Saturday, February 26, 2011

Devils Food Cake with Angel Frosting - Baked Sunday Mornings

What better place to bake a devil's food cake then at a Chocolate and Wine Festival ?  My sister, girlfriend and I are at Pacific Shores in Washington enjoying a girls only weekend.  We are staying at a sweet little house in Seabrook called the Weldin House  and can barely tear ourselves away from the fireplace and hot tub to go wine and chocolate tasting.  I know it is a tough life but someone has to do it !  Seriously , the is the 4th year of the Chocolate on the Beach Festival and our first but not last year attending.  This morning I baked the cake and while it sat out cooling we took off for Wine Tasting with Chocolate Pairings.  I had the most incredible chocolate wine cupcake with a salty sweet frosting.  If I hadn't of forgotten my USB connection you would be looking at  a photo.  I promise to update when I get back to Seattle.

Tomorrow we are going to visit all the Chocolate Vendors for tastings and see what the amateurs and professionals entered in the chocolate contest.  We will tear ourselves away from that long enough to check out the bake sale !  It's fun to get away and it's even more fun to have a fabulous kitchen to bake in. 
I am always amazed by The Baked recipes-each one is a delightful surprise and always incredibly delicious-this one is no exception.  The cake is light and airy and the icing, not too sweet but heavenly.  Head over to the Baked Sunday Mornings blog and see what everyone else did.  Sorry about the quality of the photos-downloaded from my cell phone-I'll update with some better ones when I get home. Bon Appetit.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yuzu Macaron with Candied Grapefruit & Wasabi-MacTweets Challenge

This months Mac Attack challenge:
February’s Mac Attack is dedicated to Valentine’s Day. There is just no choice, no escaping it! So, with Chet Baker crooning My Funny Valentine, take your romantic heart and scurry into your kitchen and bake a batch of French macarons for that special someone, the lover, the spouse, the best friend, the children, the one whom you want to offer up something special, the one whom you want to make smile. Create something new, something exciting, something wildly romantic! Nothing says I Love You like a sweet little something, the size of a kiss, the flavor of your wildest desire, the macaron.

What could I bake for that someone special, which in my case is J.  He loves chocolate, actually he loves everything I bake,he's wonderful that way. But what does he really like ?  Well I know he loves all things spicy and all things citrus.  And I love a challenge, so what better way to create something that he might love then to try Pierre Herme's Macaron Delicieux recipe. It just sounded sexy, hot spicy wasabi, sweet white chocolate,crunchy macaron, nutty  pistachio, sweet juicy candied grapefruit, citrus yuzu-imagine the flavor explosion in your mouth.

I found the recipe in Pierre Herme's Macaron book.  If you remember I bought that book to help with my learning French and it's been a challenge to work my way through translating recipes.  When I finished with the translation on this one I knew something was off - I was stuck with what to do with the 2 sets of egg whites.  So I searched the Internet and surprise, someone had published the recipe on their blog , lucky me. Even luckier it was the blog "Zencancook".  It's a beautifully photographed blog with excellent writing .  Check it out, you will probably add it to your favorites.

Once I discovered what to do with the 2 set of egg whites I was ready to go.
When making macarons I'm a strong believer that you have to grab hold of a positive attitude like it's your life preserver to the world. Any little negative thoughts will effect the outcome of your macarons.  When I made the meringue in this recipe and added it to the the almond meal, powdered sugar and egg white paste this little macaron voice in my head kept whispering-it's too fluid, it's not thick enough to grow feet, no feet, no feet, no feet.  I kept shooing that evil little voice away but it kept sneaking back every chance it got. 

After following directions and baking 4 pans of my little babies I ended up with about half that were acceptable.  The first batch I made a critical error in forgetting to put a second pan under my baking pan so they blew up like little macaron balloons ! I am happy with my results -I got feet -in spite of that little voice that had been believing I wouldn't.  This is a challenging recipe but oh so very good.  If you do nothing else make the white chocolate and wasabi filling.  I couldn't stop sampling and it's even better the next day when all the flavors develop.  I'm not giving up on Pierre Herme Macaron recipes-I'm going to keep on practicing until I produce a macaron that looks and is as perfect as his.

Yuzu Macaron with Candied Grapefruit & Wasabi (Macaron Delicieux by Pierre Herme) published by Zencancook
Recipe translated/adapted from Pierre Herme’s “Macaron”

Makes about 72 macarons

For the candied grapefruit:

2 grapefruits
1 liter water
500 g granulated sugar
1 star anise
10 peppercorns
1 vanilla bean
4 tbs lemon juice

For the meringue:

300 grams almond flour, sifted
300 grams powdered sugar
110 grams egg whites, aged 7 days (or left outside covered overnight)
300 grams powdered sugar
75 grams bottled spring water
110 grams egg whites, aged 7 days (or left outside covered overnight)

For the yuzu ganache with wasabi:

40 grams yuzu juice (or lime juice)
300 grams creme fraiche
375 grams Valhrona white chocolate
20 grams grated fresh wasabi (or use tube)

For the finish:

150 grams pistachios, non salted

For the candied grapefruit:

The day before, wash the grapefruits. Cut and discard the extremities and slice (top to bottom) thick chunks of the skin with one centimeter of the pulp still attached. Place them in a pot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Drain. Run the grapefruit chunks under cold water. And repeat the same operation 2 more times.

Crush the peppercorns with the back of a saute pan and place in a small pot with the water, sugar, lemon juice, star anise and the vanilla bean split in half. Bring to a simmer. Add the grapefruit chunks. Cover the pot 3/4 and keep it at a very low simmer for 1 1/2 hour.

Transfer the candied grapefruit + syrup to a container. Let it cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the grapefruit from the syrup and cut into little cubes.

Dry the pistachios in a very low oven. Turn them into a powder in a food processor. Sift and reserve.

For the macarons:

Sift the almond flour and the powdered sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the first batch of egg whites (110 gr) without mixing them.

In a small saucepan, combine the water and 2nd batch of powdered sugar and bring to a boil until it reaches 118′C. Meanwhile, place the second batch of egg whites in the bowl of a mixer equipped with the whisk attachment. When the sugar is at 115′C start beating the whites on medium speed.

Pour the sugar at 118′C over the egg whites. Beat until the temperature of the mixture drops to 50′C and you have a compact and shiny meringue. Fold the meringue into the almond-sugar-egg white mixture until it’s homogeneous. Place in a large pastry bag with a plain #11 tip.

Place parchment paper on 4 baking trays and use a pencil to draw 1 1/2 inches circles to cover the surface with 1/2 inch in between. You should have about 36 circles on each parchment papers. Turn over the paper so the pencil markings won’t transfer to the meringues.

Pipe rounds of the meringue dough onto the prepared parchment paper. Sprinkle the pistachio powder over the meringues and let them out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This is a very important step where the piped meringue rounds develop a thin ‘crust’ over their surface.

Preheat the oven to 350′F. Bake the meringues for exactly 12 minutes. Open the oven door quickly-twice during cooking. When the cookies are cooked slide the parchment paper onto a work surface and leave them to cool.

For the yuzu ganache with wasabi:

Place the chopped white chocolate in a bowl of a bain-marie (double boiler) and melt. Heat the yuzu juice to 40′C. Bring the creme fraiche to a near simmer. Pour the creme fraiche over the white chocolate in two additions. Add the yuzu juice. Add the grated wasabi. Mix until smooth and scrap the mixture into a pyrex or glass dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let it cool in the refrigerator.

Assemble the macarons:

Place the yuzu ganache in a pastry bag equipped with a plain tip. Garnish half the meringues with the yuzu ganache, place 3 or 4 cubes of the candied grapefruit in the middle and cover with the other half of the macaron to make a sandwich. Refrigerate in an airtight box for 24 hours. Enjoy them cold or at room temperature. They really are incredibly delicious. Bon Appetit !

Head over to Mac Tweets to see what everyone else did this month.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Marshmallows

I can't believe I have made it this far in my adult life and have never made marshmallows.  Several posts back I received a monthly goodie bag from Tell Tale Preserves and it had the most incredible pumpkin marshmallows in it.  The taste was fresh pumpkin, the texture was like a puffy cloud that melted in your mouth.  And if that wasn't enough they were coated in dark chocolate and rolled in cocoa powder.  My crusade this year is to re create something as perfect as those. Of course if anyone out there knows Chef William Warner and can twist his arm into sharing the recipe I would be forever in your debt. Do you have a never fail, OMG  these are incredible , marshmallow recipe?

  I found this one on Egullet, a great on line resource for all foodies. It is a website which is a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts .

Strawberry Marshmallows
4 envelopes gelatin
1/2 c strawberry puree (frozen is actually better than fresh unless you have access to very flavorful local strawberries)
1-1/4 c water
3 c sugar
1-1/4 c light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp orange flower water (optional)
powdered sugar and potato starch for dusting

Line a sheet pan with a 1" rim with aluminum foil. coat the foil with vegetable oil or non-stick spray. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.

Mix the strawberry puree, orange flower water (if using) and 1/2 cup of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over to soften.

Put the sugar, corn syrup, remaining 3/4 cup water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240 F).
With the mixer at full speed, pour all of the hot syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Be careful as the mixture is very liquid and hot at this point and some may splash out of the bowl - use a splash guard if you have one. whip until the mixture is very fluffy and stiff, about 8-10 minutes. pour mixture into the foil-lined pan and smooth with an oiled offset spatula so that it's level with the top of the rim. Allow the mixture to sit, uncovered at room temp for 10 to 12 hours.

Mix equal parts powdered sugar and potato starch and sift generously over the rested marshmallow slab. Turn it out onto a cutting board or counter, peel off foil and dust with more sugar/starch mixture. Slice with a thin-bladed oiled knife or oiled cookie cutters. Dip all cut edges in sugar/starch mixture and shake off excess. Marshmallows will keep several weeks at room temperature in an air-tight container.

Chocolate Coating
1 lb of good quality chocolate-I used E. Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate-melted in a double boiler

Good quality cocoa powder for dusting.

Take a baking pan and line it with parchment paper.  Sprinkle it liberally with cocoa powder. Dip each marshmallow in the melted chocolate and set on the cocoa dusted parchment paper (it will keep the chocolate from sticking to the parchment). When you see the chocolate has formed a nice hard shell around the marshmallow take each one and roll it in a bowl filled with sifted cocoa powder. Voila , sit back and enjoy. 

I have not tried the chocolate or vanilla  marshmallow variations yet, but after making these this is going to be my go to recipe for marshmallows.  Not to brag, but these were just as good as the ones I was trying to recreate. Not too sweet, the strawberry flavor was fresh and sweet and the bittersweet chocolate was a great compliment to it.  I ended up with approximately 6 dozen 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch marshmallows, not counting the ones J and I had to sample. If you are looking for a fabulous marshmallow recipe try this one you won't be disappointed.

Variation - Chocolate Marshmallows:

Replace strawberry puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of cocoa dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water in a separate bowl. Soften gelatin in an additional 1/4 cup cold water in mixing bowl. Add cocoa mixture to mixing bowl and proceed with recipe as above. This will produce a marshmallow with a strong chocolate flavor, but somewhat denser than the strawberry version. To get a lighter texture as well as a lighter chocolate flavor, reduce cocoa to 1/4 cup.

Variation - Vanilla Marshmallows:

Replace strawberry puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 3/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or the seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cinnamon buns ala Christina Tosi

It's no wonder that Christina Tosi worked at WD-50 in New York, because in my book she is the Wylie Dufresne of the pastry world.  But without the smoke !  Every time I see one of her creations I am amazed.  She is the pastry chef at Momofuku Milk Bar and is known for her Crack Pie and Compost Cookies(both on my recipe to do list).  But she also does a mean cinnamon bun.  She does some type of cinnamon bun pie creation-I have only seen pictures and can't seem to find the recipe browsing the Internet.  But what I did find was her recipe for her cinnamon buns.

This is probably one of the easiest cinnamon bun recipes I have come across. I'm always looking for that "best recipe ever" and this comes pretty close.  The amount of brown sugar and butter creates an incredible caramel filling .  It's like eating a cinnamon bun with a side of caramels.  And like most cinnamon buns these are heaven when reheated.  The caramel that leaks out during baking, hardens just like a candy caramel and when reheated it gets all gooey delicious again.  Try this recipe and tell me how fabulous it is.  If you make this for brunch for your house guests you will never get them to leave - seriously addictive breakfast food.

Tosi's Famous Cinnamon Bun Recipe
Yields twelve 


1 cup whole milk, warm

1 tablespoon warm water

1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast

4 ½ cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup packed light brown sugar

5 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Whisk the warm milk, water, and yeast together in a small bowl. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes or so.
  2. Combine the flour, granulated sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix together on low speed. Add the egg, egg yolk, butter, and yeast concoction and mix until the dough comes together as a thick, sticky mass. This should take about 6 minutes.
  3. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough out onto a work surface and form it into a smooth ball. Put the dough ball into a greased bowl, seam side down, cover it with a kitchen towel, and set in a draft-free spot to rise for an hour, or until it’s doubled in size.
  4. While the dough is rising, make the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
  5. Punch down the proofed dough and put it onto a well-floured counter. Use a rolling pin to roll into a 16 inch square. Spread the cinnamon filling evenly over the surface, then roll the dough tightly into a big tube, making sure to keep all the filling inside.
  6. Using a sharp knife, slice the tube into 12 rounds, each about 1 ⅓ inches thick. Arrange the rounds cut side down in a 9×13 inch baking dish, leaving 1 inch between them. Let them rise for another 1-2 hours, until they’ve doubled in size. *See notes for overnight instructions.
  7. Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on the edges.
  9. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on high for 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt and paddle on low to combine, then whip on high for 2 minutes, or until the frosting is pale white and fluffy.
  10. Remove buns from the oven and, while they are still warm, spread the frosting generously over them. Serve immediately 
*Overnight Instructions – Prep through step #6 but let them rise, loosely covered, in the fridge overnight. Then all you have to do is take them out in the morning and let them come to room temp for about half an hour before baking in the oven.Pop them in the oven in the morning and enjoy the cinnamon smell in your kitchen and hot cinnamon buns fresh from the oven.  The frosting keeps beautifully overnight in the refrigerator too-just place it out on the counter to come to room temperature while the buns bake.  Enjoy !

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes and Change

I'm not one who lives and dies by daily horoscopes but every once in a while I check mine-you know to see if it says you are going to win the lottery then I know I should buy a ticket !  Seriously, it's fun to check in every once in a while and what a nice surprise I found in it  today. This was my horoscope for Valentine's Day:

Creative projects that you may have been working on for a while could prove especially ego boosting, Cancer. You're doing a great job. A change of employment and increase in income may be in the works. If you don't feel passionate about what you're doing, expect the chance to become involved in an enterprise that you do feel strongly about. New ideas and opportunities could change your life.

 The "feel passionate about what you're doing" jumped out at me. For the past few months I have been on a path in that direction and hopefully,fingers and toes crossed, it will come to fruition. 

I don't mean to leave you hanging but that's all for now about change and pursuing one's passion . I know that I am on the right path and really I didn't need a horoscope to validate that -it was just a nice surprise that the planets are aligned with my way of thinking !

What do Chocolate Chip Cupcakes have to do with change ?  Nothing other than they start with the letter C .  I just love chocolate chips in anything and was very excited that this was the cupcake selection for Martha Stewart Cupcake Club.  The Baking Sisters are hosting the event this month. I joined this group to experiment more with cupcakes since I don't do much of them on my own and this group drives me to commit to at least 1 cupcake baking session a month.  I'm trying to expand my baking repertoire to experiment more out of the boundaries of cook books but to do that I have to train myself in the basics.  Joining a baking or cooking group is good practice and a great way to exchange ideas with other bloggers. You learn what works ,what doesn't work and new little creative tricks and tips.

This is a light and airy cupcake with a delicious chocolate frosting-one of those you bite into and immediately go into that mmmmm zone. I thought a little sprinkling of Fleur de sel would be a nice finishing touch and it was. These are also very deceptive, they are so light you think they must be harmless but beware - more than one of these and you better oil up the treadmill. You can find the recipe at Martha Stewart along with the dark chocolate frosting.

Click here and see everyone else's results

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies-Baked Sunday Mornings

What a whirlwind week I have had. I missed my blog and all of you. It's been a slightly crazy week. I spent some time in Bellingham with family ,worked a little, and then flew off to Los Angeles. Why Los Angeles ? Because that is where Todd & Diane from White on Rice Couple live and work and that is where they hosted their Food Photo Shoot Out. I flew down very early in the morning, participated in the session and flew back that same night. Don't think I'm some jet setter who hops planes on a whim.

This was an incredible opportunity- I told you about it a few posts ago. I met so many fabulous bloggers and wow did I learn a lot . Diane and Todd were both so generous with sharing their studio, their experience, their knowledge and their secrets-it was awesome. I'll be doing a little follow up blog so stay tuned.

Today is my back to baking day and all about whoopie pies. I didn't have these very frequently when I was a child . But I remember when I did have them it was usually a special occasion. I mean seriously you had this cake that was all yours-you didn't have to share with anyone. Whoopie pies are your own personal little celebration cakes. It doesn't mean that you can't share-it just feels deliciously naughty to take your own little cake , head to your secret hiding place and enjoy bite after sweet bite.

And these Red Velvet Whoopie pies are meant to be savored and enjoyed. I'm a fan of the red velvet cake so I was excited that this was one of the recipes for my Baked Sunday Mornings group. The cake is moist and has a beautiful light crumb and the icing-oh my goodness. It is one of the best cream cheese frostings I have ever made. These are sweet little cakes to make for your love on Valentine's Day-don't you think ? And PS if your mind works like mine you can think of other things to do with that incredible frosting for a really special surprise for your sweetie. See, even as a grown up Whoopie pies bring out the naughty in me.

I wish all of you much love for Valentine's Day and every day.

Head over here and see how everyone else did with these whoopie pies. Or buy the book and join our group !

Lemon Meringue Tart - A Cause for Celebration

After work on Saturday J and I, along with my sister and brother in law made the trek from Seattle to Bellingham to visit our favorite Belling-hamster, my brother. It wasn't just any visit, it was a trek to celebrate the 55 milestone. I couldn't have wished for a more perfect day to celebrate my brother's birthday.  It was so touching to see how many of his friends showed up to honor him and celebrate his life.  This was really a step out of his comfort zone.  My brother never likes to draw attention to himself, he's always doing things behind the scenes,making things happen , smoothing ruffled feathers, giving praise and positive feedback but never taking the spotlight himself. So when he called and said he was throwing himself a party I knew it was a momentous occasion and one I would not miss.  You have to know my family to appreciate what he did.  Every time there is a family celebration my sister and I load the table with enough food to feed a small country.  And my brother is always moaning that we cook too much and we need to down size.  Well my sister and I don't know what downsize means-it's not part of our vocabulary when it comes to celebrations.  So when I walked into my brother's house and saw the spread he had laid out all I could say was "Welcome to our world bro '!  He did his sisters proud-actually quite amazing with all the wonderful appetizers, cheese and crackers,smoked salmon, cake, wine, beer-his table overflowed.  But truly the best part was to wander among the guests and hear the stories about my brother that I have missed out on by living 100 miles away.  I'm very proud of him, always have been and always will be.  He's a kind, generous soul with integrity and a heart bigger than the world. And I love him dearly.  Happy Birthday Bro !

I took this instead of a birthday cake -it was the first time I used this particular recipe and after I discovered the dough produced 3 tarts I had to triple up the lemon cream and meringue recipe.  So if only want 1 tart just cut the recipe in thirds.

Lemon Meringue Tart
A combination of recipes from Fanny at Foodbeam ,
Pierre Herme and my pastry class notes
makes 3 - 9" tarts

Pate Sucre Crust

300g (10 1/2 ounces ) unsalted butter, at room temperature
190g ( 6 34 ounces ) icing sugar(powdered sugar)
60g  ( 2 1/4 ounces )ground almonds
seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Start by creaming the butter until soft and smooth

Then, mix in the icing sugar, ground almonds and vanilla seeds.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated

Remove from the mixer. Mix in the flour and salt until just incorporated. Do not overwork! The dough should be crumbly, lumpy

Form three balls , gently press them down and wrap them tightly in cling film. Refrigerate overnight.

At this step, the pastry can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or it can be frozen for a month (you’ll just need to thaw the pastry in your fridge the day before you want to use it).

Roll the dough between two layers of baking paper. Cut into a disk about 2 inches  larger that your pan.
Refrigerate the disk for at least 2 hours.

You can now start lining a buttered tart circle. The butter helps the dough to slide on the sides of the circle..

Basically, you need to pinch the dough between your right finger and push it down using the sides. Keep doing this, until the full circle is lined and check if the dough forms a 90° angle (if not, push it towards the bottom a little more).

Chill for an hour.

It’s now time to bake the crust. Pre-heat your oven to 350degrees F.
Take the lined circle out of the fridge, cover the base and side of the pastry with baking paper and fill with dried beans or rice (baking weighs are to heavy for this fragile pastry).

Bake for 17 to 25 minutes (depending on the size of your crust.)  Remove the dried beans/rice and baking paper and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until a nice light brown.
Lemon cream

400 grams (14ounces) caster sugar

finely grated zest of 6 lemons

8 large eggs

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 8-9 lemons)

600g ( 22 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks

 Italian meringue

4 egg whites

70g ( 2 1/2 ounces) caster sugar

10g (1/2 ounce) dehydrated egg whites sifted (optional)

100g (3 1/2 ounces) water

300g (10 1/2 ounces )sugar

First thing: fill the sink with about 3 inches of  cold water.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over a pan of simmering water.

 Rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 185F, stirring constantly – be prepared, as it can take quite a lot of time-45 -60 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 185F, remove the cream from the heat and place the bowl into the sink and allow to cool down to 140F. Gradually incorporate the butter, whisking after each addition
When all the butter as been used, blend the cream with a hand-held blender for 8 minutes. It might sound long, but will ensure a too-smooth-to-be-true lemon cream.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of cling film against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate overnight.

The next day (or later, as the cream can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days), whisk the cream to loosen it and pipe it into the tart shell and refrigerate for at least an hour before starting with the meringue.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt at slow speed until the foam throughout, add the 70g of caster sugar, gradually increase the speed to fast, and beat to soft peaks. Turn the machine to slow as you complete the sugar syrup.

Bring the 300g sugar and  100g water to 240F.

Beating the egg whites at moderate speed, pour the boiling syrup into them. Increase the speed to high, and beat until the bowl is no longer hot (it should still feel slightly warm).


Cornstarch will help stabilize any soft meringue. Stir 1 Tbsp. cornstarch into 1/3 cup water and then bring it to a boil until thick, stirring constantly. Let cool slightly. Beat this gel into the beaten egg whites 1 Tbsp. at a time. The meringue won't shrink, it will be tender and easier to cut, and won't bead as easily

 Pipe the meringue onto the lemon cream and caramelise using a blow torch.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Basque Potato Tortilla - French Fridays with Dorie

I'm so glad that today was one of my days off .  J didn't have to be at class until 9, so I was up at 6:30 peeling potatoes and chopping onions. Sounds glamorous doesn't it ?  It's one of my favorite times to be in the kitchen, the sky outside is still that dark indigo blue and just starting to glow slightly on the horizon with the sun trying to rise.  I say trying because after all this is Seattle and today is a typical February day in Seattle, very very windy and very very grey.

So the smell of potatoes and onions cooking in my cast iron skillet brought some warmth to my world.  I love Dorie Greenspan's recipes from Around My French Table. They consistently transport me.  This morning I could imagine someone across the ocean in their French kitchen just on the outskirts of Bayonne cooking this same dish .  She's just come back from the market and empties her bag onto the old wooden table.  Freshly dug potatoes, sweet onions, fresh eggs from the farm down the road and a little Jambon de Bayonne or Bayonne Ham. Some red wine, a crisp baguette from the Boulanger and a small salad of chervil, parsley and fresh herbs. A perfect afternoon lunch for her and her love. 

 I have fallen in love with Bayonne, from the Basque region of France. Seriously who wouldn't love to live in an area that since 1462 has been celebrating the deliciousness of the  “Jambon de Bayonne”  or Bayonne ham. And if that doesn't make your mouth water-they have a chocolate festival in May celebrating their famous chocolate making that was introduced in 1496 ! 
I made this tortilla simple and straightforward-mainly because unlike my French counterpart I did not just return from the market and my pantry did not have some of the ingredients I would have liked to have added to this.  However it was still delicious with the potatoes, onions,rosemary and garlic.  I wanted to add something for interest and I remembered I had a jar of Roasted Garlic and Fig spread-perfect. 

A little side of that to drag a bite  of the tortilla through -just the right amount of caramelized sweetness to offset the spicy bite from the cayenne. Next time I will add some grated cheese just after I remove it from the oven.  I imagine the cheese and the garlic fig spread would combine beautifully. Bon Appetit and head over to French Fridays with Dorie to see everyone elses' results.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Oatmeal Cookies-Yes They Are Simply the Best

I'm doing the little macaron dance today and I didn't even make macarons. Just a little note for those who don't make macarons-when you bake those luscious little cookies and the feet form perfectly you are so ecstatic that you do the little macaron dance around your kitchen. It's really something to behold-pure unadulterated joy ! So now that you have that image let me tell you what I'm celebrating. That fabulous couple, Todd & Diane, also known as White on Rice Couple are doing a photography shoot out in Los Angeles . They invited 12 local bloggers to participate and opened it up to readers of their blog. If you wanted to be selected you had to send them a little comment about why you wanted to attend and what you wanted to learn.

 Naturally, since I love their blog, I submitted my comment and yes , I was one of 8 people selected to attend. Wahooooo...the macaron dance doesn't begin to explain how joyful and excited I am. I'm going to have to rename the macaron dance, the White on Rice dance ! What is so awesome about this talented couple is that they are doing this gratis-no charge-in order to form a sense of community among local bloggers and those of us from out of town. The concept is  everyone gets together to encourage and help one another build skills in food photography. How awesome is that and how awesome are they ?

To celebrate this fabulous opportunity I wanted to bake cookies.  Cookies always make me feel joyful, they make me feel 10 years old again sitting on the back porch with a glass of cold milk and a plate of my favorite cookies. The biggest challenge-what kind should I bake, chocolate chip-one of my favorites ?  Or maybe Poilane's Punitions-love those to death.  As I was doing some research on  croissants I stumbled upon this blog Weekend Bakery.

 As I paged through their posts and drooled over their photos I found this recipe.  It sounded so simple and sweet I knew I had to try it.  They call these Simply the Best Oatmeal Cookie-that is an understatement.  I am terribly ashamed to admit I sat down and ate 6 of these in less than 30 minutes. And I couldn't stop.  They are a cross between a Florentine,  oatmeal cookie and a sweet caramel butter cookie.  I'm making a second batch , not because I ate the first batch-pretty close to it though !  But because these are so incredibly delicious I know that J is going to devour most of them after dinner tonight .

 They are light and crisp and have a  hint of caramel to them. When you bake them make sure you  only bake them for 20 minutes.  Don't think they are under baked when you remove them from the oven and they are all soft and bubbly looking.  Trust me, don't touch them,let them cool and they will turn into heavenly bites.  Let me know how you like them and how many you ate in one sitting !  I'm going back to my kitchen to do a little dance and make some more cookies .

Simply the Best Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

60 grams (2.12 ounces) of wheat flour
140 grams (5 ounces) of soft brown sugar
170 grams ( 6 ounces) of oatmeal
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 small pinches  of salt
150 grams (5 ounces) of butter
If you have a scale use it to measure in grams which is how this recipe appeared.  I used an online converter to list the ounce equivalent.
Making the oatmeal cookies

Preheat the oven at 300F. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and cut into little pieces using two knives. Knead into a ball with a cool hand-you want flecks of butter throughout like a good pie dough. Make 25 small balls and lay them out on a parchment or silicon sheet lined  tray. Leave about 2 inches between cookies as these spread out. You can press lightly on the little balls to flatten them just slightly.

Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Leave them to cool for a few minutes before transferring them onto a cooling rack.
Tip: Use a small ice cream scoop (about 2 teaspoons) to scoop out the little balls.

PS. Not only are these cookies simply the best so are Todd & Diane from White on Rice Couple