Tuesday, March 30, 2010

" She's as sweet as tupelo honey"

I'm almost at the end of a food photography class I've been taking on line.  It's from Perfect Picture School of Photography.    And if you are looking for an on line class I highly recommend this one.  I just kind of stumbled on their web site one night googling food photography information.  I checked them out and found they were fairly reasonable and I'm very happy with the course.  Lots of great feedback,tips and instructor interaction.  And I am not receiving any compensation from them for writing this either.  Hmm maybe I should investigate that.  I'm getting ready to sign up for a second class ! 

So why do I ramble on about this course, because one of my assignments involved honey.  I decided that  I wanted to do a close up of a honeycomb . Living in the city and not having my own little hive in my backyard (although with all my lavender and flowers I do keep the little bees happy in Seattle ! ) I figured my favorite store-Metropolitan Market - would be able to help me. And of course they didn't disappoint.  On their shelf I found a beautiful Tupelo honeycomb from Savannah Bee Company.  I rushed home with my little treasure and immediately began setting up for my little photo shoot.  The entire time I'm setting up all I could hear was Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" song.  Now if you know me ,you know that Van Morrison is my absolute favorite singer-I can listen to him every single minute of the day and not tire of his voice.  It takes me to a world of sunshine streaming thru the trees, warm sun on my face,my love beside me off on another adventure. Ohhh,ok I'm back from my day dreaming, but the song was still playing in my head as I took each shot. Somewhere along the way the assignment  turned into a moment in time-something sweet and quiet and it was  just my moment.  I was enthralled with the honeycomb and the sun shining through it and that song still streaming through my mind and soul......

"You can take all the tea in China
Put it in a big brown bag for me
Sail right around the seven oceans
Drop it straight into the deepblue sea
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
She's an angel of the first degree
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee "

Now that the assignment is over I have this beautiful honeycomb all dressed up and no where to go.  I have decided to send it to honey heaven , also known as "Lavender & Tupelo Honey Creme Brulee". I found this recipe on the Savannah Bee Company Website. According to the Savannah Bee Website this recipe was created by Sondra Bernstein, the Proprietor of the girl & the fig™ in Sonoma .

Thank you Sondra Bernstein for an incredible creme brulee and I dedicate this to Van Morrison and all those sweet little bees who made this beautiful honeycomb.

4 Servings
7 Egg yolks
2 oz. Sugar
2 oz. Savannah Bee Tupelo Honey
1 1/2 Cups Heavy cream
1/2 Cup Milk
3-4 sprigs Lavender (or 1 Tbs dried lavender)
3 – 4 Tbs Granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put cream and milk into a saucepan with lavender. Bring to a boil and turn off. Let stems steep for about 15 minutes or until the milk has a lavender flavor.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, sugar and honey until smooth. Pull sprigs out of the cream and milk mixture
and whisk into eggs. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any foam.

Pour into four ounce ramekins or brulee dishes. Set into a baking pan, add enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides. Place in oven and bake 25 - 30 minutes or until they are set. Test by jiggling the dish.

"You can take all the tea in China
Put it in a big brown bag for me
Sail right around the seven oceans
Drop it straight into the deepblue sea
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
She's an angel of the first degree
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee "..Van Morrison

Friday, March 26, 2010

Daring Bakers March Challenge-Orange Tian

March 1, 2010
The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

And now I understand why it is called DARING ! When I first saw the challenge I thought oh my gosh a recipe from Alain Ducasse's Cooking school-Toto we aren't in Kansas anymore !! After my heart stopped racing I couldn't wait to begin. I read and re-read the instructions at least 5 times. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking of what my results would look like and taste like and I can't wait for my days off to begin the challenge !

PS: I baked this earlier in the month but we couldn't post to our blogs until everyone completed the challenge.
March 4, 2010
Here it is my week-end and I'm starting with the marmalade. I have decided to use blood oranges because I love the color and think it will make a pretty presentation besides tasting incredible.

Pretty blood oranges

I spent some time reviewing the You Tube video on segmenting citrus. Even though this is the way I normally segment them, I was a nervous wreck wanting to get them just perfect , so it took me most of the morning to segment my oranges and make my marmalade. I decided to do the segmenting first so that any scraps and defective ones could be thrown in with the marmalade. I think that was a good plan, except I have enough marmalade now to feed most of my neighbors for a week !

And so pretty when sliced open

Slices for the marmalade

Bitterness all gone after blanching

Lovely marmalade setting up

Such beautiful colors and so sweet

Even the compost is pretty

March 5, 2010

After my morning coffee I couldn't wait to begin phase 2 of the challenge. I made my caramel-but instead of just orange/caramel I made chocolate,orange caramel-because you can never have too much chocolate with anything ! Then I moved onto placing the blood orange segments into the silicone molds. I decided to use the molds instead of cookie cutters just to see how they would turn out and because I wanted them just a little smaller than the 4" cookie cutters I have.

              The molds worked out perfectly

Once I placed the segments into the molds and was satisfied with how they looked, I placed the molds into the freezer while I prepared the whipped cream with gelatine. This went fairly quickly and I was soon placing my completed Tians into the freezer to set up. I had to stop myself from opening the freezer every few minutes to see how they were doing ! I patiently waited 2 hours before pulling them out and keeping my fingers crossed that they would easily pop out of the molds. I had one minor casualty and it was the last one so of course I had to give the damaged one to my official taste tester. He didn't protest at all and he didn't seem to mind that the blood oranges no longer had the pretty swirl design to them. I watched his face and his expression said it all when he took his first bite-so of course I had to take a bite too. Oh my oh my-we almost had to arm wrestle for the next bite. I left him in Tian paradise while I went back to adding the caramel I had made to complete the presentation and Voila -behold my first Daring Bakers Challenge:


Lovely Layers of Pate Sablee, Blood Orange Marmalade, Whipped cream with Marmalade folded in, topped with Blood Orange Segments covered with Chocolate Orange Caramel


Directions,Recipe and Tips for Orange Tian

Recipe Source: Recipe slightly adapted from Alain Ducasse‘s Cooking School in Paris, France (http://www.ecolecuisine-alainducasse.com/).

Note: There are quite a few steps to making this dessert; however a lot of them can be made in advance. The orange marmalade can be made several days ahead of time and the caramel sauce and orange segments preparation should be made the day before you make the dessert. Also, if you have a scale, try and use the weighed measurements as they will be the most accurate.

This recipe and fabulous directions are compliments of Chocolate Shavings-check out her blog !


The recipe can be a little bit tricky to put together, especially the first time. My main tip is to make sure the whipped cream is firm enough when you make it and be sure to leave the desserts to set in the freezer for long enough or they will fall apart when you unmold them.

Preparation time:
- Pate Sablee: 20 minutes to make, 30 minutes to rest, 15 minutes to roll out, 20 minutes to bake
- Marmalade: 20 minutes to make, 30 minutes to blanch
- Orange segments: 20 minutes, overnight to sit
- Caramel: 15 minutes, overnight to sit
- Whipped Cream: 15 minutes
- Assembling: 20 minutes
- Freezer to Set: 10 minutes

Equipment required:
-Cookie cutters . Ideally, you should have about 6 cookie cutters to build the desserts in and cut the circles of dough (see photo). The cookie cutters will be the size of your final dessert, so they should be the size of an individually-sized tart mold. If you don’t have round cookie cutters you could use an individually-sized cheesecake mold without its base.
- A food processor (although the dough could be made by hand too)
- A stand-up or hand mixer
- Parchment paper or a silicone sheet
- A baking sheet
- A rolling pin

For the Pate Sablee:
Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

-Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
-In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.
-Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogeneous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
-Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
-Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.
-Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. -Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Marmalade:
Ingredients U.S. Imperial Metric Instructions for Ingredients
Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams
1 large orange used to make orange slices
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

-Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.
-Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.
-Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.
-Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).
-Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measure and use the same amount of sugar.
-In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).
-Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Orange Segments:
-For this step you will need 8 oranges.
-Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.
-[See YouTube video in the References section below for additional information on segmenting oranges.]

For the Caramel:
-Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
-granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
-orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams
-Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.
-Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.
-Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]

For the Whipped Cream:
-Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
-heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
-3 tablespoons of hot water
-1 tsp Gelatine
-1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar
-orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon
-In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.

[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

Assembling the Dessert:
-Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.
-Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.
-Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.
-Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.
-Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.
-Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. -Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.
-Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.
-Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.
-Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.
-Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.

And if you have made it through all of this, pour a glass of wine and enjoy your dessert !

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-tian.htm (An article about the dessert known as tian.)
YouTube link on how to segment an orange: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZG5mcEEBlcI

Chocoholic Fridays-Brownies From Another Time

Have you ever wondered where time goes ? I was out walking my sweet little Hailey during a recent sun break this week and as we followed our familiar path I could hear sounds of the kitchen coming from various houses we passed. You know those sounds, pots clanging when you pull out the one that is on the very bottom, silverware chiming and tinkling as you gather it for the table, the gentle clatter of the dinner plates. And then I realized , Winter is gone and Spring has arrived. Everyone has thrown open their doors to allow the fresh air of Spring easy entry into their lives. We were buttoned up and wrapped in sweaters for so many months just waiting for the snow to come and it didn't. Mother Nature was easy on us this Winter and she is now treating us to so much greenness and so many flowers . It's as if she can't wait and doesn't want to pace herself over 2 or 3 months so she is pushing all her little tulips and daffodils and hyacinths out into the world all at once .

 I am trying to teach myself to savor each and every moment. Sometimes it seems as though those moments can disappear -poof like a little wisp of fog,gone but never really forgotten. Do you remember when you were 12 or 13years old and thought that turning 21 was a century away and would never happen ? Sometimes I long for those days when time seemed to move much slower.

I decided that since this was such a lovely week I didn't need chocolate to alleviate my stress but I was longing for something from another time-when time moved much slower. I remembered brownies, and the surprise of finding them in my lunchbox along with newspaper clippings about the high school baseball pitcher I had a crush on-thanks mom-those were always special little surprises and it took the passing of time for me to realize how special. So in honor of those moments I give you brownies . You can make these according to the recipe, and they are incredible, or you can make them a little more special to bring back the sweetness of that moment in time that is gone but always in your heart.

Heart of Darkness Brownies
adapted from a Maeda Heater recipe

These are dense with a crackly crust, they have a little tang from the sour cream which also adds the moisture. The dusting of sugar helps a nice crackly crust to form. I planned on icing these with ganache so I eliminated the dusting of sugar.

Note: It is very important to use good quality, bittersweet chocolate, with 60 to 72% cocoa solids. Don’t be tempted to substitute Nestle’s or Baker’s chocolate in this recipe. You are going to all the trouble of making your own brownies, go the extra step and buy the better chocolate-you won’t be sorry. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive higher end brand of chocolate -just keep an eye on the percentage of cocoa solids.

12 oz / 340g bittersweet chocolate, at room temperature, chopped into small chunks
12 oz / 340g unsalted butter (plus about 2 tsp for greasing pan)
1-1/4 cups / 238g white sugar
2 Tbl / 24g (approx) additional sugar for dusting
3/4 cup / 100g all-purpose flour
1/4 cup / 24g cocoa powder (plus about 2TB for dusting pan)
1 tsp / 6g salt
4 large eggs /200g
2/3 cup / 140g sour cream
1 Tbl / 14g vanilla extract
Optional: chopped nuts or chocolate chunks


-Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat
-Whisk in sugar until smooth and thick
-Sift and thoroughly stir together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt
-Whisk into the butter/sugar mixture until smooth.
-Turn heat as low as possible, and stir chocolate into butter/sugar/cocoa mixture until mostly melted. --- -Remove from heat, and continue stirring until smooth. allow to cool until just above room temperature; about 80 degrees F. it should become fairly thick. you can speed the cooling process by putting the pan in a water bath and stirring.
-While mixture is cooling, preheat oven to 300° with rack in center.
-Grease baking pan and lightly dust with cocoa powder. optionally, line the bottom with a greased/dusted with cocoa sheet of parchment, to make serving easier.
-Shortly before chocolate mixture is cooled, combine eggs and sour cream in a medium bowl. whisk until well mixed, pale, and a bit frothy. do not try to incorporate enough air to increase the volume. stir in the vanilla.
-Stir egg mixture into the other ingredients (if the saucepan is big enough, just do it in the pan). If mixture gets thick and lumpy, it means the chocolate has cooled too much--return it to the stove, and stir over low heat. mixture should get fairly smooth.
-If you're incorporating any chopped nuts or chocolate chunks, stir them in.
-Pour into prepared pan and smooth top. dust a light, even coating of sugar over the top .
-Bake about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on oven and batch size. batter should rise evenly from center to edge. the top surface should look uniform. a tester should come out of the center dirty, but without any large chunks of batter attached. better undercooked than overcooked.
-Allow to cool on cooling rack. they can be served room temperature, warm (very soft), or chilled (like fudge). they keep a long time at room temperature or refrigerated, but crust will soften quickly.

These brownies are delicate; be careful cutting and serving. they should be cooled to room temperature (or ideally chilled) before slicing.

And because I love chocolate so much and these were being prepared for my Chocoholic Friday I made them a little fancier by baking them in a 9" round tart pan. After they cooled and I removed them from the pan, I sliced the tart into 16 delicate slivers. I then prepared chocolate ganache and coated the brownies with the ganache. Once coated I chilled the ganache. After the chilling I whipped the ganache and used a pastry bag to pipe little rosettes on the ganache coated brownies . I then dusted them with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
8 ounces /227g bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup /180 ml heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons/28 grams unsalted butter

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth.

Voila-my brownies, dressed to the nines !

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Forgive Me For I Have Sinned

I belong to this group called "Baked from Scratch" and every once in a while we are permitted to fall off the wagon so to speak.  So with that said forgive me fellow bakers but I needed something in a hurry for a breakfast this morning and yes I waited until the last minute. But that seems to be the story of my life this week.  My rationalization is that at least I didn't run off to the grocery store and pick up a pre-packaged something or other-like 10 day old cinnamon rolls.  I did use quality ingredients for my cheating Palmiers.  Since I didn't have the time to make my own puff pastry dough I defrosted some "just in case of emergency" puff pastry dough I had in the freezer.  It's Dufour Pastry Kitchens Classic Puff Pastry. And according to the packaging it's made with the finest churned sweet butter-something else I didn't have the time to do. What you don't churn your own butter ?   The New York Times quote on the cover is " One of the best sources for top quality puff pastry." and Details Magazine states : "The most buttery and flaky pastry you will ever find."  It also has a gold seal on the cover showing it was a Winner at the International Fancy Food Show !  So as you can see I at least tried to use the best pre made puff pastry !  See how good I am at rationalization ?
And if that wasn't enough reason for me to rationalize I found that one of my baking idols Dorie Greenspan had a recent recipe using pre made puff pastry dough.  She has two recipes on her web site , a sweet version and a savory version.  Ok, I'm off the hook,if Dorie can do it then so can I !

I rolled the pastry out to 18inches length on a cinnamon sugared surface.  Once I had the width I was looking for -about 4-6inches, I sprinkled more cinnamon sugar over the dough and folded it using a four fold (check out the video below to see how to do that).  I placed this in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.  After it's little pastry nap I took it out and sliced off even rounds for the baking sheets.  I cut them about 3/4" wide-I wanted small dainty little Palmiers.  I placed them about 2 inches apart on the parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkled them with another light dusting of the cinnamon sugar.

Note to myself, don't mess with the basic Palmier shape !

Bake in a 375F oven on the center shelf.
Baking time is approximately 20-30 minutes.

About halfway thru the baking-after about 12 minutes-I took the pan out and carefully flipped the Palmiers and sprinkled more sugar on them. You don't have to flip them-if you don't, you end up with one side shiney from the carmelized sugar and once side with more of a matte finish.  I like the matte finish and I like the little crunchy trim that forms from the carmelized sugar when I flip them.  If you do flip them-do so carefully-carmelized sugar is very very hot !
You want to watch them carefully until they turn that lovely French Pastry shade of golden brown. Not white with brown highlites,not dark brown but that lovely just took them out of the oven in time French Pastry Golden Brown.

Note to you: Bake them through to the centers-otherwise you will have a dough pastry and really if its doughy you shouldn't even label it pastry but compost .
And you will be tempted to bite into one immediately-not a good idea unless you plan on not eating for a few days due to serious carmelized sugar burns on your tongue-and besides it's not a pretty site when you greet your loved ones !

And for all of you baking purists-come on I know you are out there-here is my recipe for Blitz Puff Dough-which is what I would have used if I had the time !

Blitz Puff Dough

1/2 lb bread flour
1/2 lb pastry flour
1 lb unsalted butter-cold & chilled
1/4 oz salt
8 oz cold water
Add the salt to the water and set aside.
Mix the flours together.
Cut in the cold butter-leaving large 1 inch lumps.
Add in the salted water and mix with the dough hook until absorbed.  You will still have chunks of butter in the dough and that is a very good thing.

Let the dough rest for 15 minutes covered.
Roll the dough into a rectangle 24"x15"
Give the dough three 4 folds,one after another,no resting.
For the Palmiers:
Roll to about 2 1/2mm thickness into a rectangular shape.
Dust the table with your cinnamon sugar,place the dough on top of that and sprinkle the top of the dough with more sugar. Using a rolling pin roll the dough out ensuring at least one side is 18" in length.  Trim with a french knife and fold into a four-fold. Freeze for 1/2 hour before cutting the Palmiers 3/4" in width.

I found a great instructional video for using pre made puff pastry -if you haven't made Palmiers before check this out-it's very well done !

How To Make Palmiers

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010 James Beard Nominations

The 2010 James Beard Nominations are out and I applaud all of them . Especially my fellow Northwest creators of all things delicious !  And the Northwest nominees are :
Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Naomi Pomeroy-Beast-Portland, OR
Andy Ricker-Pok Pok-Portland, OR
Ethan Stowell-Union-Seattle
Cathy Whims-Nostrana-Portland, OR
Jason Wilson-Crush-Seattle

Chef Rucker is  one of the 5 Rising Star Chef's of the Year Nominees
Gabriel Rucker-Le Pigeon-Portland, OR
And hats off to the fabulous Tom Douglas, nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur Award !
Tom Douglas-Dahlia Bakery, Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, Lola, Palace Kitchen, Serious Pie -Seattle

Of course because sweets and pastries are the love of my life here are the cookbooks nominated in those categories:

by James Peterson
(Ten Speed Press)

DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style
by David Guas, Raquel Pelzel
(The Taunton Press)

Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day
by Peter Reinhart
(Ten Speed Press)

And last but not least a huge round of applause for our fellow food bloggers who have been nominated :
Newyork.grubstreet.com -Grub Street New York-Aileen Gallagher, Daniel Maurer, Alexandra Vallis
Seriouseats.com -Serious Eats-Ed Levine
Honest-Food.net -Hunter Angler Gardener Cook -Hank Shaw

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Mornings with Alice

Besides my Chocoholic Fridays, I have decided to start my own Sunday morning tradition-Sunday mornings with Alice.  I love the whole Baking with Julia, Tuesdays with Dorie thing that goes on among food bloggers so I have decided to start my own.  You are welcome to join me-one rule-BUY THE BOOK, no regulations- the only thing I require is your passion-you have to love to bake !!  I'm going to start with her Pure Dessert book and work my way through that one first before I move on to Bittersweet. First of all , let's start with a little about my heroine. Alice Medrich has been referred to as the First Lady of Chocolate.  Her  cookbook honors include 3 named as Cookbooks of the Year.  She also founded the Cocolat chain of chocolate stores, and has taught at the Tante Marie Cooking School. But what is really important for you to know is summed up in one sentence from the book.   She says "I want the soul satisfaction and the sensual pleasure of real flavors."  Me too Alice ! Let the desserts begin !
Chocolate Raspberry Muffins will be my first dessert this Sunday morning.

These were incredibly easy to make and so good.  Bittersweet chocolate with fresh raspberries..mmm perfection.  Pay attention to the batter-don't over mix it or you will end up with tough little muffins and nobody likes tough little muffins!  And the next time I bake these I will definitely make my chocolate chunks chunkier !

Sundays have always been my favorite day of the week.  Lying in bed with a good cup of steaming coffee, a fresh chocolate raspberry muffin and the Sunday paper-what could be more perfect ?   I love nibbling a little, reading a little, napping a little and waking up and starting all over again.  Sunday mornings ...all is well with the world ,or at least my little world.  I hope all is well with yours too.

Raspberry and Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Adapted from "Pure Dessert" by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books, 2007)

Makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (use Nancy Silverton's trick if you don't have whole wheat flour- use unbleached white flour and added a generous dose of wheat germ)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg -I used a full teaspoon because I love the smell and flavor !
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup whole or 1 percent milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
5 to 6 ounces individually frozen fresh raspberries
4 oz of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped into little chunks or 2/3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Cook's notes: If using fresh raspberries then freeze raspberries  on a cookie sheet with edges. Frozen berries keep a bit of shape and are crucial to the recipe. You'll need paper cupcake liners if you don't have a silicone muffin tray.


-In a medium bowl , mix the flours, baking powder, salt and nutmeg-set aside
-In another bowl whisk eggs with sugar, whisk in the milk and butter
-Pour the wet mixture over the flour mixture
-Fold gently until the dry ingredients are moistened but the batter is still lumpy-don't over mix !
-Fold in berries and chips just until they are distributed throughout the batter.
- Divide batter between muffin cups and bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of batter.
-Cool and eat-be careful if you can't wait for them to cool off,melted chocolate is incredible but watch out for hot raspberries !

These are incredible the day after too !

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chocoholic Friday !

What do you do when you are stressed ? Meditate,run,take a vacation,sleep?  Sometimes I shout - I will lock myself in a room alone and just let it all out.  Or sometimes I'll just turn up my radio in my car as loud as I can stand it without blowing out my windows or eardrums !  I was having that kind of day yesterday so after the deep breathing didn't work anymore I put myself  on the beach in Tasmania and turned up the music that was on my radio .

By the time I got home things were looking up and I was in a much better mood ! Having a bad day?  I recommend chocolate and lots of music ! So in honor of stressful work-weeks I am instituting Chocoholic Fridays. Every Friday I will bake something decadent to reward myself for surviving another week and to reward my loved ones for surviving me !!  And this is the perfect week to kick off my Chocoholic Fridays since March 14th signaled the beginning of American Chocolate Week. 

Since I love Canneles and they are THE food I would need to survive on a deserted island (along with Johnny Depp) my first Chocoholic Treat will be Francois Payard's Chocolate Canneles from his book "Chocolate Epiphany"

And if you love his recipes as much as I do you can bake along with a group over at Chocolate With Francois .

Mise en Place Chocolate Canneles

Chocolate Cannelés,
3 oz, (90 g) dark chocolate (72%) chopped – I used Scharffen Berger Bittersweet 70%
2 Cups (500 ml) whole milk
4 Tbsp (60 g) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 Cup plus 2 Tbsp (90 g) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp (14g) Dutch processed cocoa powder
2/3 Cup plus 1/4 Cup (180 g) sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp (40 g) Myer’s dark rum or Armagnac
Vegetable cooking spray if using copper molds

Make the batter-it needs to be refrigerated for at least 24hrs -and please don't drink the batter-you will be tempted but trust me don't !

-Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Put the milk and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and scrape he seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan (reserve the pod for use in another recipe-I dry it and place it in my sugar canister).
-Scald the mixture, removing the pan from the heat when small bubbles form at the edges.
-Pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted.

-Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt over a medium bowl.
-Combine the egg, egg yolks and rum and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. If you go too fast, lumps will form.
-Slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture, whisking until the mixture is smooth.
-Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.

Baking the Cannelés:
-Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF.
-If using copper molds, heat them in the oven for 10 minutes or until they are hot. This step is not necessary of using silicone molds.
-Spray the molds with vegetable cooking spray, doing so more generously for the cooper molds-lightly for the silicone molds. If using silicone molds, set them on a baking sheet.
-Stir the batter, and transfer to a large measuring cup or pitcher if desired, which will make it easier to pour the batter into the molds.
-Fill the molds almost to the top and let the batter rest for 30 minutes. This allows the flour to settle to the bottom, so the cannelés won't rise during baking.

-Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the exterior of the cannelés is crisp and set, and springs back when you lightly touch the top.

-Remove the molds from the oven and turn them over onto a wire cooling rack. Let the cannelés cool in the molds, which keeps them from shrinking and becoming dense.
-When cool, unmold them, and keep them in an airtight container.

Bon Appetit my little chocoholics

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lemons and Rosemary and Polenta Oh My

If you follow Orangette then you recently read her blog on polenta.  I love  good polenta and after reading her blog my polenta craving started.  I don't know about you but when a craving starts with me it's all or nothing.  I either ignore it completely and free myself from the crazy obsession that I know lurks just around the corner.  Or I give in ,open my arms wide and welcome the obsession into my life.  And then there is a funny kind of serendipity that seems to occur when I'm getting ready to enter the craving zone- I start to run into all kinds of things associated with that craving, articles,colors,songs-you know what I mean?
Here's a good example,yesterday I read Orangette's article on polenta, gave into the craving and embraced the obsession.  I was just getting ready to google for some ideas for a recipe when I decided to read the NY Times and catch up on the world outside my kitchen. At the bottom of the front page my interest was piqued by the "Opinion" category.  It wasn't just a news article title,  it was an illustration of the beginnings of a recipe .

See what I mean, wouldn't that illustration make you want to read more ?  So I clicked on the title of the article "All-Nighters: Shapton's In the Night Kitchen".  And discovered a lovely essay by Leanne Shapton,  accompanied by a little magical illustration of the recipe's ingredients.  Take the time to read the essay-it will confirm the obsession we all have when it comes to baking or cooking -can't sleep at night get up and bake !  Anyway back to my obsessive craving for polenta.  After reading Leanne's essay I knew my craving would only be satisfied by some type of polenta cake.  After searching and comparing ingredients in various recipes I decided this one by Ed Schneider, "Lemon Rosemary Polenta Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup", would be the cake that would conquer my obsessive craving for polenta.  The recipe was  published by Mark Bittman under his Bitten Blog in the New York Times.
PS The name of the cake is so long that you may lose your craving in the time it takes to say it but even just saying it -can't you smell the rosemary, can't you taste the creamy lemony polenta? You can't stop, I know you are licking the syrup off of your finger tips! Wouldn't it be the perfect cake to be eating out on the patio, under the lemon trees in the South of France ? Some women may chant-Calgon take me away-not me I'll be chanting Lemon Rosemary Polenta Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup take me away.....


Preheat the oven to 360 degrees
Butter and flour a 9" spring form cake pan

1 stick of unsalted butter-4oz
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 scant teaspoon of fine salt
3/4 cup good quality medium grind polenta
4 eggs-room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons
2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary

Melt a stick of unsalted butter and set it aside to cool
Combine a cup and a half of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, a scant teaspoon of fine salt and three quarters cup of good medium-grind polenta
Using an electric mixer, whip four room-temperature eggs and three quarters cup sugar until they are airy and more than doubled in volume; toward the end, add the grated zest of one and a half lemons and two teaspoons of very finely chopped fresh rosemary.
Carefully fold in about a third of the dry ingredients and then half of the melted butter; repeat until everything is incorporated. Scrape into the cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes; the sides should slightly come away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. It should be well baked; more moisture will be added later.
TIP: I used my silicone muffin pans for these-I got 12 3" cakes and they baked in about 1/2 the time

Lemon Rosemary Syrup
1 large branch of rosemary-chopped
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon

Make this syrup while the cake is in the oven. Strip the leaves from a big branch of rosemary and chop them up. Put a half cup of water and a third cup of sugar on the heat; when the sugar has dissolved, add the rosemary and the zest of half a lemon. Bring to a boil, and let it steep for 15 minutes, then strain and reserve. Before using, add the juice of one lemon.
TIP: I doubled the amount of lemon zest just because I like more tartness in my simple syrup

When the cake has cooled for 10 minutes, spoon the syrup evenly over the cake (still in the pan). Let it soak and cool in the pan, then remove. Serve at room temperature.

Ed suggested a side of whipped cream or a rhubarb compote ! I opted for the whipped cream- Bon Appetit..

Friday, March 12, 2010


This has been a rough week full of challenges, not the least of which was trying to deal with my Face book account being hacked. You know how hard it is to want to talk to someone or yell at someone and there is no one there but your computer? I need to find solace in comfort food today. It’s cold and windy and all the pretty blossoms are blowing off the trees like snowflakes.

One of the highlights of my week was the writing seminar I attended. We were given an exercise in writing involving tasting Kim chi and chocolate. I have never had any problems tasting chocolate-bring it on! Dark chocolate-the darker the better, milk chocolate with nuts without nuts I don’t care. As soon as I hear the word chocolate my taste buds start revving up just waiting for the chocolate to coat my tongue-even thinking about it is sending them into taste bud frenzy. But I digress back to the Kim chi..

Whenever I smell Kim chi it always reminds me of sauerkraut. That first whiff of something fermented and sour immediately takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen where I’m sitting on a hard wooden chair, with my legs tucked up under me, watching her make her stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut. I remember how she would scoop up just the right amount of the beef, pork and rice mixture, drop it onto the steaming cabbage leaf and so quickly and deftly roll the leaf into a perfect little bundle and place it into her black speckled baking pan. Once she had the bottom filled with the bundles she would grab bunches of her homemade sauerkraut from her yellow and white bowl and layer it onto the stuffed cabbage, pour some tomato sauce over that and start with a new layer of stuffed cabbage bundles. I can still see her small gnarled fingers moving so quickly from the steaming leaves, to the meat mixture, to the sauerkraut. I was mesmerized, and always wondered how she moved those fingers and hands so fast. She had arthritis in her fingers and when she wasn’t cooking she was massaging those tender fingers trying to rub away the stiffness and soreness. As a child I couldn’t understand how the pain could be so terrible yet there didn’t seem to be any sign of pain when she was cooking. Now, grown up, I understand. It was and is a labor of love when you become so involved in that cooking moment that you are so truly in the moment of doing something you love,  for those you love, there is nothing but the moment. No pain,no challenges,no outside world.  You surround yourself with the smells and foods you love while creating something special for those you love.

The black speckled enamel-baking pan is out on my counter and the smell of sauerkraut is filling my kitchen along with the sweet memories of my grandmother.

My Grandma's Halupki
3 medium heads of cabbage
2 large onions, chopped
11/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 lb smoked ham,ground
1 1/2 cups rice (dried-if its washed 2 or 3 times and rinsed well it doesn't need to be par-boiled-season it well with salt and pepper)
3 strips of bacon,cut up or some vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic -crushed
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
1 teaspoon sweet paprika for the onion glazing
Paprika to taste to add to meat mixture
2 eggs
1 lb drained sauerkraut-reserve the juices

Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
1 large can diced tomatoes-drained-reserving the liquid
Salt , pepper and paprika to taste
 Reserved juice from the drained sauerkraut

 For the tomato sauce heat the butter on medium heat,add the chopped onion and stir in the flour.  Add the water, stirring well, add the tomato,salt,pepper and paprika.  Once mixed add the juice from the sauerkraut and liquid from the drained tomatoes. Boil for 5 minutes.  If it's too watery for your taste and you want to thicken it you can add flour as needed or add 1 can of tomato paste.  Set the sauce aside while you move on to the stuffed cabbage preparation.

Stuffed Cabbage -Grandma's Halupki-Preparation

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Preparing the cabbage, click here to watch the cabbage leaf preparation

Remove core from cabbage. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling water to which a little vinegar has been added. Cover and cook 3 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves. You will need at least 18 leaves.

When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the hard vein -be careful not to cut the leaves in half. Dry off leaves with a paper towel.

Chop the remaining cabbage and place it in the bottom of a baking pan or casserole dish.

Finely chop onions and glaze them in a heavy iron skillet using the sliced bacon or vegetable oil.  Sprinkle   the teaspoon of paprika over the onions when glazing.

Cool the glazed onions.

Mix the meat,pork,ham ,cooled onions,eggs,rice,garlic ,salt,pepper and paprika to taste -don't overmix or the meat will be tough

Place about 1/2 cup of meat mixture on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then flip the left side then finish rolling away from you.

Place the cabbage rolls on top of the chopped cabbage in the baking pan or casserole dish. Layer with sauerkraut, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper.  Pour a little tomato sauce over the layer. Repeat each layer finishing with a topping of sauerkraut and any remaining tomato sauce.

Bake for 1 hour or until cabbage is tender and meat is cooked.

Onions with Hungarian Paprika

The meat mixture before adding the onions

The sweet little stuffed rolls