MASCARPONE MOUSSE FROM BAKING CHEZ MOI

FACT: a truth known by actual experience or observation;
something known to be true.

For instance: I have too many cookbooks.  That is a fact. I don’t need another cookbook. Also a fact. Oddly enough, both were ignored when a third event recently took place:  I ordered Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi. Instead of being ashamed of my lack of will power,  I jumped up and down with joy when the package arrived. Later that same evening I took it to my bedside table, where I intended to browse through a few pages, but instead found myself unable to put it down. Not enough sleep that night.  If you face the fact of owning too many cookbooks, and think you don’t need another one, I will be brutally honest: you are wrong. You must invite this one into your home. Released just last month, I know it will become a classic. And you don’t want to be out of that loop, do you?

mascarpone mousse
MASCARPONE MOUSSE
(reprinted with permission from Dorie Greenspan)

1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 tablespoon cold water
8 ounces (227 g) mascarpone
1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of fine sea salt
3 tablespoons sugar

Put the gelatin in a microwave-safe bowl, pour over the cold water and let the gelatin sit for about 3 minutes, or until it is completely moistened and has begun to expand. Then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 15 to 20 seconds to liquefy it.

Scrape the mascarpone into a large bowl, preferably one that has a pouring spout, and gently stir to loosen it.

Pour the cream and honey into a small saucepan, put over medium heat and bring just to a boil. Allow the liquid to cool for 5 minutes, then pour some into the gelatin and stir until smooth. Stir the contents of the gelatin bowl into the remaining cream and then pour everything into the bowl with the mascarpone. Use a whisk to blend gently.

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt together on medium-high speed until the whites just begin to turn opaque. Little by little, add the sugar and keep beating until the whites are marshmallowy – blowy and white, and when you lift the whisk, they’ll form tipsy peaks.

Turn the whites out onto the mascarpone mixture and, using a flexible spatula, lightly fold them in. Thoroughness is less important than gentleness here.

Pour or spoon the mousse into four 1-cup-capacity bowls. Cover the mousse with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving, making sure to keep it away from foods with strong odors.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

FruitTopYou can gild the lily with some berries, either crushed with a little sugar in the bottom of the bowl, or as whole fruit on top. 

Comments: I always joke with Phil that Giada de Laurentiis in her cooking shows tends to use a few ingredients a bit too often.  Mascarpone is one of them. Hazelnut is another. You blink once, and there she is, grabbing the mascarpone from the fridge, and the bag of hazelnuts from the pantry.  So, I almost did  not pay attention to this dessert in Dorie’s book.  But, her description of the way the sweetness of honey plays with the tartness of the mascarpone and how the dessert kind of grows on you with each spoonful, convinced me to try it.  We recently had a couple of friends over for a Brazilian style dinner (steak, rice, black beans), and I wanted a dessert that would be tasty but not overly heavy.  This mascarpone mousse was perfect for the occasion, even if I say so myself…  Plus, I made smaller servings than called for. Dorie’s recipe is supposed to make 4 servings, I divided the mousse into six small bowls.  The description of Dorie is spot on: the mousse has a perfectly creamy texture, smooth, not too sweet, and the mascarpone and the honey together form a match hard to beat. I would not change anything in this mousse, and would recommend you try it if you need a dessert that is not on the heavy side.

And now, time for an overview of Dorie’s new book, the one that you must invite into your home right after you finish reading my post.

Baking Chez Moi Cover

“These are the recipes the French bake at home for their families and their closest friends. They are generous, satisfying recipes tied to places, traditions, customs and culture.”
(Dorie Greenspan, Baking Chez Moi)

The way I see it, her book is the opposite of another she wrote together with Mr. Hermé,  Desserts by Pierre Hermé. In that book, nothing is simple, and every single one of the concoctions are the stuff that French people would buy at a pastry shop to take to a dinner party, or serve to lucky guests on a special occasion.  It is an amazing cookbook, but even though I’ve had it for more than 10 years, I made only two recipes from it, and each one left me feeling as if I had run a marathon. Barefoot. However, I must say that the French lemon tart is the best I’ve ever tasted, and worth buying the book to enjoy it.

Baking Chez Moi is a totally different entity. You will want to go to the kitchen right away to start baking, with no need to sit down and meditate in preparation, or light a bunch of candles to the Pastry Gods.  The book is divided in 6 chapters: Simple Cakes, Fancy Cakes, Tarts & Galettes, Baby Cakes & Petite Pastries, Cookies & Bars, and Fruit, Creams, Frozen Desserts & Candies.   A final closing chapter on Basics.  I will not list every recipe in the book, just give you a quick overview highlighting the ones that appealed to me the most.

Simple Cakes.  All the recipes in this chapter are indeed simple, often with just a few ingredients, perhaps the best example being Plain and Simple Almond Cake. To make it, you will need eggs, sugar, and almond flour. A hint of vanilla. That is it.  I can imagine the wonderful texture and delicate almond flavor.  Quite a few tasty apple cakes, including Custardy Apple Squares that seem perfect for that afternoon snack, or a special brunch.  Another great concoction in this chapter is a Cheesecake, Alsatian Style.  I had the opportunity of tasting one while living in France, it is lighter than the American version, so if you love cheesecake, don’t skip this one. With her Cornmeal and Berry Cake, she brings the fashionable olive oil cakes that everyone raves about these days. The same theme is present in her Hazelnut, Ginger and Olive Oil Cake (amazing flavors put together). Spiced Honey Cake made my heart skip a beat.  I just know it will be one of my favorites, as I am crazy for pain d’épices.

Fancy Cakes. In this chapter, she dials it up a notch, but the recipes are still quite user-friendly, and her notes so clear that even those who suffer from cake-phobia will be tempted to dive in.  The first cake in the chapter is a thing of beauty, the Moka Dupont.  A sort of icebox cake assembled with cookies, coffee and chocolate buttercream.  Shaved chocolate decorations on top.  Such a stylish little cake!  Sunday in Paris Chocolate Cake: with a name like this, who would not want to make it?  Love this particular instruction, “some of the chocolate may drip down the sides – let it.”  Tarte Tropézienne, is a cake made in fact with a buttery brioche dough, split in half horizontally and filled with a combination of creams.  It was a favorite of  the famous Brigitte Bardot in her early years of acting in Saint-Tropez. It is still very popular in that region, where each patisserie carries its own version.  A beautiful Gingerbread Bûche de Noël is also part of this chapter.  Not sure I have what it takes to face it, but it is such a classic!  Galette de Rois, a dessert that brings me nice memories of my days living in Paris, and a gorgeous Rose Fraisier, made with genoise and strawberries close this elegant chapter.

Tartes and Galettes. By far the number one for me is the Apple Tarte Flambée.  Why? She describes it as a sweet version of flammkuchen, a very thin pizza-like concoction from Alsatia that when I tried for the first time I thought I had died and gone straight to heaven. Will never forget the restaurant either, a very small place near Institut Pasteur at the 15eme.  I went back there quite often, usually all alone, heart-broken and feeling sorry for myself, but flammkuchen comforted me quite well.  Other goodies that called my attention in this chapter are Pear Tart with Crunchy Almond ToppingApricot-Raspberry Tart, Simplest Plum Tart, Caramelized Cinnamon-Milk Chocolate Tart (oh, my…),  and – are you ready for this one? – Crème Brûlée Tart.  Ok, that pretty much does it, although Tiramisu Tart sounds almost as decadent.

Baby Cakes and Petite Pastries. This chapter stole my heart and ran away with it… The first recipe already made me melt a little: Nutella Buttons. Enough said. Think tiny cupcakes with a Nutella filling and a glaze of chocolate ganache.  Happiness disguised in pastry. Pistachio and Raspberries Financiers, followed by Matcha Financiers are elegant, simple, and made in a two-bite serving. Lemon Madeleines of course had to be included, and a version of Black-and-White Marbled Madeleines is also there. Cannelés? Yes, of course! I must make them, as I even have the silicone pan for that, sitting in my cabinet. No excuses. What do you think of Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling? Sounds fantastic to me. Beignets, Pailles, Merveilles, and Palmiers.  A French Nirvana in small pastries form.

Cookies and Bars.  Dorie starts the chapter explaining that the traditional French cookie is the sablé, a shortbread type of delicacy that accounts for “half a hundred of the hundreds of cookies” in the French repertoire. Recently I made a chocolate chip cookie based on a shortbread dough and fell in love with its delicate, slightly crumbly texture. So, let’s say I am more than ready to embrace sablés. Some of the cookies that spoke dearly to me in this group are: Vanilla Bean, Toasted Buckwheat and Chopped Chocolate, Viennese, Green Tea Sablés. But, of course macarons are incredibly enticing, and she’s got several types like Basque Macarons, Parisian Macarons (the photo will blow your mind), Macaron Biscotti.  I also noticed her Cocoa Crunch Meringue Sandwiches, and Lavender Galettes (like a galette in cookie presentation). My favorite cookie of all times, Speculoos is part of her collection, and for that I am grateful. In the bar type of cookies, my favorites would be Lemon Bars, and Granola Bars.

Fruit, Creams, Frozen Desserts and Candies. A lot appealed to me in this chapter. How could I not go crazy for the Apple Speculoos Crumble?  But there is a Dark Chocolate Mousse, a Mascarpone Mousse (recipe included in this post),  a Honey-Yogurt Mousse, Lavender-White Chocolate Pots de Creme, Caramelized-Coffee Bean Pots de Creme, Speculoos Panna Cotta (excuse me while I close my eyes and dream a little), Chocolate Truffles, and Soft Salted-Butter Caramels.

Final Chapter,  Basics. Here you will learn many techniques and basic sauces and components of recipes such as how to make a Hot Fudge Sauce, a Raspberry Coulis,  a Spiced Hibiscus Syrup, Candied Petals, Flowers, Leaves and Herbs, among many other things.  Wonderful way to wrap up a great book!

A few final remarks: every recipe has a small introduction with a little story behind the recipe or the person who first introduced it to Dorie.  Just enough chit-chat to spice it up without being overwhelming.  Most recipes also include a short paragraph entitled “Bonne Idée“, with suggestions on how to slightly change it, with an added component, or a different type of presentation.  Baking Chez Moi is one of those cookbooks that you can read over and over like a novel.  I am glad I lack will power to resist certain temptations…

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So, there you have it, my little virtual tour of Dorie’s new cookbook, that must be part of your collection.  Dorie, thanks for giving me permission to publish your recipe! I look forward to baking more and more from it…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

THREE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake

THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB COOKIE SWAP: SPICED HONEY-GINGER COOKIES

I have been a member of The Secret Recipe Club for a little over 3  years, and never get tired of it! Getting assigned a food blog every month to cook from is so much fun, because it exposes you to different styles of cooking and of course opens the horizons to new sites that could otherwise go unnoticed.  Every year,  the club takes a break for the holidays, so groups C and D do not post in December. However, instead of taking a break this year, Sarah, the club’s Owner – and Resident Saint who keeps our boats sailing smoothly – came up with a different twist: both groups would be joined in a single event, a Cookie Carnival Swap. Participation would not be mandatory, so that those who prefer to sit back and relax could do so. Me? Sitting out?  No way.  So, this month we have a huge event with 60 food bloggers! As usual, we were assigned a blog in secret, and had to pick a cookie recipe to make and blog about.  My assigned blog, Culinary Adventures with Camilla, was a ton of fun to stalk!  One of the things I loved about her site is that she designs all her recipes. Nothing from cookbooks or cooking shows. That is beyond impressive. Camilla describes herself as a “tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean”.  She is also a freelance writer and photographer for Edible Monterey Bay.  Is that cool or what?

I had a tough time deciding between three cookies: Faux-reosSalted Mayan Chocolate, and Spiced Honey-Ginger Cookies.  You must stop by and read about her Oreo Cookie experience, she was sort of challenged to make them from scratch, and admitted she had never even tried a Oreo until then. Talk about a challenge!   Still, my love for spices made me choose the last one. Plus, since the recipe called for ginger syrup, it gave me the opportunity of making it myself, something I’ve been meaning to try for years.

HoneySpiceCookies

SPICED HONEY-GINGER COOKIES
(slightly modified from Culinary Adventures with Camilla)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 C butter, at room temperature
1 cup raw turbinado sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup ginger syrup (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons honey (I used acacia honey)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour, ginger, baking soda, and spices into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Add in the sugar. Beat in the egg, honey, and ginger syrup. Mix together until a soft dough forms. Pinch off small amounts of dough,  and roll into balls. Place the balls 2″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet, flatten slightly. Bake until the tops are rounded and slightly cracked, about 13 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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dough

GINGER SYRUP
(adapted from many sources)

4 ounces fresh ginger, unpeeled
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
pinch salt

Cut the ginger into small pieces.   Place the ginger pieces with water, sugar, and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let cool, then strain the syrup through. Store the strained syrup in the refrigerator, covered. It should keep for a couple of weeks.
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to print the ginger syrup recipe, click here

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These cookies were absolutely delicious, and perfect for this time of the year. If you like gingersnaps, they will please you because they are similar, but the cardamon takes them in a slightly different direction. On a side note, every time I open the bottle of cardamon I get mesmerized by its intense, delicious smell. Truly addictive for me. I reduced the amount of ginger powder called for in the recipe because my syrup seemed very powerful.  Do not be alarmed by the amount of sugar in the recipe: one cup of sugar plus the syrup, and honey.  The cookies end up with a perfect balance of spice and sweetness.

baking

I took the full batch (about 35 cookies) to our department, and once again they were a huge hit. They  seem pretty humble and harmless, but once you grab the first one it is impossible not to go back for more.

The ginger syrup was a fun culinary project that made our home smell terrific on a gray Saturday afternoon.  You will have more than you need for the cookies, so consider making homemade ginger ale: just add a little syrup to a glass with some ice cubes, squirt a little lime juice, and fill the glass with carbonated water or club soda.  If the temperature outside was not so polar-bear-friendly, I would have a glass right now.

Camilla, you have a great food blog, and I’ll be visiting you often from now on.  I hope you also had a blast with your assignment… As a note to my readers, at this time of the year cookies are in everyone’s mind, so click on the blue frog for a serious collection of goodies made by my fellow virtual friends from The Secret Recipe Club.

Sarah, thanks for organizing this event, saving me from a horrible SRC withdrawn episode!

ONE YEAR AGO: A Simple Taco to Remember

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Homemade Calzones

THREE YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

FOUR YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

FIVE YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

THE PERFECT BOILED EGG

What food blogger in his or her right mind would make a post on hard-boiled eggs?  If you are about to click away from this page, not without first canceling your subscription to my site, please stick around…  This is a life-changing method, I promise you.

I love hard-boiled eggs, they are often part of my lunch or dinner salads, but I hate when they are hard to peel. I have tried every single method around, including some recommended by cooking pros such as Ina Garten. In fact, her method used to be my default procedure: bring the water with eggs to a boil,  cover the pan, turn the heat off, wait 15 minutes. Let the eggs cool for a couple of minutes, peel and enjoy them.  The egg will be perfectly cooked, no green ring around the yolk, but peeling is another story. Most will be a nightmare to peel, some will behave well. Hit or miss.

Just last month my friend Cindy told me about steaming eggs instead of boiling them. She raved about the method from SeriousEats that she stumbled upon through eGullet. Having nothing to lose, I tried it.  It is AMAZING.  I recommended it in a cooking forum, and one of the members cooked 36 hard-boiled eggs, came back to say that every single one was perfectly cooked AND peeled flawlessly and easily.  Convinced yet?

I used the same method to make soft-boiled eggs, and it worked like a charm.  So here it is, plain and simply how to get Eggxhilaration in the kitchen.

HardBoiled

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THE PERFECT BOILED EGG

Pour a couple of inches of water in a double-boiler and bring to a boil.

Carefully place as many eggs as you want from the fridge into the steamer basket, and add them on top of the boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer.

Immediately close the pan and start a timer.

For hard-boiled eggs, steam for 10 to 11 minutes, test to see how you prefer them.

For soft-boiled eggs, steam for 6 minutes. 

Have a bowl of cold water ready, when the time is up, use kitchen tongs to remove the eggs from the steamer, dropping them in the cold water to stop cooking. Store in the fridge to enjoy later, or peel right away.

Have a tissue nearby to wipe your tears of joy. 

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What I love about the method is its simplicity.  Bring a little water to boil, place a steamer on top and cook to your level of liking, which is easily found in a couple of trials.  Imagine that you want to make a big batch of deviled eggs and would like them all to be gorgeous. Well, this method will save you a ton of grievance.

Messages to thank me can sent by email at sallybr2008 at gmail dot com.  I promise to share them all with Cindy.  ;-)

SoftBoiled

Steamed for 6 minutes, peeled and ready for an encounter with an Ak-Mak cracker…

 

 

 

PORK TENDERLOIN ADOBADO

One of the cuts of meat that is always present in our weekly rotation is pork tenderloin, because it cooks fast and goes well with many types of seasonings. For that reason, I am always searching for new ways to prepare it. I found this recipe through a Google search, decided to give it a try without any  intention of blogging about it. Sometimes it’s nice to simply cook and eat dinner like normal people do. You know, without the need to scream at your partner “DO NOT DARE TOUCHING IT, I HAVE TO TAKE A PICTURE!”. It does get old after a while. So, I sliced the meat, served it, and Phil, very surprised asked me “You won’t be blogging about this?”.  No, I’ll let this one slide by.  Then, he took a first bite, and told me “Sally, this has got to be in the blog, it’s very good!”.   I had to agree, it turned out super tasty, and deserves to be shared with my readers. A picture was quickly snapped,  and we moved on with our dinner.

PorkAdobado

PORK ADOBADO
(adapted from Elly Says Opa)

1 Tbsp. grape seed oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup ancho chile powder
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water
1 pork tenderloin, around 1.25 lb, butterflied

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the chile powder, vinegar, oregano, sugar, salt, and water. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes until flavors are combined. Let cool to room temperature (or, if making ahead, refrigerate). Set aside about 1/4 of the marinade.

Place the remaining marinade and the pork tenderloin in a shallow bowl or resealable bag, making sure to coat the pork with the marinade. Marinate for several hours or overnight.

Sprinkle a little extra salt on the tenderloin. Grill to your desired degree of doneness, brushing with the reserved marinade half way through cooking. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you want to learn more about the concept of “carne adobada” in Mexican cooking, Wikipedia is waiting for you with a click here. This preparation ends up with a subtle heat, and the acidity of the vinegar brightens up the flavors. Very nice take on pork tenderloin, which should work equally well on boneless chicken breasts. You can cook the pork on a cast iron pan and finish it in the oven, or use any type of preparation you are comfortable with.  I always butterfly it to speed up cooking, but the original recipe did not call for it.

As I mentioned many times, we grill 12 months of the year. Phil grew up in Michigan and a little snow (less than 3 feet, that is) doesn’t scare him.  Me?  I inform that we will be grilling, which means “Darling, you light the grill, monitor the cooking, and bring it all back to the warmth of our home once it’s done”.  Sometimes I amaze myself at my efficiency.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

TWO YEARS AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

THREE YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

FOUR YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

FIVE YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta

 

IN MY KITCHEN: DECEMBER 2014

Joining the virtual party that Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial started years ago, I invite you to take a walk through our kitchen this month. To see what is going on in kitchens from food bloggers all over the world, click here.

A few gifts to get this show on the road….

From the one and only MC, hostess of Farine, a newly released book, Bar Tartine

tartine

Very unique cookbook, that will certainly stretch the horizons of anyone who is up to the challenge. Make your own powders, sprouted grains, vinegar, and come up with very creative and unusual dishes. The overall gist of the book reminded me of Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s recipes.  Thank  you, MC!

From my friend Cindy, who knows very well my taste for colorful stuff, this beautiful rest for hot pans.

hotpadCindy

 

Some gifts received during our recent trip to Brazil…

From my sister and her partner in Brazil, a very special bottle of pinga (ou cachaça) a sugar cane product similar to rum.  Whereas the clear pinga is used for making capirinhas, this one, a little more yellow, is refined, barrel-aged, and best if consumed in small shots, very cold.  From the state of Minas Gerais.

pinga

From our dear friend Gabi, some more color to spice up our kitchen, in a set of four kitchen towels, one of them already in use, perfect match for our Supernova stove.

compositetowel11

 

From my niece Raquel, beautiful round place mats, very sturdy and of course, full of color, the way I like…

raquelplacemats

 

In our kitchen….

cakestand

A cake stand, kind of retro.  I found it at an antique store in a tiny town in Kansas called Cottonwood Falls. The town is just like one of those old wild west locations, frozen in time.  A cool place to visit if you ever find yourself in Kansas.

In our kitchen….

compositecake
A spatula to move cake layers. For someone who is afraid of baking cakes, I seem to get quite a few “right tools” for the job.  What can I say? This seemed very handy, and was on sale at Tuesday Morning.  It found a nice home in our cabinet, next to all my baking gadgets.

In our kitchen…

jamsJams and maple syrup brought home by the husband after a trip to Marshalls…  From left to right: Wild Maine Strawberry Jam, “regular” Strawberry Jam, Confiture de Cassis,  Red Tart Cherry Preserves, and Marionberry Jam (whatever that is… ).

In our kitchen…

acaciahoneyAcacia honey…  Forgive me local food advocates, because I sinned.  Yes, this honey got into a plane and flew all the way from Germany to the US, probably yet another flight took it from New York to Kansas City, and with luck the last leg of the trip was in a truck. I am very sorry, but I love it.

In our kitchen…

gloves

Some oven gloves in silicone, how could I resist this bright red?  Impossible. They work quite well, and I’m glad I brought them home.

In our kitchen…

bowl

This odd-looking bowl is actually super cool!  You know how every KitchenAid comes with a plastic attachment to make it easier to pour flour and other ingredients into the mixing bowl? I don’t know a single person who likes it. It is cumbersome, a pain to assemble, and doesn’t work well.  This bowl is perfect. You add all the flour into it, mix and use the pouring side to add it to the KitchenAid.  No mess, no fuss, I love it!  Plus, it’s bright red, in other words, irresistible.

In our kitchen….

trufflesalt

This salt was recommended by a friend.  It is infused with real truffles, and a little bit goes a loooong way.  Sprinkled over fresh tomatoes, scrambled eggs, french fries, it adds intense truffle flavor.

And, as usual, some furry creatures want to say hello, because our kitchen is their favorite spot to hang out…

ChiefSun

Chief, who is not too far from turning 16 years old, has been absent from our IMK posts, but this month he’s feeling better, and wanted to say that he is strong – and smart – enough to search for the spot with the brightest sun in our home.

ChiefSleeping

Of course, sleeping is still his favorite pass time, but if I am “lucky” enough to reach 110 years old, it will be the same for me!

NoGrapesOscar says: Mom, I am sorry. I begged and begged for this grape, but now I realize I don’t like it. Could you pick it up and take it away from me? It is giving me the creeps…

OskyBoy2

He also has a slight problem with the concept of the pillow, and prefers to sleep with his head hanging down from the bed.

twistingheads2

Buck finds Oscar’s behavior  totally unacceptable. A proof of intellectual inferiority, in fact.  And to demonstrate his point, he shows his ability of twisting the head at the sound of a puzzling word.  According to experts, a sign of canine intelligence.  We simply find it too cute. Want to see it in a short video?  Click here.  Please disregard the fact that he doesn’t think twice before jumping on the furniture.  We are working hard to change this behavior, and yes, we understand that giggling when that happens is totally uncalled for.

We’ve been traveling a lot, and that is pretty hard on the pups.  Just after coming back from a trip to Chicago and Brazil, we left for another 3-day trip to Houston.  Oscar is the one who suffers the most, and the look on his face as he realizes what is going on is pretty hard to take.

OskyKennel

Please, Mom, don’t take me to the kennel again!  I can stay here waiting for you and Dad…  Please?  Pretty please?

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Well, I hope you enjoyed the little virtual tour of our kitchen, the last of 2014.  It is good to finally be home and have no plans to travel for a while.  This has been one busy year for us and the pups… Celia, thanks for the work you put into your monthly In My Kitchen series!

ONE YEAR AGO: The Story of my First Creme Brulle
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TWO YEARS AGO:
 Half-a-Million Page Views!
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THREE YEARS AGO
Grilling Ribbons
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FOUR YEARS AGO:
 Peppery Cashew Crunch
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FIVE YEARS AGO:
 Ossobuco Milanese

 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE AND MINT COOKIES

If you type “chocolate cookie recipe” in a Google search you’ll get over  2 million hits in return. Two million. How many recipes for chocolate cookies does the world need?  Nobody knows.  Since in my humble food blog I only have 13 cookie recipes, of which less than half involve chocolate, I need to catch up.  Here is one more for  you,  no chocolate chips, just good old melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and pieces of chocolate mint candy, such as Andes.  By the way, did you know that Andes mints originated in Chicago in the 1920’s and were originally named Andy’s Mints? It turns out that the owners of the company quickly realized that men did not care to give their partners a candy with another guy’s name on the box. So, instead of honoring its creator, Andrew Kanelos, Andy’s became Andes, and now we have a chocolate mint that is not too far away from celebrating its 100th Birthday.  The distinguished candy works well in this recipe from Giada de Laurentiis.

Chocolate Mint Cookies

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE AND MINT COOKIES
(from Giada de Laurentiis)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One 5-ounce package chocolate mint thins, such as Andes, each cut into thirds
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Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
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In a small bowl, combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
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In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, 2 tablespoons water and vanilla extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Fold in the cooled chocolate. Stir in the chocolate mint pieces. Chill the dough 10 minutes to firm slightly.
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Using 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop 6 mounds of batter onto each prepared sheet, spacing evenly apart. Bake the cookies for a total of 18 to 20 minutes, until slightly puffed and dry-looking with some small cracks on top.
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Cool the cookies completely on sheets.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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Mint is an interesting flavor. I think most people like it, but when someone doesn’t care for it, it’s a bit like cilantro. Intense hate. I wish I could tell you whether the mint flavor is too strong in these cookies, but I didn’t have a single one.  I baked them during my lunch break, took them still warm to the department, but when I went back to grab one, only crumbs were staring at me from the platter.  However, according to one of our graduate students, the mint component was pretty mild.  Two pointers for success from watching Giada’s show: first, keep the pieces of the Andes candies on the large side, because that makes them melt in your mouth as you bite into the cookie.  Second, cool the dough before baking.  The recipe uses relatively little flour, so cooling is needed to be able to scoop them out nicely.
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With this post Google has one more chocolate cookie to share with those desperately searching for it. Mission accomplished.
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ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2013

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Mini-Rolls

SPICE CAKE WITH BLACKERRY PUREE & THE GLOBAL PASTRY TABLE REVIEW

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL MY AMERICAN READERS! 

After five and a half years blogging, a few things about me should be quite obvious for those who have been around this site for a while.  For instance, my obsession with exercise and fitness is almost as intense as my fear of baking cakes. However, even though I am terrified of baking them, cakes fascinate me so much that I often visit blogs of talented bakers, to live vicariously through them. You know, those amazing people who are not afraid of Italian meringue, of piping gorgeous flowers with buttercream icing, or slicing a cake horizontally in perfect flat layers. One such blog is Pastry Studio. If you don’t know this site yet, you are in for a very sweet treat…  Gayle Gonzales has been blogging since 2007, so there is a lot to drool over in her virtual spot.  One of the reasons Pastry Studio captivated me is the way she adds “Bench Notes” to her recipes.  Just to give you a couple of examples,  check out her Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns., or her Brownie Brittle. The recipes would be great by themselves, but the bench notes add that extra stuff that makes a person like me consider the recipe doable.  Little tips that an experienced baker can offer, but not always does. Many cookbooks and food blogs assume those to be superfluous, since it should all go well.  Clearly, they have not been in my kitchen.  ;-)

When I learned that she published her first e-cookbook, I ordered it right away. The Global Pastry Table has 95 recipes, of which 70 are not in her site, so even if you followed her blog from the get-go, the book will give you a lot of new recipes to choose from.  I had a bit of trouble to decide which delicious concoction to bake first. I wanted it to be a cake, and my love for spices pointed me to her Spice Cake with Blackberries. I am thrilled to inform that it was a smooth baking session: the dogs slept through the whole thing, undisturbed by eggs dropping on the floor, exploding bags of flour, or flying spatulas. So there! I might be getting better at this cake baking thing… Ok, I know what you’re thinking: it’s all thanks to her bench notes.  I’m afraid you might be right.

SpiceCakeBlackberry

SPICE CAKE WITH BLACKBERRIES
(reprinted with permission from Gayle Gonzales)

for the cake:
1 + 1/4 cups cake flour (5 oz)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 + 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1+3/4 oz) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

for the filling:
6 oz fresh blackberries
2-3 teaspoons granulated sugar (to taste)
powdered sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8” x 2 1/2” cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Measure out the buttermilk and add the vanilla.

Beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as you go. Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with half the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour. When the batter looks fairly well combined, use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pa and spread evenly. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the edges and invert the cake. Gently peel off the parchment and invert again. Cool completely.

Place the blackberries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar, to taste. Set aside to macerate for about 10 minutes and then mash them with a fork.

Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally and set the top aside. Place the bottom on a platter and spread a thin layer of blackberries. Replace the top half of he cake and dust with powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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This was a great cake, from start to finish, no problems. Of course there is room for improvement, because I did not have the exact size cake pan she recommends. I used a 9-inch pan instead of 8-inch. So my slices were a little thinner, and I should have used less filling.  But, I don’t really care, those are details that don’t bother me. I had NO trouble slicing the cake in half, and that in itself is a monumental feat.  The cake was a huge success with the members of our department, I received emails and visits to the lab. Felt like a Royal Baker.

And now, let me take you through Gayle’s book, The Global Pastry Table

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First of all, did you know that even if you don’t have a reader like Kindle or iPad you can get ebooks and read them in your computer or other devices? All you need is to download a free software and you are all set. Stop by amazon and click away.

Gayle introduces her book with this paragraph: “The Global Pastry Table is a collection of pastries and desserts with a reverence for international style. It’s your invitation to the flavors and aromas of a world connected.”  Indeed, all her recipes start with a little paragraph explaining its origin, and you will see she assembled a collection of goodies rooted in many geographic regions of the world. The book is divided in 6 sections: Cakes, Custards & Creams, Tarts & Galettes, Cookies, Ice Cream, and a final section on More Pastries and Desserts. The first adjective that came to my mind as I browsed the recipes was “refined”. Even recipes that seem pretty simple have an aura of refinement and rustic elegance. Apart from being a great baker, Gayle is a fantastic photographer, and took all the photos of the book.

For a visual tour of all recipes included in The Global Pastry Table, visit Gayle’s flickr collection.  

Chapter One: Cakes
You would be surprised to learn how many cake and dessert cookbooks I own, but for most of them I’d say less than 30% of the cakes included appeal to me.  In Gayle’s e-book, every single one of the 21 cakes sounded great. Shocking, I admit. I will not list them all, you can check the full index at amazon, but I’ll give you my top five (excluding the cake from this post). Cake with Chocolate Cardamon Glaze; Olive Oil Wine Cake, Rum Cake with Spiced Butter Rum Sauce, Hazelnut Cake, Yogurt Cake with Roasted Five-Spice Plums. Well, I must give you a sixth, because it is an amazing cake, very unique and enticing: it is called Coil Cake, an yeasted cake original from Morocco. Show-stopper.

Chapter Two: Custards & Creams
Ten delicious options, once again I would make any of them without exception. Five top choices would be: Brown Sugar Panna Cotta with Five-Spice Figs; Coconut Cream (reminds me of a Brazilian classic called : Flan de Coco); Oranges with Rosemary Sabayon (a simple, very refreshing dessert); Yogurt Mousse with Grapefruit Gelee; Maple Custard (must make this one).

Chapter Three: Tarts & Galettes
I admit that I don’t make tarts and galettes very often.  For my taste, they are too heavy as dessert after a meal, and I am not too fond of sweets mid-afternoon or at breakfast. But, I know I am part of a minority, and of the ten options Gayle has in her book, it was easy to pick my top five. Apricot Galette; Butterscotch Cream Tart; Pear Galette with Honey Cream & Blue Cheese (great combination of flavors); Balsamic Strawberry Tart.

Chapter Four: Cookies
Twenty two amazing cookies for you. Don’t expect a regular choc chip cookie here, she really shines in this collection, going from very simple Plain Jane Cookies to Chocolate Hazelnut Nutella Sandwich Cookies (excuse me as I try to regain my composure). Five top choices for me (excluding that Nutella example already mentioned): Sesame Tiles; Oatmeal Shortbread; Chocolate Olive Oil Madeleines; Chocolate Garam Masala Cookies; Spice Route Cookies…  but it’s really hard to stop here.

Chapter Five: Ice Cream
Fourteen ice frozen concoctions, that are all incredibly creative and unique. Five top choices: Pistachio Gelato; Brown Sugar Creme Fraiche Ice Cream with Balsamic Syrup; Earl Grey Ice Cream; Guinness Ice Cream with Oat Crumble; Lime Ice Cream with Ginger Crumble. I must say, though, that I would gladly try them all.

Chapter Six: More Pastries and Desserts
Eighteen additional goodies, very hard to pick only five to showcase here.  By far my number one choice would be the Vanilla Custard in Phyllo. Her description and the photo made me want to go to the kitchen and make it right away. My other favorites would probably be Three Spice Russian Braid (gorgeous shaping of a loaf); Roasted Grapes with Yogurt Honey Cream; Pear and Ginger Scones; Pumpkin Empanadas.

I want to remind my readers that I do not do reviews by request, be it cookbooks or products. I only review things I love. I hope that you will stop by Pastry Studio to get to know Gayle and her wonderful site, and that you invite her cookbook into your virtual library.  It is truly a special publication, made with a lot of passion and attention to detail.

If you love being in your kitchen… if you love having people at your table… if you love that moment of opening the oven door and seeing what has transpired… if you love the preparing, the serving, the sharing, the savoring, I know you will enjoy this collection. (Gayle Gonzales, The Global Pastry Table)

ONE YEAR AGO: Own Your Kitchen with Cappuccino Panna Cotta

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

THREE YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread