Saturday, November 21, 2009

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

This is a simple versatile cake that could be baked in a square pan with a crumb topping or some powdered sugar on top for a morning coffee cake or dressed up for an afternoon cake with a glaze or served with some freshly whipped cream. Either way, it's easy, lower in fat and comes together quickly. This was adapted from the Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Baking Book You could easily substitute pears for apples or add in some walnuts or pecans.

Apple Bundt Cake (serves 12)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour
1 cup all purpose flour (or you can use 2 cups all purpose in place of the whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 TBS olive oil (or you can use melted butter or vegetable oil)
2 TBS milk
1/2 cup mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups apples peeled (1 cup grated and 1 1/2 cups cut into a small dice)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Stir together all the dry ingredients (flour through salt). In a separate bowl mix together the oil, milk, banana, eggs, and vanilla. Stir together the wet and dry ingredients, adding in the apples before it is fully mixed. Mix just until everything comes together and pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake until the springs back when touched, or if a skewer is inserted it comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Start checking for doneness after 30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you've looked thorough my previous posts you've probably have already come across this recipe. I was inspired to take a second look at this recipe after my mother in law had commented when she made them they didn't turn out like she had remembered having them when they were visiting. After thinking about it and making them again to check for measurements I decided it was probably the pumpkin. I have a small stock pile of freshly roasted sugar pumpkin in my freezer which means I never need to use canned pumpkin, but the sugar pumpkin puree has a lot more moisture which would certainly affect the texture of the cookies... So while I was making these cookies again to make sure all the measurements were correct I've made a few changes to the recipe which you can see here. These cookies are very cakey and not too high in fat so they are better eaten the day they are made or even the day after (they go really well with your morning cup of coffee). The batter can easily keep in the refrigerator for a few days and then beyond that you can scoop the dough onto a lined sheet pan and freeze the dough for later. Nothing is more handy than when you are craving some freshly baked cookies and all you have to do is go to the freezer and pull a few cookies out and 20 minutes later you have freshly cookies!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Chocolate Bundt Cake

This is a great chocolate cake that could be used for more cakes than just a bundt cake, but it's good enough to stand on it's own, served with freshly whipped cream and fruit or lightly iced. It's dense like a pound cake but not too sweet with a great chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Bundt Cake (will serve 12-16)

8 oz (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
5 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups cake flour
3 TBS instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water or 5 TBS of extra strong coffee or espresso
3/4 cup buttermilk slightly warm

Pre heat the oven to 335 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream together the butter and vanilla until light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes of mixing by hand or on second speed in a mixer with a paddle attachment). Make sure to stop and scrape the bowl and paddle often. Slowly add in the eggs (and vanilla), one at a time making sure it is completely mixed in before adding the next egg. Sift together the dry ingredients and in a separate bowl mix the buttermilk and coffee. Add 1/3 of the buttermilk mixture to the butter, once mixed in, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Continue alternating until everything is mixed in (you will have added the dry ingredients and buttermilk in 3 additions each). Pour batter into a greased bundt (or tube)pan. Bake at 335 degrees F until done. To test for doneness press on the center of the cake (gently), it should be firm enough to bounce back or if you were to insert a skewer (or toothpick) a few moist crumbs should stick to the skewer. Once the pan is cool enough to hold, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. This will be good at room temperature for a few days as long as it remains well wrapped or this cake also freezes really well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cereal Bars

Cereal Bars

These are really just rice crispy treats with some more stuff added in. I got this idea from Martha Stewart. I made a few changes to them, but they turned out great and will definitely be made again!

Cereal Bars (makes 12-16 bars)

4 cups Cornflakes
1 cup Unsweetened co0conut (can substitute sweetened)
1 1/2 Chopped toasted almonds
16 oz Marshmallows
2 TBS butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Salt

Melt butter, add marshmallows and stir until melted. Add in the vanilla, and salt and stir. Take off the heat and stir in coconut, almonds and cornflakes. Press into a greased 13x9" pan (to get thick bars I didn't use the whole pan but about 3/4 of it- you could spread it out over the whole pan, but the bars would be thicker than pictured). Let them cool (the marshmallow will set up) and cut.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blackberry Pie

Blackberry Pie

This pie can be adapted to a lot of different fruits. This uses a filling called a cooked juice filling. It works well for any fruit that is fragile and doesn't need to be cooked before being put into a pie but may give off a lot of juice as the pie bakes, namely berries. If you've ever tried to make a filling with fresh berries only to find that they released a lot of juice and made for a rather soggy pie, then this filling is perfect. It also works well for all kinds of canned or frozen fruit. It makes a gel out of liquid, sugar and cornstarch which you fold the fruit into before putting it into the pie. A different version of this method can be used for fruits that maybe be fresh and a little firmer but could benefit from some cooking before going into the pie. The fruit is lightly sauteed before creating the gel to make sure that the fruit comes out fork tender but also all the juices are appropriately thickened. The pie crust recipe is a great all purpose pie dough and the key to all great pie crusts is simple, keep everything very cold and don't overwork the dough. The following are step by step instructions that will enable anyone to make a flavorful and tender pie crust and a perfect filling for all those juicy summer fruits that are coming into season.

Blackberry Pie (makes 1 double crusted 9" pie)

Pie Dough (enough for a double crusted pie)
2 1/4 cups + 2 TBS (12 oz) all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp (8g) of salt
5 tsp (20g) sugar (optional if using for savory dish)
1 cup or 2 sticks (8 oz) butter
1/2 cup (4 oz) of very cold water (measure from a container of ice water)

Blackberry Pie Filling
1 3/4 cup (14 oz) of juice*
7 TBS (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
large pinch of fresh grated nutmeg (optional)
6 TBS (39 g) cornstarch
2 1/2 lbs of Blackberries*
1 TBS lemon juice
*this works well for any berries, or stone fruit, feel free to substitute or mix fruits. You can use fresh fruit or frozen fruit. The juice can be a number of things, if you are using frozen fruit, completely thaw out fruit and use all juice and liquid that comes from the fruit. If using fresh berries you could use water, or a fruit juice or crush some berries and mix with some water to create the liquid.

To make the pie dough:
As mentioned at the top of the post, the key to a tender crust is to keep everything very cold and work the dough very little. You can make it by hand or in a food processor. Ideally, if you have time and space, measure everything out and leave it in the refrigerator for a while to make sure even the flour and butter are very cold. If not, just make sure that the butter isn't sitting out for any length of time. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut the butter up into smaller cubes.
If using a food processor, pulse the mixture until it resembles cornmeal- careful not to go to far so that it looks like the dough is coming together (the butter has gotten too worked in at this point)
If making by hand, slowly work the butter into the flour until you have very small little pebbles of butter. Don't keep any of it in your hands for too long, I like to grab a large chunk of butter with some of the dry and pinch the butter into a flat sheet trying to work in as much flour as possible, then drop that piece and find the next chunk of butter. Continue doing that until all the large pieces are broken down. You can also use a pastry blender or fork to help make it so you're not making contact with the butter (to keep it from getting too warm).
After the butter is cut into the flour, add the water and if using the food processor, pulse a few more times to gently bring the dough together.
If doing by hand, pour the water in and then bring both hands down to the bottom of the bowl, and then bring them up through the mix, as if to fluff the mixture. Continue doing this until it looks like things are equally distributed. What this does is helps to distribute the water without much hand contact with the mixture. Look for pockets of water or sticky dough and break that up with pockets of dry ingredients. Mix just until the dough comes together then you can wrap it in plastic wrap or use a bag, and form it into 2 1/2" thick circles and wrap and chill the dough (you can leave this in the refrigerator for a few days, or if making ahead of time freeze for later).

To make the Blackberry Filling:
Make sure all the fruit (if frozen) is completely thawed or drained of any excess liquid. You can use all the liquid as part or all of the liquid called for in the recipe. Place the cornstarch into a small bowl, and add enough of the liquid so the cornstarch dissolves (about 1/4 cup) Pour the rest of the liquid into a large pan (either pot or saute pan) and add the juice, sugar, salt and nutmeg, if using. Bring to a boil and slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring back up to a boil. Make sure this comes to a complete rolling boil (so you see bubbles in the middle as well as the sides of the pan) and then take off the heat. Add the lemon juice and gently fold in the fruit. Spread this out on to a cookie sheet or large baking pan so that it can quickly and completely cool before putting it into the pie shell. This can be made a day a head of time. The cooler the mixture the better, not only will it make sure the pie dough isn't going into the oven warm, but it will also take longer for the filling to heat up in the oven, which means it will end up cooking less (a good thing since the filling is already totally cooked).

To Roll out the pie dough:

Make sure your pie dough has had at least an hour to rest and chill in the refrigerator. Using a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough (making sure to add more flour as necessary) until it's about 1/8" thick. Roll both portions of dough out, and place one back into the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the pie. Using one of the rounds, line the bottom of the pie pan with the dough, making sure to center the dough, so you have enough to come up all sides of the pan and hang over the edge. Make sure the dough is pushed (from top/ excess dough that is hanging over) into the corners at the bottom of the pan. At this point you only need that dough to go out to the edge of the pie pan, not any further, so using the edge of the pie pan as a guide, trim the rest of the dough away. Place this in the refrigerator and let it sit at least 30 minutes so the dough has time to relax and chill. Take it out of the refrigerator and pour all the filling into the pie, making sure it's tightly packed and level on top. If using the top crust (you can take a shortcut and sprinkle strussel on top) Place the top crust on top of the pie and trim around the edge, leaving enough to tuck under the bottom crust (about 1/2" or so). Go back around an pressing the bottom and top crust together, gently tuck it under so you no longer see the bottom crust and then if you want decoratively crimp the edges. Make sure to put a few vents in the middle for steam to escape. Place the pie on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan and bake in a 425 degree preheated oven until the pie is a golden brown. This pie will take about 5 hours at least to fully cool before it will cut cleanly, so make sure to make it ahead of time to leave plenty of time for cooling. If you cut while the filling is warm at all it won't hold it's shape very nicely.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream/ Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry Ice Cream

Fresh. Simple. Full of flavor. Perfect. This ice cream has only 4 ingredients, but it produces a vibrantly flavored ice cream that is bursting with strawberry flavor. I had some heavy cream left over that I needed to use up and a freezer full of peak of the season strawberries and thought I would give this recipe I had found in Gourmet a try. As it turns out, I didn't have as much cream as I thought which turned out to my advantage because what was a simple and creamy strawberry ice cream turned into a wonderfully creamy but slightly tangy strawberry frozen yogurt. While it is still half cream the reduction of fat allowed for more strawberry flavor to come through. This had a great texture and involved no cooking! Give it a try. I will certainly be trying this with other fruits! I realize it's been over four weeks since my last post, but I have a few more posts in store so be sure to check back in the up coming week for some more summery foods!

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (adapted from Gourmet)
(to make this an ice cream, use all cream instead of 1/2 yogurt and 1/2 cream)

1 lb of coarsely chopped strawberries (can be frozen and thawed out)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp of salt
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of 2% or whole milk greek style* yogurt

Put the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Let them stand for 30 minutes or so and then in a blender, blend half until smooth. If they are frozen and thawed out, they will be a lot softer and you might find that you can just mash them with a fork and that should break down enough of the strawberries. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt and cream, add to strawberries and refrigerate until very cold**. Freeze using an ice cream maker. Enjoy!

*Greek style yogurt is thicker and creamier. If you have never tried it, buy some and check it out. It is a little more expensive than some other yogurts but it's thick creamy texture and mild flavor make it worth the price.

**I found another advantage of the frozen strawberries was, if they were just defrosted so the berries were soft but everything was still very cold, it made it so there is no need to chill the final mix.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa

This is a very simple quick salsa, and I really don't use a recipe but have created one to share with you, especially for those who aren't comfortable cooking without one. Although this uses mango, you could easily substitute a number of different fruits like pineapple, peaches, plums, nectarines... feel free to also add some cucumber, radish or other veggies to give even more of a variation. This is great served alone with corn chips, but also can be used as a condiment for tacos, or grilled fish or meats, black bean soup...

Mango Salsa (makes about 2 cups)

2 small mangos finely chopped
1/2- 1 jalapeno seeded and finely chopped (if you want more heat, leave the seeds in)
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (about 1/3 of a bunch- measure after chopping)
2-3 TBS freshly squeezed lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
salt to taste (start with 1/4 of a tsp, and if it tastes a little flat add more or if it's not acidic enough, add some more lime juice)

After chopping the onions, let them sit in very cold water for at least 10 minutes and this will remove some of the pungency. Make sure to strain all the water from them before adding them to the salsa. Combine everything in a bowl, and mix. This is best made the day it's served, but it benefits from sitting for an hour or so before serving.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese

Here is a recipe for a healthier macaroni and cheese. In the picture I used whole wheat elbows and mixed in some spinach and mushrooms, but you could easily just use regular elbows and no veggies if you so desire. I left the bread crumbs off the top due to some time constraints but I will include the topping in the recipe. This is a recipe that I got from one of the cooking light cookbooks and have modified it a bit. The addition of the cottage cheese and sour cream add lots of flavor and creaminess without making it too unhealthy.

Mac & Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese (serves 6)

1 egg
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
3/4 cup low fat sour cream
1/2 cup non fat or low fat milk
2 TBS grated onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 cups (8 oz) grated cheese- you can use all cheddar or your favorite cheese or a combination whatever you have on hand
4 cups elbow noodles cooked (8oz uncooked)
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbs melted butter or olive oil
pinch of salt, pepper, and paprika

Pre heat the oven to 350. In a bowl mix the egg through the ground pepper until mixed. Add in the cheese and mix, then fold in the cooked noodles. Spread into a greased 2 quart casserole pan and pat down to evenly fill the pan. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs, butter and salt, pepper, and paprika. Sprinkle over the pasta and cover the pan with foil. Bake for 30 minutes and uncover and bake another five minutes or until the bread crumbs brown.

*Feel free to add in anything you want along with the pasta. You could fold in some ham or broccoli, or maybe some roasted poblanos and use pepper jack cheese along with the cheddar cheese.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

It's June and local strawberries are in season. I'm very lucky to live where I do, and have access to great produce and food. This past weekend we went to pick hood strawberries. Hood (as in Mt Hood) strawberries can be arguably some of the best strawberries to be found. We picked a whole flat, some of which I'll turn into jam and the rest will make for a great week of snacks! Later the same night I decided to make some strawberry shortcakes to highlight the beautiful strawberries we picked that morning. I didn't necessarily have a great go to shortcake recipe so I found one on King Arthur Flour. I think I was still inspired from my previous post experience! I made a few adaptions but it turned out to be a great biscuit for shortcake. I had perfect strawberries so there was very little need for sugar, but I did need some juice so I crushed a few strawberries and quartered the rest. I also included a few squirts of agave syrup and then topped it with some freshly whipped, lightly sweetened, organic heavy whipping cream

Shortcakes (from King Arthur Flour)
3 1/2 cups (14 7/8 oz) all purpose flour or pastry flour if you have it (I used half whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp salt
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 TBS sugar
4 oz (1 stick) cold butter cut into small pieces or thin slices
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. You want the butter, buttermilk and egg as cold as possible. This will help to keep the biscuit a tender. Measure all the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the cut up butter. Break up the butter with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles cornmeal (you can also pulse this in a food processor). In a separate bowl mix the buttermilk, egg and vanilla and pour into the dry ingredients and mix with your hands or a spatula just until the ingredients are barely mixed, make sure not to over mix! The batter will be fairly soft so make sure you turn it out on a floured surface to roll and cut out the biscuits. I took a bit of a shortcut and used a large scoop and just scooped it onto a sheet pan. Place the biscuits on a greased or parchment lined sheet pan. I pressed them down with my hand slightly (dampened my hand with water so it wouldn't stick)- because I had scooped them, this wouldn't be necessary if they were rolled out. I finished them off with a dusting of raw coarse sugar before putting the biscuits into the oven. They baked for about 15-20 minutes. I pulled them out when I saw them lightly brown and the felt firm in the middle. These also made great biscuits for breakfast the next day, gently rewarmed!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ricotta Pancakes

Ricotta Pancakes

I had another post that I was going to put up today, until I made breakfast and found something more inspiring. My recipe and food choices for the day are usually guided by what's in the refrigerator and more importantly what needs to be used up. I had half a container of ricotta that wouldn't be good for much longer so I decided to try (again) some ricotta pancakes. I had made one recipe a while back but they were really thin and flat and didn't have a good texture at all. I had almost resigned to the fact that I didn't like ricotta in my pancakes until I tried this recipe. These may be my favorite pancakes! I got the recipe from The King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion Cookbook. I was short on a few ingredients, so I made a few modifications to the recipe, but they turned out so great that I think I will keep making them the same way, which is the recipe I posted below. I had some poached rhubarb which was a wonderful accompaniment to these very light and flavorful pancakes.

Ricotta Pancakes (made about 15 medium large pancakes)

3 eggs (2 of the whites separated and set aside in a clean bowl)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 TBS sugar
2/3 cup of ricotta
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

In a small mixing bowl, sift the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda and set aside. In another larger mixing bowl, mix the eggs (minus the two separated egg whites), and ricotta until smooth. Add in the vanilla and buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Begin whipping the egg whites and when they are white a frothy add one tablespoon of sugar. Continue whipping and slowly add the rest of the sugar and whip until medium peaks form. When you hold up the whisk, the egg white should stand up and flop over a little bit at the top. Mix the dry ingredients into the buttermilk mixture, whisk just until the flour is mixed in, be careful to not over mix or the pancakes can be tough. Don't worry if there are a few lumps left. Gently fold in the egg whites. Cook on a griddle over a medium heat. The batter will be very light but thick, so make sure that as you ladle out the batter the pancakes aren't too thick by taking the back of the spoon and spreading the batter out a little. They will take a little longer than regular pancakes to cook, so make sure to keep the heat low enough so they don't get to dark before they're done. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Swedish Cream

Swedish Cream

This is much like a panna cotta with the addition of sour cream, making it a little richer, creamier, and thicker than a normal panna cotta. With the addition of sour cream it pairs wonderfully with berries and all the stone fruits of summer. It couldn't be simpler and works well to make ahead of time. If you wanted to turn these out, as opposed to serving in a dish, you might want to increase the amount of gelatin to 1 tsp.

Swedish Cream -makes 6 small 1/3 cup servings
1 cup cream or half and half or milk*
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp powdered gelatin (dissolved in 5 tsp water)
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

*use milk if you want something lighter or cream if you are looking for something very rich

Combine the gelatin and water in a small bowl, make sure all the gelatin gets hydrated. Let sit for 5 minutes. In a separate pot scald (heat just before boiling) the cream with sugar and vanilla bean (if using). Take off the heat, add in the gelatin and stir to dissolve (remove the vanilla bean). Put the sour cream in a separate bowl and slowly pour the hot cream into the sour cream , stirring with each addition to make sure the sour cream gets completely mixed in, and then add in the vanilla extract and almond extract. Pour into serving dishes and and refrigerate until cool and set (at least 4 hours). I like to serve the Swedish cream with fresh fruit tossed with a little sugar.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Miso Mustard Butter

Miso Mustard Butter

I'm not sure where this recipe came from, like quite a few in my collection, I rip them out and save them, but it doesn't have the source on it. I'm not claiming this as my own, but I'm not sure who to credit! It was a great find, however. This butter is considered a compound butter, which is basically a flavored or seasoned butter. It can be as simple as garlic butter you spread on french bread for garlic bread. When summer is in full swing you can chop up all your fresh herbs and use that to make a lovely herb butter, maybe adding some garlic or citrus zest. The possibilities are endless! I used it a few days ago when we grilled a beautifully thick rib eye steak. The possibilities for compound butter uses extend way beyond meat. I also roasted some asparagus which could have easily been finished with some of this butter coming out of the oven. I'm sure it would be great over fish or maybe some roasted or steamed potatoes (or veggies), or perhaps toss it with pasta. Make the whole recipe and then whatever you don't use you can shape into a log shape using parchment or plastic wrap and then freeze it (make sure it's well wrapped). Slice a round off whenever you need it, and as long as your ingredients are hot you won't have to worry about defrosting it.

Miso Mustard Butter (makes close to 1 cup of butter)

1 stick (8 TBS) softened unsalted butter
2 TBS white miso
2 TBS dijon style mustard
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS minced fresh ginger
1 TBS lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Make sure your butter is very soft, but not melted, and mix everything together. I find it's easier to mix everything but the butter together first then add the softened butter. It makes it a lot easier to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons

These cookies are always a huge hit and they couldn't be easier to make. I also like to finish these cookies off by dipping the bottoms in tempered chocolate (click here and scroll down to the bottom of the post for tempering instruction). You can make the macaroon batter ahead of time and keep it in the cooler for up to a week without any problems. These cookies also keep pretty well for 5 days or so before they begin to dry out (make sure to keep them covered).

Coconut Macaroons (makes about 36 cookies)

2.75 oz egg whites
6 oz granulated sugar
.4oz pastry flour
.75 oz corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
large pinch salt
6 ozunsweetened finely shredded coconut (if you can't find it in the bulk section, look for Bob's Red Mill brand)

Pre Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the egg whites, sugar corn, syrup, vanilla, and salt in a bowl and mix to combine everything and then add in the coconut. Mix until everything is combined, the mixture will be fairly stiff. If you have a small cookie scoop, it is the easiest way to shape the cookies. Make sure to really pack the scoop so the cookies won't easily fall apart. If you don't have a cookie scoop you can just hand shape 1-2TBS full of dough. Make sure to pack it together before placing them on the cookie tray. I like to roll round balls and then slightly flatten them on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until you see the very tops of the cookies start to brown. When you touch them, they will feel really soft, like they're not done, but as they cool they will firm up. Cook them too long and they start to dry out. Let them cool completely before taking them off the sheet pan.

Feel free to play around with variations. You could add spices or zest to the batter. You can also fold in small chunks of nuts or chocolate, or melted chocolate for chocolate macaroons.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Before I start in on today's post I want to apologize for the lack of posts lately. I have good reason though! I found out a few weeks ago that I'm pregnant. My husband and I are very excited. I'm now through my first trimester and feeling better, but for a while cooking or writing about food sounded less than appealing. I'm very happy to see though that it was short lived! I thought I would start back with a recipe that I find very comforting and a great and quick way to start off the day. I'm sure you've come across many smoothie recipes. I'm fairly sure you haven't seen too many with oatmeal in it though! I got the idea from a few years back when my husband and I were following the Abs Diet it was a very sensible way of eating that basically focuses on a core group of healthy and fresh foods. The oatmeal in the shake gives it a great creaminess and also helps to add fiber and it sticks with you all morning long. In smaller quantities it also makes a great mid day snack. Feel free to play around with all the ingredients in this recipe. I hesitated in labeling this recipe as a specific smoothie (I would have labeled it a banana peanut butter smoothie) because I didn't want to turn anyone off, as you could add whatever you had on hand or were in the mood for. What I'll do is when I'm making oatmeal for breakfast, I'll make extra- then there is oatmeal cold and ready to go whenever I need a quick breakfast. Give it a try and see what you think!

Oatmeal Shake

Smoothie (makes 1 large meal sized smoothie)

1/3 cup cooked, cold oatmeal
1 small banana or 1/2- 2/3's of a large
1 TBS peanut butter (preferably natural without any added sugar or salt)
1 TBS of vanilla flavored protein powder*
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 cup milk (whatever kind you want or you could replace it with soy milk ect.)
3 ice cubes

*for the protein powder I used a whey protein powder- vanilla flavor. This adds some sweetness to the shake along with extra protein. You could also use a soy protein powder if you wanted, if it's not flavored or you want to skip the protein powder all together you might want to add a tsp of honey, maple syrup or sugar. We've made it without any added sugar or protein powder but be forewarned that it's definitely not very sweet. The protein powder or added sugar doesn't make it overly sweet just adds a little more flavor.

Put everything but the ice in a blender, blend until smooth and then add the ice cubes and blend until all the ice is blended in.

Oatmeal Shake-2

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ricotta Dumplings

Ricotta Dumplings

For my post I have used these ricotta dumplings in a soup, but they could easily be sauteed in some butter and topped with tomato sauce or also used as a ravioli or tortellini filling. Feel free to play around with the vegetable additions, as I would imagine a pumpkin or other squash would go really well.

Ricotta Dumplings (makes about 24 large sized dumplings)

1 lb ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (feel free to use another hard cheese)
3/4 cup finely chopped spinach, well drained (feel free to use frozen)
10 cloves of roasted garlic (about 2 tbs mashed up)*
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp finely chopped lemon zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

* to roast garlic, you can use a whole head or just as many cloves as you need, and wrap it in foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes to an hour until very soft when touched. Either squeeze out the garlic from the skin or you can also peel the cloves to ensure maximum yield.

For the dumplings, mix everything together in a bowl. This can be made in advance before cooking, or once the dumplings are cooked you can hold them overnight in a covered container. To cook the dumplings, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop desired sized dumplings into the water and turn the water down to a simmer for 5 minutes. Make sure when forming dumplings (usually by using two spoons or a small scoop) that they are fairly tightly compact, because with the addition of the spinach the dumplings can fall apart if too loosely formed. Only cook about 6-10 dumplings at a time, so you don't crowd the pot. When done, using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to a bowl or plate. Bring the water back to a simmer, add the next batch of dumplings. I have put these into a chicken soup but you could also just saute them over high heat with a little butter or use as a filling for ravioli. If using in soup, I would keep them separate until serving, as storing the dumplings in the soup will probably make them begin to break down.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lemon Curd

Traditionally lemon curd is served with scones. It has so many more uses than just an accompaniment to scones. Even just by the spoonful, it can be justified! It is so mouth wateringly addicting. It's just the right amount of acid mixed with sweet, and a wonderfully creamy and smooth texture. Even my husband who isn't a big fan of anything lemon kept coming back for more! If you've never made lemon curd before, it's very simple and so rewarding. As for other uses, you can put it into a tart shell (great for mini tartlets and bake it at 350 just for about 10 minutes to set the top) and serve it with some berries and freshly whipped cream for a great summer dessert. As strawberries are in season it makes a wonderful addition to a shortcake. Fold some lemon curd into some freshly whipped cream before topping the shortcakes. You don't have to stick with just lemon either. You can use different juices in place of the lemon. Passion fruit is a personal favorite of mine. You can do a combination of lemon and lime, or if you have some key limes, they would make a wonderfully fragrant curd. Even though grapefruits are on their way out of season, they are also a wonderful choice. Curd can be a great filling for cakes, or an equally welcome accompaniment to something like an anglefood cake along with some fresh berries. Hopefully I've inspired you enough to give it a try.

Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd (makes about 3 cups)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
3 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
1 3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter

There are two ways to make lemon curd, by putting a heatproof bowl over simmering water (indirect heat) or just in a pan on direct heat. The second option, I would recommend to anyone who has had experience cooking custard based sauces (like creme anglaise)*. Using a mixing bowl over the pan of simmering water is the safer method(to prevent your eggs from scrambling). Either way you choose, mix the eggs with the sugar, add the lemon juice and zest whisking to combine everything in a heatproof bowl. You want to stir with a rubber spatula continuously until it thickly coats the spatula or until you can see that it has thickly coated the side of the bowl. It should have the consistency of a thin pudding. Strain the curd into a clean bowl (to catch any small bits of cooked egg) and whisk in the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and cool. This mixture can be kept in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

*If cooking the mixture over direct heat, mix the ingredients into a thick bottomed pan and cook over very low heat, using a plastic spatula to stir, making sure to get all parts of the pan.

Lemon Curd

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies-Edit

These might have been the first thing I ever learned how to make (it was either these or pancakes... I'm not sure). I remember asking my grandmother to send me the recipe for her chocolate chip cookies. I might have been around 9 when I had requested the recipe and have never stopped making them since. I can remember going away to summer camp for the summer (my mom was the camp nurse which is why we went all summer) and I would bake a few batches of these cookies for my dad whom would be all on his own for the summer. He would put the cookies into the freezer and carefully ration them until I returned to make more. These are my favorite chocolate chip cookies, they are loaded with oats which I love, and they are crispy after they come out of the oven, but they soften over time and become a little more chewy but they are equally as good. Even if you don't normally bake with whole wheat pastry flour, I encourage you to go to the grocery store and pick some up. I usually find it in the bulk bins in the health food section. The whole wheat is great in these cookies, it doesn't feel like a compromise but rather a preference. I think the whole wheat flavor matches the oats and chocolate so well, not to mention it offers some added health benefits, although all the butter and sugar would kind of cancel that out.

Chocolate Chip Cookies makes about 48 cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks) room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 12 oz bag of chocolate chips or your favorite chocolate chopped into small pieces

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cream together the butter and sugars, if mixing by hand cream until light and fluffy, at least 8 minutes. If using an electric mixer, use paddle attachment on medium speed and cream for 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure the first is completely incorporated before adding the second. You can add the vanilla along with the eggs. Take two cups of the oats and put them into a blender or food processor to grind them to a flour. Add the rest of the dry ingredients, including the 1/2 cup of whole oats and mix everything together. Stir into the butter mixture, adding the chocolate chips/ pieces before the flour gets completely mixed in. Scoop into rounded tablespoon fulls and put onto a greased or parchment lined sheet pan. Gently flatten the cookies slightly so they spread properly. Bake for 12-15 minutes rotating the pan half way through baking. Bake until the cookies are a golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack and then store in an air tight container.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Avocado Tomatillo Dip

Avocado Tomatillo Dip

Here is a quick and very addicting dip. It's a lot like a guacamole, but has the addition of tangy tomatillo's that creates a creamy, slightly tart dip that has uses well beyond serving with chips. I can't seem to stop eating it. The flavors are perfectly balanced which makes it very addicting. It makes a great spread for a sandwich, and I would imagine a perfect sauce for grilled fish or a condiment for tacos. I discovered this recipe in Cooking Light Magazine- for two full cups of dip it only uses one avocado and some sour cream which helps to cut down on the fat, but to taste it, you would have no clue! With the addition of the tomatillos, this prevents the dip from turning brown for a few days!

Avocado Tomatillo Dip (adapted from Cooking Light)
Makes about 2 cups

1/2 pound tomatillos (about 5 large)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (or more if you want it spicier)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 a lime
3 TBS sour cream (low fat, fat free, regular- up to you)
1 ripe peeled avocado, seeded and coarsely chopped

Peel the husks off of the tomatillos, place them in a sauce pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about five minutes, until the tomatillos are tender. Drain and cool. Place into a food processor, or blender and add the onion, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and lime. Turn on and process until smooth. Add in the sour cream and avocado and process until smooth. Taste and add more salt and lime juice as needed. Since this doesn't turn brown very quickly it this can easily be made ahead of time and will last for approximately 5 days - if you can keep it around that long!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Favorite Brownies


One of the sweets I remember from my childhood is the homemade brownies my parents used to make. For a long time, none of the brownies I had ever really compared to what I remembered as the perfect brownie that my parents made. When I made the recipe my mom had given me a few years back for the first time in a long time, I found it too sweet and the only chocolate source was also Ghiradelli Hot Cocoa mix- not enough chocolate flavor for me. I used to think what made these so special was the malted milk powder that was added. Over the last few months, in developing my hot chocolate mix, it struck me- it wasn't the malt, it was the milk powder! Hot chocolate mix is pretty much two parts milk powder to one part cocoa powder and one part sugar. The sugar and cocoa powder were already in the recipe I was working on, with the addition of some milk powder I got the flavor and texture I remember. The milk powder adds some of that malted flavor, and gives a nice chewy fudgy texture to the brownies. I also have added some bittersweet chocolate along with the cocoa powder, which isn't normal- usually it's just one or the other. This gives the brownies a great well rounded chocolate flavor, make sure you use high quality chocolate and cocoa powder or they won't be your favorite brownies! After I get the variations nailed down, I'll post some other options beyond plain brownies... peanut butter swirl, cheesecake, raspberry hazelnut, coconut macaroon... oh the opportunities are endless! Try these out and let me know what you think!

Brownies ( makes about 16 medium sized squares)

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 oz butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 TBS vanilla
1/2 cup non fat dried milk powder
3/4 cup cake flour (I have also used whole wheat pastry flour with great results)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Pre heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Over a pan of boiling water (or in the microwave) melt the butter and chocolate together. After it is completely melted add the sugar, mix, and add the eggs at once. Stir until they are mixed in, add the vanilla extract, and then the milk powder. Sift all the dry ingredients together and add to the chocolate butter mix and stir just until combined. Pour into a greased 9x13" pan and bake until when a skewer is inserted into the middle it comes with crumbs attached. Be careful not to over cook them!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Upside Down Cobbler Update

Upside Down Cobbler

Since it's almost spring and I have begun to see rhubarb in the grocery stores, I thought I should probably use up the rest of my frozen supply from last year! I was making dinner for my husband and I, and wanted a quick dessert that could use up some of that rhubarb. I remembered back to the upside down cobbler I had posted a while ago and thought raspberry and rhubarb would make a great variation to the original I had posted. I have made a few changes to that first recipe I posted-
  • The most noticeable would be the shape, I have a long rectangular tart pan that I baked it in, I had cut the recipe in half and ended up using more fruit this time which I liked better.
  • Depending on how sweet or ripe your fruit is you could skip tossing the fruit in the sugar especially if you follow the next modification.
  • I put the fruit on top of the batter but next time I think I would try pouring the batter over the fruit so the fruit is baked into the cake a little more.
  • This a great place to use whole wheat pastry flour since it blends in nicely with the almond meal, it doesn't stand out or seem like a substitution at all.
  • Since using raspberry and rhubarb, I changed the liquor to an orange brandy.
  • In cutting the recipe in half I ended up using just the egg white with great results, next time I make a full recipe I would substitute the 1 egg for 2 whites.
  • Make sure you toast the almond meal, it really helps to bring out the flavor.
  • I finished this tart off with a thin glaze of apricot jam (heated up and thinned out with a little water) which gave it a nice sheen and a little more sweetness to the rhubarb.
With all these modifications, I could have almost written out a whole new recipe. I hope these modifications give you some inspiration to play around!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

French Onion Soup

I have a dear friend I met 5 years ago, and when we met we hit it off instantly. I think one of the common denominators that has made us such good friends is our love for food (and creativity- but she's got me beat there!). A while ago, I don't remember when we started, we began getting together as often as we could (not as often as we'd like) and cooking. We would pick a theme each time and use that as an opportunity to make something we've been wanting to try, or a kind of food we love, but don't often cook. It has ranged from Chinese to doughnuts, originally it started out as a day long event, culminating in a huge meal that we shared with our husbands. As life has gone on and they have added two little ones to their family, our long days spent together in the kitchen has turned into deciding on a meal, each making parts and then getting together, giving us more time to relax and catch up. Our last get together was French Country. She had been wanting to do crepes and I thought I would give my hand at French Onion soup, today's post. I also brought along some champagne and the gougères to round out the meal. I looked at a few different methods and came up with my own version. It's basically just onions, broth, some bread and cheese, but it really drives home how layering flavor and technique can take something from not exciting at all, to sublime. Don't skimp on the technique/ cooking time, it will pay off in the end result.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup (Serves 6 as a main course)

6 medium size onions
3 TBS butter
parsley stems (approximately 15)**
fresh thyme (few sprigs), or 1 tsp dried **
whole peppercorns (about 1 tsp)**
2 bay leaves**
3 TBS flour
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups beef broth
9 TBS dry vermouth
3 TBS brandy or sherry
1 TBS Worcestershire
1-2 cups grated cheese (I used a mix of mostly gruyere and a little Parmesan)*
1 clove of garlic
Bread for croutons- traditionally Baguette is used, but I had a nice (lonely) loaf of challah in the freezer that I used. It turned out wonderfully- which makes me think that brioche would also make an indulgent version. Any quality bread will do. For the version in this recipe, a slice of bread is on the bottom and top of the soup, so you will need enough bread to cover both the bottom and top of the pot you are using. The best way to cook this soup is in little oven safe dishes that can allow for individual servings. You can also use one large (oven safe) pot that you can serve family style, but it's important everyone gets an equal share of the toasted bread and cheese!

*I almost contemplated going a little nontraditional with some gouda- especially a great aged gouda- feel free to play around with different cheeses, your favorite cheeses.

** These ingredients are all for what's called bouquet garni. This is basically like a savory tea bag for the soup. The best way to do this is to bundle it all in a square of cheesecloth, making sure to fold in the ends so the items inside won't get free and float around in the soup (this is removed before serving). Tie the whole bundle with butchers twine. If you don't have any cheesecloth you can also use a coffee filter, or go with the very traditional green portion of a leek.

Bouquet Garni

Pre heat the oven to 400. You will need an oven safe pan with a lid. If you don't have one you can cook the onions entirely on the stove. I found that by slow cooking them in the oven, not only does it dramatically cut down on the time you have to pay attention to it, but the onions become so buttery and smooth, and full of flavor. Slice the onions, and put them in the pan with the butter and 2 tsp of salt, cover with the lid and bake in the oven for about 1 hour. Stir the onions and once they are very soft and translucent (may take a little longer than 1 hour), move the lid to the side a bit so the steam can escape from the pot, but it still remains fairly covered (I would imagine foil could work as a stand in if you didn't have a proper lid). Let it cook for another 1 1/2 hours so until they are very soft, cooked down and golden brown.

Onions Caramelizing

Return the pot to the stove and add the flour, stirring to mix in. Cook over medium heat and add the vermouth, then add the broths and bouquet garni**. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the brandy and Worcestershire. Season with salt and lemon juice (about 1 tsp- just enough to perk up the flavor). The amount of salt needed will depend on how much salt is in the broth. This can be made a few days ahead. To serve, rewarm the soup and toast the bread (slice into 1/2 inch slices) in the 400 degree oven until crispy and golden. Cut the clove of garlic in half and rub all the toast with the garlic. Spread half of the toasts on the bottom of the pot or serving dishes the soup will go into. Sprinkle some cheese on the toasts. Ladle the soup into the pot/ serving dishes, top with another toast, sprinkle with cheese. Turn the oven to broil, put the soup into the oven until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
I was hesitant to put the piece of bread and cheese on the bottom, and only did so when reheating some leftover soup, and was pleasantly surprised. The bread soaked up the juices of the soup, but also gave it some more body (not that it needed more) and then the addition of the cheese on the bottom, heightens the cheese presence in the soup. Good quality cheese will make quite a difference in this soup and should be used.


Friday, February 20, 2009



Gougère may be more commonly known, or easily recognized as cheese puffs. It uses a standard pate a choux as a base with cheese folded in at the end. These make the perfect little pre dinner snack, something to go with your glass of wine while you're cooking, and something to keep your guests happy until dinner is ready. Perhaps you are celebrating with a bottle of champagne and want something to go with it? Maybe you want an inventive garnish for tomato soup? They can be filled with a savory mousse for a simple but elegant canapé . If you leave them empty and full of cheese these even work well as a finger food when hosting a kids birthday party perhaps... the point is they are VERY versatile and pretty darn addicting!

Gougère (makes about 48 small puffs)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk (any fat % will work)
8 TBS (4oz) butter (I substituted 1/2 of the butter for bacon fat)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour (preferably bread flour)
4-5 eggs
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) grated cheese*
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

*traditionally the cheese is gruyere (a kind of swiss cheese), I used 1 cup gruyere, and 1/4 cup parmesean. You can use any cheese you want and also fold in other items like herbs, nuts, bacon bits or substitute the nutmeg for another spice.

Pre heat your oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium sized saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt. Bring this to a full rolling boil (if it's not a full boil the fat isn't evenly dispersed and you can end up in a very greasy looking dough). After it comes to a rolling boil, take it off the heat, add the flour all at once. Once all the flour is mixed in, return it to the heat and turn the flame to a medium high. Stir and cook until a film forms on the bottom of the pan. This should take only a minute or two. Take it off the heat and transfer the mixture to a mixer bowl. Let it cool until you can keep your hand on the bottom of the bowl. You can turn the mixer on (using a paddle attachment) and let it mix briefly to cool it down.** After cool, add the eggs one at a time making sure each egg is completely mixed before adding the next. You want to hold back the last egg and evaluate the batter, it may not need it. What you're looking for is if you were to drop a little bit onto a sheet pan (or the counter) it would hold it's shape relatively well. It should be loose enough that it easily drops off the spoon but stiff enough that once dropped onto the pan it keeps it's shape instead of slowly spreading out into a flat round. If it still seems stiff add the last egg, making sure to break it up and only add about 1/2 at a time. You can save the rest of that egg for egg wash. Fold in the cheese, nutmeg, and pepper (or any other add ins you wish). You can now pipe these onto a sheet pan (about the size of a quarter) that's been lined with parchment or lightly greased. Alternatively you and just use a teaspoon and portion out about a tablespoon per puff. The flatter they are when they are portioned out, the less round and risen they will be when baked. In the picture below I didn't have any piping bags so I had to use spoons, they work fine...


Brush some egg wash (1/2- 1 egg mixed with a splash of water) over each puff and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 375 and bake until a golden brown, rotating the pan half way through. You can freeze the dough after it's portioned out on the sheet pan and then bake right from the freezer or you can also freeze them after they are baked, and before serving just refresh in a 375 degree oven for a few minutes to re crisp them.

*the whole process can also be done by hand, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

From December through early spring, Meyer lemons are in season. You may have seen them in the store and wondered what was so special about them or why the cost so much more than a normal lemon. One sniff of the outside would have maybe clued you in. They have an intriguing and sweet aroma and they aren't nearly as sour as a normal lemon. Sometimes it can be described as a cross between a lemon and a tangerine. If you have a chance, pick some up and try them out. Below is a great recipe to try out Meyer lemons. These lemon bars are all lemon and it would be a great way to experience the wonderful and unique flavor Meyer lemons have. The peel is also wonderful candied. I have given a range for the sugar below, if using Meyer lemons, they tend to be sweeter so use less sugar, or if you like really tart lemon desserts.

Lemon Bars (makes 24 small bars)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute AP flour)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
1 tsp salt
10 TBS cold butter (5 oz) chopped into small pieces

Pre heat the oven 350 degrees F. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until it's crumbly and starting to form larger crumbles (past the fine crumbly stage, so that the mixture is starting to stick together). Pat into a greased 9x13" baking pan. Pat the crust so that it extends at least 1/2 way up the sides of the pan and then freeze until very cold and bake for 20-30 minutes until no longer doughy.

5 eggs
1 - 2 cups sugar*
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup whole milk (can also use half & half or even heavy cream)
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 TBS of zest (if you have time pulse this in a food processor with the sugar for better flavor)

While the crust is baking, put eggs and sugar (along with the zest if it wasn't already mixed into the sugar) into a bowl. Whisk to combine and add the flour, whisk to mix in, then add the milk, whisk a little more and finally add the lemon juice in stages, whisking to combine between each addition. You want to try not to incorporate too much air, but whisk just to mix everything together. Once the crust comes out of the oven you can pour the filling over and put back into the oven and bake it until the batter no longer ripples when the pan is tapped. It should shake as one, like jello. This should take approximately 15-20 minutes. Make sure to not overcook it, as the bars will loose it's creamy texture. Let it cool completely, even briefly refrigerate or freeze, before cutting. The colder the bars are, the easier it will be to handle. These freeze well as long as they are well wrapped.

*For Meyer lemons I would use 1 cup of sugar, for a tart lemon bar use 1 1/2 cups or for something on the sweeter side, use the full 2 cups.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chocolate Truffles

What better way to end my week of chocolate than with one of the most straightforward and great ways to showcase chocolate? With a truffle. These are hand rolled, not perfectly round or smooth, which gives them more character if you ask me. I have an example for each chocolate- dark, milk and white. I have finished these by rolling them in tempered chocolate and a complementary garnish, but if you are in a hurry, or not ready to experiment with tempered chocolate you can always roll the base right into some cocoa powder or what ever garnish you choose and be done with it. That wouldn't take you much more than an hour and a half total of working time (and that is probably the most it would take you...) There are two types of truffle bases, the french truffle base (the kind I have made here) and a Swiss truffle base. The Swiss truffle base is a lot softer and meant to be piped into molds that are lined with chocolate (not quite as quick an endeavor). Truffles can be flavored with so many items, it's a matter of playing around and seeing what works. The only thing you really need to know (at the most basic) is the ratio of cream (or liquid) to chocolate. For milk and white it will be a lot less than for dark chocolate. One of my future plans for this blog is to create some links with complete notes and how to's for all the pastry basics. There I will go more in depth and allow for the curious to learn more, and the not so curious -can't be bothered with too many details- to not be bogged down with a lot of extra unsolicited information in the posts. For that reason I will try to keep this post fairly straight forward and as simple as possible. There is so much to say and learn about chocolate and all it's amazing properties and characteristics, but my goal for this post is for even the most blissfully unaware to be able to make their own truffles! The mixing and rolling procedure is the same for all three truffles, so below I have given all the recipes and then I will go on to give the general directions.

Truffles Complete

Truffles Complete-2

Dark Chocolate
Normally you would use 54% of the weight of chocolate in cream which means that if you had 4 oz of chocolate you would use 2.2 oz of cream (multiply 4 oz by 54%). But since I wanted to use a higher percentage chocolate 75% I needed more cream and got this formula from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich. Because the chocolate is extra bittersweet the lack of sugar affects how the chocolate acts, requiring more cream and a slightly different formula. I will also post a formula that would work well with a lower bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.

Bittersweet Truffles (from Bittersweet) this will make about 40-50 truffles
1 cup plus 2 TBS heavy cream (if using a chocolate that has 66% chocolate solids increase the amount to 1 1/4 cups)
10 oz of bittersweet chocolate labeled 66-72%
* next time I would include 1 TBS (.5 oz) of butter
10 oz of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (below 66%)
1/2 cup plus 2Tbs and 1 tsp of heavy cream
1 TBS (.5 oz) very soft butter

1 cup cocoa powder for coating the outside of the truffle
8 oz dark chocolate for dipping the truffles

Milk and White ChocolateFor milk and white chocolate you use 33% of the weight of chocolate in cream, because the chocolate itself has a lot more milk solids and sugar, if you use the same amount of cream as you would dark chocolate your base would never be firm enough to be able to roll out.

Caramel Milk Chocolate Truffles (will make about 25 truffles)
6.5 oz milk chocolate
1/3 cup plus 4 tsp (3.25) oz sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp (4.3 oz) of cream, warm to the touch

1 cup toasted unsweetened coconut for coating the outside of the truffle
8 oz milk chocolate for dipping the truffles

For this formula caramelize the sugar by combining the sugar with 3 tbs of water and cook over high heat until the sugar is a dark golden brown. Pour in the cream in a slow stream whisking the whole time. Let this cool and proceed with the basic directions.

White Chocolate and Grapefruit Truffles (will make about 25 truffles)6.5 oz of white chocolate
2 TBS (.5 oz) of heavy cream
2 Tbs (.5 oz) of fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 tsp of freshly grated grapefruit zest

1 cup toasted pistachios finely chopped, for coating the outside of the truffle
8 oz of white chocolate for dipping the truffles
Add the zest and the juice just before the cream is completely mixed into the chocolate.

Heat the cream until it's the temperature of warm bath water about 105 degrees F. In a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave) melt the chocolate so it is the same temperature as the cream. It's important that neither get too warm or the ganache can easily separate. It's important, though, that the chocolate is completely melted or there will be little bit of hard chocolate throughout the truffle base. Once the chocolate is melted add it to the cream and stir using a rubber spatula by making small circles in the middle of the bowl. Keep stirring that way until you see a glossy ring of chocolate appear- this is the beginning of the emulsification. After the chocolate is completely dark and glossy, add in the VERY soft butter (if using) and as soon as that is mixed in, pour into a small container lined with plastic wrap (makes it easy to remove the next day to scoop. Don' t stir after the chocolate is in the container, leave it alone to set up. Alternative to stirring you can see in the picture I am using my immersion (hand blender) to mix the chocolate and cream together. This creates a beautiful ganache and is worth going out to purchase one for that reason alone (but there are also MANY other reasons to have one as well!). Once the chocolate is poured into the cream, place the blender so the bottom is flat on the bottom of the bowl and leave it in place and blend. If you move it around a lot you can incorporate too much air into your ganche.

Truffles Chocolate

Truffles Chocolate-2

Ideally the base is allowed to sit overnight or until it is completely firm. DO NOT REFRIGERATE. The ganache won't set up as well or as evenly.

Truffles Balling

Truffles Balling-2

Truffles Balling-3

After the base has set up, lift it out of it's container and using a truffle scoop (or melon baller, or even a teaspoon) scoop round balls out of the base, and to get them to release from the scoop, rub the back on your hand to warm it up, this will melt the very outside of the ball causing it to slide right out of the scoop. Go through and scoop all the base and then roll to make the scoops as round as possible. At this point you want to give the balls of ganache time to firm up and settle, so ideally you could just leave these out on the counter, covered overnight before you dip them in chocolate. If you need them sooner, or don't want to continue, right after rolling the ganache, roll the balls in cocoa powder, finely chopped toasted coconut, or nuts or whatever else you desire. And your done! ( At this point, I would store leftover truffles in the refrigerator- without the protective coating of the tempered chocolate the truffle will spoil faster)

If you want to dip them into tempered chocolate which creates a little chocolate shell, lets the truffle last longer, and helps the outside garnish to stick better read on for further instruction!

Chocolate Tempering
There are many ways to temper chocolate, the easiest and simplest (for small amounts of chocolate) is in the microwave. Like mentioned in the beginning of the post, I'll leave explanation aside for now and just go through the how to... but if you want to know more about tempering be on the lookout for a link to the left in the upcoming months, and that will give you more information than you could wish for!
Take about 8 oz of chocolate (dark, milk or white) and place into a glass heat proof bowl and into the microwave. Heat it up for about 15 seconds (this will vary from microwave to microwave) if you don't have a microwave you could use a pan of boiling water and just keep putting it on and taking it off the water. You basically want to take briefly heat up the chocolate, stir as much as possible to slowly melt/ mash the chocolate into one mass, put it back into the microwave for a brief period of time, stir and so on until it's melted. It's important to stir as much as possible in between heating it up so that as it gets warmer and melts more you won't end up with unmelted chunks or chocolate that has gotten too hot.

Truffles Mixing

Truffles Mixing-2

Truffles Mixing-3

Truffles Mixing-4

Your goal is to get this chocolate in a liquid/ fluid state before it gets past 91 degrees F. So a lot of stirring and brief heating in the microwave (and stir even if it doesn't look melted- chocolate holds it's shape even when warm and soft) will enable you to do this. Once it's melted and fluid and as long as it hasn't gotten too warm, it's tempered! If the chocolate cools off before you are done using it, heat it up again in the microwave using the same technique.

Truffles Coating

Truffles Coating-2

Once the chocolate is melted, take one hand, that will be designated the "chocolate hand" and drop a truffle in the chocolate, and using a spoon place that truffle into your hand and roll it a round to get rid of the excess chocolate then let it roll off your hand and on to a piece of parchment paper. Go through and dip all the truffles, scraping chocolate off you hand as needed and then dip them a second time (at this point the first coat of chocolate will have set up). Make sure before you go through the second round of dipping that you prepare the coconut, or nuts or cocoa powder (whatever you are rolling the truffles in) and put it into a medium sized bowl or container. After dipping the truffles for the second time, instead of putting them back on the parchment, put them into the container of whatever you are rolling them in. Let them sit briefly (about 30 sec) usually long enough to dip the next truffle, and then before putting the second truffle in the container of "garnish" roll the first one around in the container to coat it completely, leave it in there, place the truffle that was in your hand in the container and repeat the process all over again, and before the third truffle is placed in the container, take out the first (because the chocolate will have hardened by then). If you roll the freshly dipped truffle too soon the chocolate starts to drip off the truffle and looks messy, so by letting it sit still briefly, the chocolate will set up enough so when coated it will stay in place. By shaking the container instead of rolling it with your hand, that will also help to not disturb the chocolate while it's hardening. Because the chocolate is tempered it shouldn't take too long to set up.
Then you're done! Because the ganache has been sealed by the outside coating of tempered chocolate you can keep these out on the counter for about 1 week. As long as they are well wrapped you can also freeze them. Just make sure to let them thaw slowly in the refrigerator before returning them to room temperature.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chocolate French Toast with Sauteed Bananas

French Toast

Need something sweet to start your day? Or perhaps end your day? This can be made in several ways to accommodate either. In my picture I have plated this as more of a dessert, but it's also very easy to simplify this a bit and turn it into a suitable breakfast or brunch item. I love french toast, or pain perdu as it would be called if you were in french bistro. French toast can take on many variations. Perhaps one of my favorite is sandwiched with some turkey or ham and then topped with fried eggs and maple syrup! I'll have to post that one of these days. For today I have added some cocoa powder to my standard french toast custard. I'm not sure that I can pick up a strong cocoa flavor, but it definitely adds more depth to the french toast. For breakfast I would soak the bread and cook as normal serving it with maybe some lightly sauteed bananas or fresh bananas and some honey or maple syrup. For dessert as pictured here I have sandwiched slices with chocolate chips and served it with more chocolate sauce and caramelized brown butter bananas. If you have never experienced it, chocolate and bread are a fantastic combination!

Chocolate French Toast (custard enough for 3-4 servings)

The best bread for french toast is challah, or brioche but any sturdy bread would work well.
This custard can easily be doubled or tripled for more servings.

1/3 cup whole milk or 2%
1 egg
2 TBS cocoa powder
1 TBS sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp bourbon (optional)

1 cup chocolate chips or chopped pieces of your favorite chocolate

Whisk together the egg, cocoa powder, sugar until completely combined. Add the milk and bourbon and vanilla. Slice the bread into 1/2- 3/4" slices. Heat up a griddle or saute pan, lightly grease with butter or pan spray. Dip slices of bread into the custard, letting it sit for 30 seconds to soak up some of the custard and shake off the excess before placing it into the pan. The bread will burn if the heat is too high, so keep it on a medium low heat and let it cook until the first side is cooked but not too dark (it will be hard to tell because it's chocolate but you should see some crust form). After you flip the bread over sandwich two pieces together with the chocolate. Arrange some chocolate on one piece and top with another piece of the toast, making sure the cooked side is facing in, touching the chocolate. As the chocolate melts it will help to hold the two pieces together. Cook until the bottom is not to dark but has form a crust, then gently flip the sandwich over and cook the other side. After cooking you can transfer them to a 250 degree F oven to keep warm until serving.
You can dip and sandwich the pieces of bread together (with chocolate in the middle), brown both sides (of the sandwich) and then finish cooking in the oven at 375 until the sandwiches are cooked through and the chocolate is melted, about 15 minutes depending on how cold the sandwiches are going in. This lets you prepare this ahead of time and you can put them in the oven right before serving.

Sauteed Bananas
For the bananas, briefly saute them in some brown butter* Use about 1/2 TBS per banana and then sprinkle in some confectioners sugar to taste and a pinch of salt. Add thick slices of banana to the pan and cook them over medium high heat until you begin to get a little color on them, but they still are firm in the middle. Make sure not to cook them too long or they become mushy and fall apart.

*For brown butter, let the butter melt over low heat until the milk solids begin to brown (not burn) and the butter takes on a nutty aroma
After the sandwiches come out of the oven slice them in half on the diagonal, sprinkle with some powdered sugar and serve with the sauteed bananas. You could also serve this with some chocolate sauce and or whipped cream or ice cream.

For Breakfast:
For something not quite as sweet, you can cook the french toast as normal and skip sandwiching with the chocolate. I would still serve it with bananas (because I love them!) but they could either be fresh or still lightly sauteed and drizzle some honey or maple syrup on top.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolate Mousse and Cocoa Nib Panna Cotta

Today's post is something a little more involved- if you want it to be. Both of these recipes are wonderful enough to serve on their own, as shown in the pictures, but together the create a visually stunning and texturally contrasting dessert. It looks impressive but really isn't all that difficult to pull off. It can also be made ahead of time which makes it a great end to a dinner party!

Penna Cotta4
Penna Cotta3
Chocolate mousse and panna cotta layered in flex mold and turned out, sprinkled with coconut macaroon. The same dessert layered in a martini glass topped with a thin dusting of cocoa powder

This recipe for chocolate mousse came from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich. I'm sure that is familiar to you by now if you've read the past few posts. Yes, this is my go to book for anything chocolate related, not my only chocolate book, but so far my favorite and most reliable. There are a lot of different ways to make chocolate mousse, using different ingredients to give you different textures and characteristics, which is why you will see so many different recipes. The classic will use eggs that are separated, and the yolk is added to melted chocolate and butter, the whites are whipped to a soft peak and folded in along with some whipped cream. It produces a great mousse. I chose this recipe though because it leaves the cream out (with the intention of garnishing with it instead) which concentrates the chocolate flavor and makes for a more intensely flavored mousse. That in turn pairs well with the creamy panna cotta I have layered with it. Without the addition of cream this also makes it dairy free.

Chocolate mousse served simply with some slightly sweetened whipped cream

Chocolate Mousse ("Albert's Chocolate Mousse" from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich)
Serves about 6-8
You can cut this recipe in half if you choose to use this in conjunction with the panna cotta for a layered dessert for 6 (depending on the size of each portion)

6 oz bittersweet chocolate*
1/4 cup water, coffee, milk or 1/2 cup cream- I used coffee
1/2 TBS brandy or other liquor of choice (optional)
3 large eggs at room temperature
3 TBS of water
3 TBS of sugar
Melt the chocolate and water (or other liquid) in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering hot water. Stir frequently so it melts evenly and quickly, taking the bowl off after the chocolate has completely melted making sure the mixture doesn't get too hot. (Keep the water hot in the pan- you will be using it again for the eggs) After it is off the heat stir in the brandy, if using.
In another medium heat proof bowl whisk together the eggs, the 3 TBS water and sugar. Place this over the pan of hot water and keep the water at a low simmer while you whisk the eggs.


whipping the eggs over a pan of hot water after the eggs are cooked, whip to cool

It's important to make sure you are whisking all of the mixture the whole time- if the eggs are sitting still in the bowl they will scramble. Keep whisking until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Once they are hot enough, take the bowl off the heat and continue to whisk for a few more minutes until the mixture cools slightly (the mixture will also thicken slightly).
Fold the egg mixture into the chocolate (which should still be fairly warm and fluid). Pour into serving container.
You can portion this out into individual glasses or if you want pour into one bowl and let it set up and then scoop into individual glasses. At this point you could also layer into a glass, leaving room for the panna cotta and let it set up in the refrigerator. If you have any silicone molds (they seem to be selling these everywhere these days) you can pour the mousse into the molds and fill it up all the way, or as one of my pictures shows, leave room for the panna cotta. To get the mousse out you want to freeze it solid, then it is easy to pop them out and just make sure you let them completely thaw before serving.
If serving the mousse on it's own I highly suggest garnishing with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Penna Cotta
Penna Cotta2

Panna cotta served in a dish with some cream and chocolate shavings and panna cotta unmolded topped with coconut macaroon pieces.

This recipe for panna cotta was a bit of a revelation for me. Most panna cotta recipes are usually a combination of milk and cream the some sugar, flavoring and gelatin to hold it together. It is good, but doesn't have much body to it. I saw a slightly unusual recipe for panna cotta in The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman that thickened the milk and cream by cooking it with egg white before adding the gelatin. It uses the same method used to make creme anglaise, and then is set with gelatin. The result gave the custard more body and made it addictively good. With that said, this could easily be served on it's own, but is also great layered with the mousse. Panna Cotta can be made using all sorts of dairy, like buttermilk, yogurt, or all milk or other non dairy liquids. The addition of some cream or full fat dairy does give it a certain needed richness. Panna cotta can be infused with all sorts of flavors. Feel free to play around with the flavors. I love to use cocoa nibs (I know this is becoming a very repetitive ingredient lately, but it is "chocolate week"!) infused into the cream/milk because it gives it a great subtle chocolate flavor. Make sure to remeasure the liquid before using it in the recipe as some items can absorb a lot of liquid while infusing.

Panna Cotta (from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman)

This can be cut in half if layering it with the chocolate mousse
1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 tsp vanilla (or 1 vanilla bean)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 egg whites
I used 1/4 cup of crushed cocoa nibs and added them to the warm milk and cream and let them sit for two hours to infuse before using. You would do the same if you were using the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and put both the seeds and outside of the bean into the custard and let infuse for at least 1/2 an hour before using.
In a small bowl sprinkle the gelatin over 5 tsp of water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, if the gelatin doesn't dissolve in the water give it a quick stir. The gelatin will absorb all the water as it sits. Heat the cream and milk,with half of the sugar and add the vanilla bean if using, or if you are using cocoa nibs add them now. Let the milk and cream sit covered off the heat for 30 minutes to 2 hours (some ingredients will take longer to infuse into the custard).
To make the custard: put the egg whites, other half of the sugar and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine. Uncover the pan, heat the cream and milk back up and slowly stream it into the egg white mixture, whisking the whole time. Return this mixture back to the heat and make sure the heat is on a medium low. Using a rubber spatula stir the whole time and cook until the mixture reaches 180 F or coats the back of the spoon. If using a thermometer make sure to temporarily take the pan off the stove while getting the reading (so your custard doesn't overcook).

adding hot milk to egg and sugar mix, then pouring back into the pan, returning to the heat to cook until thick

You want to make sure while stirring the custard you are scraping the entire bottom of the pan. If any of the custard sits too long, it will scramble the whites. Also if the the custard gets too hot it can scramble the whites, at which point you want to start over! After the custard is done, add 1/4 of the custard to the gelatin, stir making sure it is completely dissolved, add it back to the pan, then strain the whole mixture, with a fine mesh strainer,into a clean bowl. Chill the custard until it feels neutral to the touch (touch the center of the bottom of the bowl). If you were to take a temperature it should be about 75-80 degrees F. At this point you can pour it into serving dishes, or layer it with the mousse, or put it into a flex mold or a metal mold. If using a flex mold, to unmold you want to freeze it solid, pop it out and let it thaw out before serving. If using a metal mold (like a muffin pan)you can briefly dip the bottom in warm water briefly and invert on to a plate, and the custard will slide out. Alternatively you can use a small glass or cup and turn it out using the same method. You can keep the custard in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days before serving.
This is wonderful garnished with fresh fruit, and or any small crunchy cookie which provides a wonderful textural contrast.