Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Here is the link for the printable PDF file

The beginnings of my meringue

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

1.Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
2.Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
3.Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
4.Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
5.Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Folding the chocolate into the meringue

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone (see the recipe below for home made mascarpone)
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

1.Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
2.Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
3.Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Beginnings of my Pavlovas

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

1.Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):
1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

1.In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
2.Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
3.Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
4.Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

I made these the diameter of a medium muffin

Homemade Mascarpone courtesy of Vera at Baking Obession
Much easier to make than it might seem, homemade mascarpone is a tastier and less expensive alternative to a store-bought cheese. It’s marvelous with ripe summer berries, finally appeared at our farmer’s markets.

Makes about 12 oz
•500 ml whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream
•1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours. And according to Vera it will firm up beautifully in the fridge-don't worry about the custard like texture when you place it in the fridge.

Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Additional Information:
Wikipedia’s definition of Pavlova
The history of Pavlova
Great video from Epicurious

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yotam Ottolenghi and Watermelon

First of all if you haven't stumbled upon Yotam Ottolenghi by now google him and go to his website. How can you not love and want to be around a group of people who embrace this philosophy :
We take our food extremely seriously. We make everything – be it marshmallow, an elaborate upside down pear cake or a French bean salad - right from scratch. We don’t buy anything other than raw ingredients, and we only produce things that we would want to eat ourselves. We don’t use colouring or preservatives, we don’t freeze and we don’t refrigerate for long periods. We buy mostly local produce (that is, British and European), very often organic, and we cook to feed and to share, applying the same instincts as a home cook. But we are also perfectionists; testing and re-testing each dish until we get it just right; creating and maintaining beautiful and serene dining environments.
I just bought his cookbook "Plenty" and it is one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I have ever seen.  It's a vegetarian cookbook and the photos alone make me want to cook every dish-and those of you who know me know that I am not a vegan.  I'm not a huge fan of beef but I love chicken, fish and pork-and occasionally lamb.  But with this cookbook I may be eating nothing but vegetables all summer long. 

 I was searching for a cookbook with an emphasis on vegetables since we have expanded our garden this summer.  Even more tomatoes, more eggplant, cucumbers, peppers,broccoli,lettuce,mustard,sugar snap peas,onions,garlic and lots of fresh herbs.  And we also started  biweekly delivery from  New Roots Organics out of Ballard.  Carolyn Boyle started New Roots back in 1999 and supports local organic farmers.  We got our first bin delivered last Thursday and it was perfection.  Juicy nectarines,huge blueberries and some of the sweetest cantaloupe I have tasted in a long time.  Snap green beans that tasted like they just came from my garden.  I love this service.  I try to get to the local farmer's markets but with my schedule I can't always make it so this is a nice fall back plan.  I can't wait to see the next delivery-it's like getting Christmas presents every other week.

I love fresh veggies and fruit from the garden.  I grew up in Duquesne , PA and my grandfather had a huge garden that my mom and dad would tend along with my sister,brother and myself.  We had a cherry tree,several peach trees, a nectarine tree, and 2 plum trees.  I was spoiled at  young age, roaming through the garden with a salt shaker and having a dinner of fresh tomatoes with a little salt sprinkled on them.  Or at lunchtime I would gorge myself on plums and peaches so juicy I would be covered with peach drippings and my fingers would be purple from the plums.  When my grandfather became bedridden he would sit in the upstairs window and yell  down at me "Yenta-pick up those peaches, bring me those with some tomatoes" He would place them on his nightstand or windowsill and usually by the next day they were gone. He taught me how to smell a peach and know if it was ready-how to pick off those huge caterpillars that would eat our tomato plants, how to set onions in so they would grow straight and have huge white bulbs by fall.  I miss my grandfather the most during the summer when the sight of the garden takes me back to him and his window overlooking his garden.  I like to think that my love of gardening comes directly from him.

Anyway I have gotten way off track here.  Back to Yotam.  One of the last recipes in the book has some of my absolute favorite ingredients in it basil, watermelon,feta cheese,olive oil and red onions.  Now if you would have told me I'm going to make you a salad from those ingredients and season it with a little salt and pepper I would have said okay and then I would be making a mental note of where I could stop for good take out on the way home after the "salad".  But the picture of this salad looked so incredible I had to try it and now I am  addicted to this salad-it's going to be my go to salad for the entire summer.  If I didn't tell you before, I love watermelon! My mother used to tell me she ate it all summer long while she was pregnant with me and that's where my addiction comes from !  The sweetness of the melon, the tartness of the feta, the crunch of the red onion and the slight grassy flavor of the olive oil-try it you won't be disappointed . And check out the cookbook-I'm certain you will love it as much as I do !

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream and the Summer Cold

I just stumbled out of bed.  I have been under the blankets for almost 2 days now battling the mother of all summer colds.  My throat hurts-tea soothes it a little, but I need something cold to numb the pain and something with some really good antioxidants.  Like chocolate, like ice cream , like homemade chocolate ice cream.  When I was very very young I remember the first time ice cream was used as medication-my tonsils were removed and the lovely nurse taking care of me brought me some chocolate ice cream.  I remember thinking-wow I must be really sick if they are bringing me ice cream-maybe I'm dying (remember I was a silly goose of a child ).  And then I took that first spoonful and I was hooked-ice cream as medication, far better than pain pills, or needles in the derriere-far far better !  That little moment set the stage for me and probably thousands of others who now reach for ice cream for comfort.  When I'm down or like today when my throat feels like its stuffed with broken glass every time I cough, reaching for a bowl of  ice cream takes me back to that hospital bed  and that moment when the ice cream hit the back of my throat -that  cool creamy numbing sensation-just what the doctor ordered.  Maybe I should put the ice cream in one of those "break glass for emergencies "cabinets. I'll have to think about that.  But for now, I'm setting up my mise en place,putting the Donvier in the freezer and sitting back with my cup of tea until my magic medication,aka homemade chocolate ice cream is ready!  And of course I went to the specialist for advice, Ice Cream Maker extraordinaire-David Lebovitz and his book "The Perfect Scoop".  Thanks David !

Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from A Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes about 1 quart
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder ( I used  E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge)
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate ( I used Scharffen Berger Unsweetened 99% Cacao)
1 cup whole milk ( I substituted buttermilk here-gave a nice light tang to the finished product)
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Warm 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Then stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

2. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (170°F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If the cold mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.)

So I just finished chilling and churning the ice cream and all I can say is OMG-I'm in Paris at Berthillon-really, seriously, this recipe is crazy delicious-maybe it was the substitute of the buttermilk for the whole milk, maybe it's just my summer cold hallucinations, or maybe just maybe it's a recipe that produces some of the most chocolaty,creamy ice cream I have tasted this side of Berthillon, Paris.  The first spoonful literally took me immediately to the Île Saint-Louis  and my first taste of Berthillon Chocolate Ice Cream. October 2004, sunshine streaming through the oak trees, a crisp cool wind blowing of the Seine and the most indescribable taste in the world-no adjectives or superlatives can describe it.   I didn't even want to try the other flavors after I tasted the chocolate.  Now I have a way to time travel back to Paris with this recipe-Merci beau coup David Lebovitz..Merci beau coup... 

(From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Alki Beach

I feel so blessed to live in Seattle. Restaurants galore, some of the best farmer's markets in the world, fabulous shopping, year long sporting events, great music venues and crazy delicious coffee! And in the middle of all of this is the crown jewel-Alki Beach. You don't even need a car to get there. Head to Pier 50 on the Seattle waterfront and take the King County Water Taxi.
It's a beautiful  10 minute ride over to Alki. Don't forget your camera -you will get some incredible skyline pictures !. The water taxi arrives at the dock at Seacrest Park .  Stop for lunch at  Alki Crab & Fish and get some of the best fish and chips along with a gorgeous view  After lunch you have your choice of adventures, rent a kayak,in line skates,a fishing boat, bicycle or long board all from Alki Kayak Tours

Not feeling that adventurous ? Start walking south along the promenade. Walk about 2 miles and you will be in the heart of Alki  Beach.

Alki Beach is the birthplace of Seattle.  On November 13, 1851 the Schooner Exact landed there and the Denny Party started to establish themselves with a camp.  A few months later, Arthur Denny, John Bell and Carson Boren paddled over to the east side of Elliott Bay and founded the actual town of Seattle.  Besides the monument that commemorates Alki Beach as the birthplace of Seattle, walk just past the Bathhouse you will find a miniature reproduction of the Statue of Liberty.  The  Alki statue, or SeaLady is an exact replica of the original Statue of Liberty.  It was presented to the City of Seattle in 1952 by the Boy Scouts of America to celebrate their 40th birthday in the United States.

If you didn't stop for lunch at  Alki Crab & Fish and those hunger pangs are getting stronger, no worries. You have your choice of food. From casual outdoor dining at Slices to the small plates at Phoenecia.-don't miss the famous cinnamon rolls at the Alki Bakery or one of the best mojitos on the beach at Cactus !  It's a sunny day and you don't feel like restaurant dining- then stop by the Alki Urban Market and put together your own little picnic for lunch on the beach.

While you are in the area of the Statue of Liberty and  Alki Bathhouse  stop in and see if any of the artists are at work or join a Pilates class to work off that lunch you just enjoyed !

Are you a lighthouse buff ?  Then start peddling a little further south-just about 1/2 mile and you will discover the Alki Lighthouse

Photo by Liza Phoenix Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Bicycle or walk along the beach in either direction-you can't go wrong. In the summer you will find the beach jammed with sun worshippers,volleyball players,in line skaters,bicyclers,dog walkers and people from all over the world.  The crowds swell in the summertime and a party atmosphere is embraced by all.  And if you are in town for Seattle Seafair you must come to Alki and join in the festivities when the Seafair Pirates kick off the start of Seattle's Seafair Celebration with the annual Pirates Landing at Alki Beach .They will be arriving  on July 10, 2010 between 11:30 and 12:30.  It's a fun family event and an Alki Beach tradition.  There is always something happening at the beach during the summertime.  And in the fall when the majority of tourists and sunworshippers head for warmer beaches Alki Beach turns back into a lovely place to while away hours sitting in the warm sun with the cool breezes blowing off the water.  Or when the rains come, sitting in one of the coffee houses with a hot cup of your favorite beverage while watching storms roll in and out. And don't miss the arrival of the Christmas Ships-a great holiday tradition, listening to the carolers while huddling around the bonfires drinking your hot chocolate !

End your visit  with dinner at  one of my favorite restaurants- a place known mainly to locals "La Rustica" . You will have to walk or bicycle a little further south (approximately 1-2 miles) but your efforts will be rewarded with some of the best Italian food in Seattle. Braised lamb shank, black cod, Linguine al Tartufo, Vanilla Creme Brulee, cannelloni, crusty steamy garlic bread, I could go on and on. It's a small space so be prepared to be elbow to elbow with other diners- go, have dinner, mangia, then let me know what you think.

 Alki Beach has always held a special place in my heart.  It's one of those places you want to share but are afraid if you do it will lose it's magic.  I don't think Alki will ever lose it's magic for me- I will always remember our first walk on the beach when we moved to Seattle and both felt so right about the move after that walk; it's the place that gives me refuge when I'm feeling down and  it's our go to place for every celebration imaginable.   And I'm happy to share it with you.. So check that water taxi schedule,pack your sun screen and head out to the beach !

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I wish my Dad were here today.  He would love this torte.  Sweet but not overly sweet, fresh local strawberries and just a little sparkle from the Moscato d'asti.   Understated but unforgettable.  Like my Dad.  He didn't conquer Mt Everest, he didn't invent some life saving device, he didn't find a cure for some deadly disease, but he lived his live with a quietness and dignity and peacefulness.  My sister,brother and I grew up with a mother who had problems with alcohol and we pretty much had to fend for ourselves.  But if there was one certainty,one anchor in our upheaval of a life it was my Dad.  Amid all the chaos,  a hug would make the sadness go away, if only for a moment.  As I got older I realized how he gave up his happiness and dreams  to ensure some type of stability in our lives. He was my hero-even when I was in the wrong and could hear that stern strong voice call out "Sandra" -he is the only person who has ever called me by that name and I knew if I heard it -well it was usually because I had broken some rule or done something I needed to be held accountable for. I'll never forget those good times -going to the lake and learning to water ski with him shouting out constant encouragement-no matter how many times I belly flopped on my face ; building the first snowman of the season -just he and I  in the backyard; being 13years old and watching him graduate from college; having him drive me to my speech club matches every single Saturday for a year,never complaining always encouraging me to do my best.. shortly after J and I got engaged my dad came to visit me at college and when he was leaving and gave me that last hug and whispered in my ear "You're not my little girl anymore "...I didn't get it then, I thought it was just some grown up corny dad thing to say-but when we danced that father daughter dance at my wedding he whispered to me again.."forget what I said, you will always be my little girl "......I miss him, he died battling cancer many years ago.  I will be forever grateful for the last few minutes I spent with him and forever grateful that I became the person I am today because of him.  Dad , I know you are always with me and I hear you when I have those low moments and I feel you when those fabulous high moments happen too.  You taught me well and I'm proud of the woman I have become and really proud that some of my best qualities are the same ones I so admired in you. Happy Father's Day Dad, I love you.

Thanks to Melissa Clark for sharing her recipe for this Strawberry Moscato Torte  in the New York Times.  Now go make one for your Dad-he'll love it !

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mille-Feuille and the Roses of Summer

The roses are in full bloom in my garden and they look so beautiful.  I remember when we first moved into this house -almost 18years ago-there was one rosebush on the west side of the house.  I had been told that when the house was first built in 1919 the owner and his neighbor used to propagate roses and experiment with new strains.  Those roses were long gone when we bought the house.  I keep hoping that somewhere deep underground are the roots of at least one rosebush that someday will spring forward.  In the meantime I had a vision for the property when we bought it. I wanted a garden like Monet's.  I built my own trellis', put in rose arbors, sectioned out little beds , and now the entire yard is like wandering through Monet's garden.

 I am happy with my handiwork and love roaming through the garden and discovering a new little geranium popping up-transplanted by the winds or the many birds that visit.  We love to sit out on the deck in the evening and smell the vanilla scented Clematis or brush against the rosemary as we walk down the pathway.  We have been talking about selling the house, since retirement is quickly approaching. We talk about downsizing and moving into a smaller place -translation "Condo with no yard maintenance " !  When and if that happens, I will miss my gardens and can only hope that whomever buys the house,  loves to garden. It would break my heart if  I returned and the gardens were gone.  C'est la vie .

So to honor my garden in the present moment  I decided to do something with my roses and baking.  I started to search the Internet and remembered I had the link to Chef Eddy Van Damm on my home page.  I thought of him because his work is so beautiful,creative and delicious I had a feeling he might have something  that would inspire me-all of his work inspires me ! And  how serendipitous-the topic on his home page was a  Mille-Feuille with a Rose flavored Crème légère . And he used crystallized and fresh rose petals for the final touches.  The photography was so gorgeous and his final product looked exquisite-I knew it was the perfect way to honor my roses.

 Many thanks to  Chef Eddy Van Damm for his instructions and inspiration.  And for instructions on how to make your own crystallized roses go to Baking 911 or Martha Stewart. And if you have not discovered Chef Van Damm at this point in your baking experience please go to his website-you will be very happy you did-his work is incredible-and you will see why he is called the Prince of Pastry.  The book he co-authored , On Baking ,has been on my wish list for some time and after this baking experiment I splurged and bought it for myself.  You will probably be inspired to do the same once you visit his website !

Sorting through the petals from my garden

Rose flavored Crème légère.
Note a Crème légère is a pastry cream “lightened” by whipped cream.
1Cup (8 oz) Heavy cream
1 Cup (8 oz) Seedless raspberry puree
¼ cup + 1Tbsp (2.5 oz) Extra fine granulated sugar 
4  Egg yolks
¼ Cup (2 oz) Extra fine granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (1 ¼ oz) Cornstarch
½ Cup (4 oz) Milk, boiling
1 Cup (8 oz) Whipping cream
Rose essence to taste

In a saucepan bring the heavy cream , raspberry puree and sugar to a boil.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Add sugar  and whisk rapidly until smooth, add cornstarch and whisk smooth. Whisk in the boiling milk.
Pour the egg yolk mixture into the boiling cream mixture and whisk rapidly to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Cover the crème with plastic food film and place in an ice bath to quickly cool the cream until cold.
Whip the whipping cream  until moussed (Soft peak). Add the rose essence to the pastry cream and whisk smooth. Fold in the moussed cream and gently fold together

You can use a good quality store bought puff pastry for this recipe or if you are very brave and up to the challenge make your own !
Roll enough puff pastry to make about a half size sheet pan and 1/12 inch (2 mm) thick, bake at 400°F (200°C). Once the dough has quadrupled and the surface has gelatinized place a perforated sheet on the dough to ensure an even surface. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) or slightly cooler and bake until fully crisp.
When cold cut the dough into desired size pieces and sprinkle evenly with extra fine granulated sugar. Caramelize the surface evenly with a torch. Let cool.

Using the Rose flavored Crème légère , pipe a layer on caramelized puff pastry. Cover with another layer of puff pastry and pipe another layer of the cream. Finalize with another puff pastry layer and decorate with organic rose petals and crystallized rose petal.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sunday Morning, Coffee and a Cinnamon Roll

I miss my Sunday mornings.  Sleeping in late, letting my natural body rhythms determine when I was going to get out of bed-instead of the annoying alarm on my cell phone.  Being in the travel industry, normal week-ends don't exist.  My Sunday is my sweetie's Friday.  No more laying in bed and smelling the coffee he has brewing for me.  No gentle wake ups with a cinnamon roll fresh from Alki Bakery or a buttery croissant from Bakery Nouveau.  Those Sundays are gone but not forgotten.  My "Sunday" is spent alone but so is tonight I'm turning the tables.  Tonight I'm pretending it's Sunday morning for the two of us.  Instead of dinner we will have freshly brewed coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls.  I have to work with what I have and while I miss those precious Sunday mornings of the normal world-our life is what we make it and tonight I'm making it Sunday morning.

The kitchen smells crazy incredible with fresh baked cinnamon rolls in the oven.  I bought a new bread book while in Portland ( yes I'm addicted to cookbooks).  It's "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day"-Fabulous with a capital F.  Co-authored by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois, it's filled with one enticing recipe after another.  I've always loved bread baking but never seem to fit it into my schedule so I thought this would be perfect if it works and it does !  I used the Buttermilk Bread recipe for the base of the rolls and instead of making loaves like they suggested for what's called "Judy's Board of Directors' Cinnamon-Raisin Bread", I rolled the finished product like  a jelly roll and gently sliced them into rolls. I omitted the raisins and for the final touch I added a favorite cream cheese icing recipe.

I don't like to blog recipes from cookbooks unless they are already on the Internet and I found these two at a site called Simple Daily Recipes by Jill McKeever-nice website too!

This recipe makes three 1 1/2 pound loaves. It can be doubled or halved.
Buttermilk Bread
2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
butter or neutral-tasting oil for greasing the loaf pan-I lined a 1/2 sheet pan with parchment and spaced my rolls about 1-2 inches apart.

1.Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt, and sugar with water and buttermilk in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
2.Mix in the flour without kneading, using a strong handled spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour..
3.Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top); approximately 2 hours.
4.The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is MUCH easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days. Stop here if you are making the cinnamon bread or rolls ..follow the recipe for the Cinnamon bread listed below.
5.On baking day, lightly grease a 9 x 4 x 3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball into an oval.
6.Drop the loaf into the prepared pan. You want to fill the pan slightly more than half-full.
7.Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Flour the top of the loaf and slash, using the tip of a serrated bread knife. Brush the top with melted butter.
8.Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
9.Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
10.Remove from the pan. Allow to cool completely before slicing or it will be nearly impossible to achieve reasonable sandwich slices.

Here is the Cinnamon Bread Recipe that I adapted to Cinnamon Rolls
Judy's Board of Directors' Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
1 1/2 pounds (cantaloupe-size portion) Buttermilk Bread dough
butter or neutral-tasting oil for greasing the pan
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup raisins
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

Lightly grease a 9 x 4 x 3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Set aside. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an 8 x 16-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, dusting the board and rolling pin with flour as needed. You may need to use a metal dough scraper to loosen rolled dough from the board as you are working with it.
Use a pastry brush to cover the surface of the dough lightly with egg wash. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough. Evenly distribute the raisins. It helps to gently press the raisins into the dough before rolling into loaf shape.
And my favorite cream cheese icing:
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter-softened
3 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon Milk (add more if you like to drizzle your icing-I like mine more like frosting !
Mix all the ingredients until well blended-medium speed on your mixer.  Place dollops of icing on the rolls while still hot in the pan.  Allow to cool and then .....

Pour yourself another cup of coffee ,pull out the Sunday paper and enjoy!

And here is another book to put on your wish list !

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rick Bayless Tacos -Yum Yum Yum

Last week I was at Barnes and Noble looking for a recipe for something called Tali Sauce.  I discovered the Tali Sauce on a bowl of deliciousness from a food cart in Portland called The Whole Bowl.  More to come on that eating our way through Portland in 1 night and 2 day trip !!  Oh and by the way if you have a recipe for this incredible garlicky/lemon sauce let me know. But I digress,back to the search. I was having no luck and I was starting to think that the sauce didn't exist.
I had been searching through Vegetarian,  Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Mediterranean type cook books with no success. So I scooted myself over to the Mexican food cookbooks and Rick Bayless  fell into my lap. Now I have watched him on Top Chef Masters and was very happy that he won-I love his true passion for food and he just seems like a really nice person. 

I spotted his "Mexican Everyday" and pulled it off the shelves and started paging through it.  I must confess that the first thing I do when looking at cookbooks is quickly thumb through for the photography-if the photography doesn't jump out at me the book usually gets placed back on the shelves. I know it's a very shallow way to buy a cookbook but I'm a visual person ! I do own quite a few books without tons of pictures so I'm not totally and 100 percent shallow when it comes to buying them !!  Chef Bayless's cookbook made want to tear the pages out and start eating them. I mean really-there was Roasted Garlic Dressing with Green Chile, Chipotle Beef Tacos with Caramelized Onions, Crusty Black Bean-Chorizo Subs,Grilled Roadside Whole Chicken with Knob Onions- the list is endless is and delicious. I wanted something quick that night since I had spent so much time at the bookstore . There it was on pg 198 Green Chile Chicken Soft Tacos. If I never make anything else from this book -this recipe was worth it. 

If you love Mexican Food ( and I don't mean that stuff you get at those drive thrus ) run out and buy this cookbook.  You won't be disappointed.  The smells in my kitchen the day I made this put me on beach in Mexico somewhere with a cold cerveza and a plate of these  tacos with side of rice and beans-heaven ! 

For those of you who don't have the book I found the recipe on line at .  Try it and let me know what you think.

Green Chile Chicken Soft Tacos
Tacos de Pollo al Chile Poblano -adapted from
2 large fresh poblano chiles
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil ( I used Spanish Olive Oil)
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick ( definitely use the white onion for the authentic flavors you are striving for)
1 pound (3 medium-large halves) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice-I doubled the lime juice and garlic cloves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
12 warm corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade
About 3/4 cup roasted tomatillo salsa or guacamole, or bottled salsa or hot sauce, for serving-Chef Bayless recommends his Roasted Tomatillo Salsa or Guacamole. 

I found his recipe for the salsa at Kalamazoo Gourmet along with his Guacamole recipe.  Since I was rushed this night I opted for my go to tomatillo salsa and pico de gallo from Metropolitan Market-both made fresh daily-love that store !

Roast the poblanos over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, 10 minutes for the broiler. Place in bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let cool until handle able.

Turn on (or adjust) the oven to its lowest setting. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until golden but still crunchy, 4 to 5 minutes. Scoop into a heatproof serving bowl, leaving as much oil as possible in the skillet, and slide into the oven. Set the skillet aside.

Rub the blackened skin off the chiles and pull out the stems and seed pods. Rinse the chiles to remove bits of skin and seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch strips and stir into the onions. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1 teaspoon. Return to the oven.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper.

Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, lay in the chicken breasts. Brown on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip and finish cooking on the other side, about 4 minutes more. When the meat is done, add the lime juice and garlic ( I added half of my lime juice garlic mix )to the skillet. Turn the chicken in the lime mixture for a minute or so, until the juice has reduced to a glaze and coats the chicken.

Cut the chicken breasts into 1/4-inch strips ( at this point I place them back in the hot frying pan and added the other half of the lime juice and garlic mix and finished de glazing the pan )and toss with the onion-poblano mixture. Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary. Serve with the warm tortillas and salsa, guacamole or hot sauce for making soft tacos.

Notes or Riffs from Chef Bayless:
A Couple of Riffs on Chicken Tacos: Grilling the chicken breasts is a delicious alternative to pan-searing them, but you’ll miss the lime-garlic glaze. To solve that problem, I suggest you add the lime juice and garlic to the onions when they’re browned, cooking until the liquid has reduced to a glaze. (You may want to have a little extra lime and garlic for marinating the chicken breasts before grilling.) If chicken tenders are more easily available than the breasts, use them; cooking time will be shorter. Beef skirt or flank steak works well here too. And, of course, any of the large fleshy chiles (from Anaheims to red bell peppers) can stand in for the poblanos.

Brining for Even Better Chicken: At Frontera Grill, we use free-range chicken breasts, which might taste tough to some of our guests if we did not brine them. (Besides promoting tenderness, brining can help make ordinary grocery-store chicken breasts moister and more flavorful too.) To brine 4 chicken breasts (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds total), mix together 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons Morton kosher salt and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Slip in the chicken breasts, cover and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the brine and dry on paper towels; the chicken breasts are ready to use.

Buen provecho!

PS. Chef Bayless's website has delicious recipe after recipe listed on it until you can get your hands on his cookbooks ! And apparently great minds do really think alike-if you have a taste for beef head over to A Chow Life for her "riff " on Chef Bayless's Shredded Beef Tacos !