally I settled on the TJ brand of butter waffle cookie - an amazing little confection made of pronounceable ingredients!

It's pretty simple really - chocolate on one cookie, halved marshmallow on the other, a few seconds under the broiler, smash them together, let cool sufficiently to avoid second degree burns on the roof of the mouth, and then consume. They are sublime! Yes, all you 70%-er's out there, you can use dark chocolate! No campfire necessary. And I still have most of the ingredients left, so it's looking like s'mores again tonight. . . . .

Maybe I can get the macro function to work and get a clear picture!! But you pretty much get the idea from this one.

With macro functioning. . . . .

and just for fun, one more

Friday, June 13, 2008

Molten Chocolate Cake

OK, first, I have to thank Ann at Velvet Lava for the inspiration for this dessert. I mean, her whole blog is inspired by the lava cake and the chocolate velvet cake, so after a few months of reading her posts, I finally got off the dime and made this recipe, which truthfully has been in the house for five years! It was in the newspaper in 2003 - well, what can I say, it's been busy around here . . . .

And I am way late posting, because I made these many days ago. But they are so very cute and so very delicious! The recipe - one of probably 127 of the recipes out there - is at the end of the post. There are lots of variations on how much chocolate, how much butter, etc. But I love it that you can make them early in the day and keep them in the fridge until the last minute and bake them cold. The one picture that didn't come out so well was the one I took after the kitchen towel caught on fire when taking these out of the oven! YES, full on flames! Crap. I stood there like an idiot, pizza pan in my hand with the little ramekins on it, thinking, hmm, is the pan steaming? why is my hand so hot?? I did't drop them though. Apparently, with an oven at 500 F, you don't need much towel contact with the heating element for it to ignite. I suppose there's a lesson there about using pot holders, but it's a lesson I will probably never learn.
Anyway, the recipe says to serve these in the ramekins, but I liked them baked for one or two extra minutes so they would pop out and be served on a plate - the lava effect is so much better if it flows across the plate. . . .

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

3 1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) butter
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large egg yolks
2 large whole eggs
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
7 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Additional confectioners' sugar, for garnish
Whipped cream, for garnish
Have ready 4 half-cup ramekins.
In a double boiler, melt the butter and the chocolate together. Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks. In a separate bowl, sift the confectioners' sugar together with the flour.
When the chocolate has melted, whisk the egg mixture into it, blending well. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are just incorporated into the batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the four ramekins, and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Before serving, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until each cake has a high rounded dome and a single crack that oozes a bit of chocolate.
Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve with whipped cream on the side.