BANANA BREAD WITH ESPRESSO GLAZE

There is no shortage of banana bread recipes in the universe. So, why would I share one more? Because it’s a great version, the icing takes it to unprecedented levels of deliciousness. The idea of pairing banana bread with coffee is superb, if you’ve never considered it, trust me, it has potential to become a classic. Like chocolate and coffee. I spotted this recipe back in January on the blog How Sweet It Is, hosted by Jessica. I made it not too long after her post was published, but as usual it is taking me a while to share with you. Two details make it special, a delicate layer of sugar sprinkled on top before baking, and of course, the glaze in all its caffeinated glory.

BANANA BREAD WITH ESPRESSO GLAZE
(from How Sweet It Is)

for the bread:
1 + 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
coarse sugar, for sprinkling (I used turbinad0)

for the espresso glaze:
1 + 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 ounces freshly brewed espresso
1 teaspoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk well the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Add the milk and coconut oil, mixing until combined. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour batter in the greased loaf pan. Top with coarse sugar.

Bake for 75 to 85 minutes, or until the center is set. If the streusel begins to brown, tent the bread with aluminum foil. Remove the bread and let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Turn the bread out on a plate or cutting board and let it cool completely before glazing.

Whisk together the ingredients until a smooth, drippy glaze forms. If the mixture is too thin, you can thicken it by adding a little more powdered sugar. If it seems too thick, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time, whisking to combine. Pour it over the banana bread and let it set for at least 30 minutes before slicing it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The glaze… the glaze…  as Jessica wrote in her post, it’s all about the glaze. Or almost, because the banana bread itself is pretty delicious too, with the added sugary topping, which oddly enough does not make it overly sweet. But the glaze… am I repeating myself? The glaze, you must collect what puddles underneath the rack as you ice this beauty. Collect it, save it in a little bowl. No need to offer to guests, it won’t be fancy enough for that. Just keep it in the fridge, and when no one is looking, you go there with a tiny little spoon and scrape a little bit off. Then savor it, eyes closed. Seriously good stuff.

As usual, I took this batch to the department, and even a person who is not at all fond of coffee stopped to make enthusiastic compliments about the bread. Or cake. I am always confused, banana bread looks a lot more like cake in loaf form than bread. But, I won’t disturb the apple cart. Or banana cart. Or any cart, for that matter.

Make this bread, make this glaze, and go thank Jessica for it! 

ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas & Paleo Planet Cookbook Review

TWO YEARS AGO: The Making of a Nobel Reception

THREE YEARS AGO: Fennel Soup with Almonds and Mint 

FOUR YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

SIX YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

 

 

BLACK SESAME MACARONS

My macaron obsession goes on and on. I would love to bake a batch each weekend, but must keep in mind that even the most understanding departmental colleagues might say enough is enough. Plus, if I only make macarons…  brownies, cakes, and cookies will get jealous. So here I am to share with you a batch I am quite proud of: Black Sesame Macarons. Because, although I’m addicted to colors, we all know that black is beautiful…

 

BLACK SESAME MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
100 g almond meal
15 g black sesame powder (or you can grind black sesame seeds to a powder)
113 g egg whites (aged for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Black Gel color  (about 1/2 teaspoon, add 1/4 to start and adjust as you mix)
for the filling:
8oz (227g) cream cheese
⅔ cup (134g) brown sugar
1 tsp (5g) vanilla extract
½ cup (122g) heavy whipping cream

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and black sesame powder in a food processor or mini processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling:Whip the cream in a clean bowl till stiff peaks. In another bowl, whip the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract.   Gently fold in the whipped cream into the bowl until well combined. Reserve.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours before digging in…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments:  I am definitely not the first person to bake black macarons. A quick google expedition will show you a few other examples. Some recipes go to extent of using exclusively powdered sesame seeds as you would use almond meal for the shells. I did not want to do that, fearing that the change would be too much of a departure from the classic. So I used a small amount of black sesame powder (15 g in 115 g total seed/nut component). We could definitely taste it in the final product and I thought it was just right. More could have been overpowering.  My intention was to use a white chocolate filling, but I ran into problems and my filling never set enough to use. White chocolate is a temperamental creature. So I quickly whipped up (literally) a vanilla cream cheese filling and used it instead. It complemented well the sesame flavor of the shells, and the slight hint of caramel color given by the brown sugar looked good with the black surrounding it.

I was very happy with the way these turned out. Not a single shell cracked during baking, and the surface was for the most part pretty smooth. Beautiful, well-formed feet, and the black food coloring rose to the challenge. I am almost to the point of trying the Italian  meringue method, but want to tackle this simpler version a few more times. You know, build confidence first before facing the combination of hot syrup with egg whites.

 

I have yet another macaron post for you, shockingly green…  Stay tuned!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Fine Tuning Thomas Keller

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DAN LEPARD TIMES THREE

Dan Lepard is the person who many years ago started my bread baking adventures through his fascinating book The Handmade Loaf. I even named my sourdough starter “Dan” and he is now a healthy and bubbly 8-year-old boy. Dan is better known as a bread baker, but his talent goes way beyond that, as you can see in his book Short and Sweet, which I reviewed five years ago. He often writes articles in The Guardian and in Goodfood (an Australian online publication) and I try not to miss anything new coming from him.  Today I share three wonderful recipes, one published in Short and Sweet (but shared by Dan in The Guardian) and two from Goodfood. Dan prefers not to have his recipes published in food blogs, so respecting his wishes, I will only share the links. You can fetch them easily and make them in the comfort of your kitchen…

First, a batch of brownies that could very well be my favorite brownie recipe ever.  Very sophisticated and complex, even those with issues against brownies will be awed by Dan’s take on it.  Figs and chocolate are a great match, but add a little red wine and you’ll hit a jackpot.  Make them. You must.

SHIRAZ FIG BROWNIES

First you reduce Shiraz on the stove top until it is a concentrated purple-reddish beauty that smells wonderful… then you add to it chocolate, butter, walnut halves and dried figs. By the way,  get the best quality figs you can find for these brownies. Also, make sure to keep the walnuts in large pieces, don’t go dicing them.  The texture of the figs, the gooey chocolate and a slight touch of fennel seeds make this recipe shine! A real masterpiece in brownie format.

for the full recipe, click here

 

Tell me, don’t you wish you could have a piece like RIGHT NOW?

 


Next, let’s talk Chestnut Ginger Biscuits. I adore ginger and anything sweet with spices, but normally have a bit of a problem with crispy cookies. I am definitely a soft-baked kind of girl. Sorry, odd phrase. Anyway, these cookies are basically dressed-up gingersnaps. They are crispy, they are hard, but once you bite into them, they melt in your mouth, and your senses are invaded with the warmth of ginger and cloves. Spectacular. Make them. You must. 

CHESTNUT GINGER BISCUITS

The recipe uses chestnut flour, an ingredient that might be a little tricky to find, but you can order it online. Smells amazing, actually. As usual for nut flours, keep it in the freezer. The preparation is actually quite simple, a one-bowl type of thing. Melt the butter, add the spices, get all happy with the intense smell as you mix the dough, that must sit in the fridge for a little while before scooping little balls and rolling in coarse sugar.  They are fun to make, fun to watch as they bake and get all cracked, and fun to share with co-workers. On a side note, I baked mine for only 18 minutes instead of 25 as called for in the recipe, and they turned out perfect.  As soon as they started to collapse a little, I removed them from the oven.

for the full recipe, click here

Finally, let me share a special bread. It is not a Johnny Depp-like loaf. No, definitely not eye-candy. It is black, with a tight crumb, quite humble looking. But when you taste it, you realize you are in front of bread royalty. Believe it or not, I made it in December 2014 and never blogged about it, hoping to make it again and perhaps get better pictures. I have good intentions, but they don’t always materialize. Oh, well. Make this bread. You must.

 

RUSSIAN BLACK BREAD

Very interesting preparation, rye flour is added to boiling water, then allowed to cool to lukewarm.  Yeast and sugar are added.  At that point, I realized I was out of an important ingredient to continue with the recipe (caraway seeds!) so I dashed to the grocery store, and returned to find quite a bit of a mess over my counter.  On the positive side,  at least I could be sure the yeast was alive and kicking.  Or, should I say, bubbling?  Another interesting twist in the recipe is the addition of grated carrots to the dough. All in all, a very straightforward bake, the bread will be ready in less than 3 hours start to finish.

 

 

for the full recipe, click here

As I mentioned, I baked this bread back in December 2014, when two very special friends (Marijo and Vlad) visited us. I knew that Vlad grew up in Russia enjoying dark rye breads, and decided to try and bake one for him.  Of course, I trust any recipe designed by Dan, and this one hit the spot. Vlad said that my bread took him straight to his childhood and teenage days. I cannot think of a better compliment…

Bumper sticker from Penzey’s, a company I’ve been a customer for 15 years. They are taking a firm stance on a message of inclusion, of embracing diversity and refusing hate and division.  On top of it, their spices rock!  Visit and support their online store with a click here.

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Portobello Burger

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FOUR YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis (and my Dad)

ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE SQUARES: CHETNA MAKAN’S COOKBOOK REVIEW

Last year I binge-watched The Great British Bake Off, originally aired in 2014. One of the reasons it took me so long to go for it, is my intense dislike of ANY food competition. I was never too wild about Iron Chef, barely stand the countless versions of Chopped, and despise Cutthroat Kitchen with every cell of my body. There. I feel better. But, despite all that, one day I sat down and put the first episode of The Great British Bake Off to play. I was hooked. First and foremost for the friendly atmosphere. When you watch any of the competition shows from FoodTV-USA, it is impossible to ignore a certain mean streak in the competitors. Each one wants to win so bad, they keep hammering on why they are clearly better than all others. The blatant arrogance really bothers me. I also prefer the format of the British show, particularly when all contestants need to make the exact same (very challenging)  recipe and it gets evaluated in a single-blind way. Today I share with you a recipe from the cookbook of my favorite contestant,  Chetna Makan. She made it almost to the end, facing all sorts of challenges with poise, grace, and a warm smile. And after the recipe, I will walk you through The Cardamon Trail. What a beautiful name!

ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE DESSERT SLICES
(published with permission from Chetna Makan) 

200g (7oz) chocolate digestive biscuits
50g (1 ¾ oz) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
225ml (8fl oz) milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon coffee granules
3 large egg yolks
75g (2 ¾ oz) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
250g (9oz) mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon rosewater
white chocolate curls to decorate

Heat the oven to 180 ° C (350 ° F).

Grease a 20cm (8in) square cake tin and line it with nonstick baking paper. Put the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling-pin to crush them to crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and pour in the melted butter, mixing thoroughly so that the crumbs are completely coated. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to create a smooth, even base layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool completely.

In a small pan, slowly heat the milk to scalding point. Add the ground cardamom and coffee granules and mix well, then remove the pan from the heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and 2 tablespoons of the spiced milk together to form a smooth paste. Slowly add the remaining milk, whisking the whole time. Tip this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a low heat for 2– 3 minutes until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes until lukewarm.

Put the measured boiling water in a small bowl and sprinkle in the gelatine. Stir until the gelatine powder has dissolved. Add this to the lukewarm pastry cream and mix well. In another bowl, beat the mascarpone and rosewater together. Fold this into the pastry cream and pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Cover the tin with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to set.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and cut it into squares. To finish, sprinkle with white chocolate curls (or any decoration you prefer). The slices will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Chetna described it perfectly! This is a dessert for grownups. It has that exotic quality, the barely there sweetness, a very unique and complex mixture of flavors. I loved it!  I must confess I messed up big time, though. I used the wrong type of  cookies for the base. She specified chocolate digestifs for the base, but our grocery store carried only two types: regular digestifs, or some with a coating of chocolate at the bottom, very similar to these beauties made from scratch by my friend Karen. After I made the dessert, I exchanged emails with Chetna and she told me I could have used the digestifs either plain or with the chocolate coating, but the type of cookie I used (very thin chocolate Goya Maria brand) would need tweaking, probably some other binding agent to properly work. Learned a lesson there. The result is that the base got a bit too crumbly rather than giving a nice support to the deliciously smooth top layer.  I intend to make it again soon, but did not want to wait any longer to blog about it. So make sure to gather the right tools for the job…

TEASER RECIPE

On the very same day I made a batch of her Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate cookies… 


OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

The cookie dough is made with self-rising flour, butter, two types of sugar, a touch of cinnamon and ground cloves. Then chocolate chips and diced pistachio nuts are mixed in.  I substituted white chocolate because I found out that I had 4 bags of white chocolate chips and not a single one of semi-sweet. Apparently every time I go to the grocery store I tell myself “you better get a bag of white chocolate chips, because you only have the dark ones.”  In case you did not know, I do research for a living. Shocking, I know. Once again, Chetna describes these gems very well:

Yes, everyone thought they come together beautifully….

And now that I shared a recipe and teased you with another one, let’s take a walk through
The Cardamon Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East..

Chetna opens the book explaining that it is all about her culinary journey. It brings her food memories in the form of lovely bakes and new taste sensations. She grew up in Jabalpur, a city in central India, and her cooking is heavily influenced by her Mom, who cooked every single meal from scratch while Chetna was growing up.  Her book is divided in six  chapters, as follows:

Cakes. Each of the twenty cakes featured is enticing to me. Always some unexpected flavor that takes them to a higher level.  The very first one, Pear and Cardamon Caramel Upside Cake, already got me dreaming. You might remember that I have a very weak spot for cardamon, so obviously this cake speaks dearly to me.  Second one? Mango, Cardamon & Coconut Cake. Next? Rose and Honey Cake.  But so many more: Rose, Mint, and White Chocolate Cheesecake, Orange and Cinnamon Mini-Cakes (I almost picked them to showcase in this post).  Pistachio, Cardamon, and White Chocolate Cake… Saffron Meringue Cake…  Masala Chai Cake…. Black Sesame and Lime Cake… I tell you, it’s one temptation after another, a showcase of interesting flavor combinations.

Pies and Tarts. This chapter brings savory stuff to the game. I list my favorites: Peach, Star Anise, and Almond Tart…  Chocolate and Mango Tart (beautiful photo!)…  Passion Fruit, Lime, and Ginger Tart. On the savory front,  very creative recipes like Moong Dal Pie, Curry Onion Tart, and Chickpea Curry Pie. I definitely do not bake pies and tarts often enough. Hubby is usually the one in charge of those concoctions. But I need to get more practice and make them by myself.

Sweet Things. Twenty seven goodies for you there… She opens this chapter with something called Saffron Rasgulla, and I think it’s something I had once at a party and fell madly in love with. A little soft ball of curdled milk and saffron, cooked in a simple syrup. I could enjoy that every day of my life without ever getting tired of it. It seems a bit involved to make, but Chetna says it’s not that hard. It is a specialty from Western India.  Now, are you ready for this? Fig and Chocolate Macarons. Yes, my obsession of the past few years! She shares a great take on this French classic. Which of course, I intend to make in the near future. The only reason I did not pick them to feature, is the fact that I have two macaron recipes already waiting in line. The Rose, Cardamon & Coffee Dessert Slices come from this session of her book, as well as the Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate Cookies, my teaser recipe.  I also bookmarked Sweet Baked Samosas (I am addicted to the savory version),  Mango and Passion Fruit Baked Yogurt, and Star Anise and Rhubarb Profiteroles. She does incredibly nice variations on classic desserts, I love it!

Savory Small Bites. A lot of savory things to tempt you here, I will just list the ones that would be my top choices. Corn Rolls: these are inspired again by one of her Mom’s recipes, Chetna uses phyllo dough to make little parcels with sweet corn kernels mixed with ginger, chilli, and other spices.  They get baked and served warm with chutney. O.M.G. Coriander Chicken Parcels made with puff pastry seem like perfection to me…  Tapioca Vada is another intriguing recipe, different from anything I’ve ever tried. Tapioca pearls are mixed with water to form a kind of dough that gets mixed with mashed potatoes, crushed roasted peanuts and spices. The mixture is fried until golden brown, forming little patties that I am sure are addictive.  I was also quite taken by her Buckwheat Potato Pakoras, I never skip ordering pakoras when I go to an Indian restaurant. Vegetarians will love her Cashew Nut and Paneer Koftas, which use desiccated coconut to improve texture.  But my favorite of this chapter might very well be her Savory Semolina Cake, with spinach and spices such as ginger, turmeric, and black mustard seeds. The photo is drool-inducing.

Breads. Twenty options to make any baker happy.  She opens the chapter with a show-stopping bread: Savory Potato Couronne. It is simply gorgeous, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

The dough is enriched with milk, eggs, and butter, then some grated boiled potatoes are mixed in. The exotic ingredient amchur (mango powder) is also included in the dough. Obviously, I need to get some. Tomato and Paneer Loaf is a nice example of a quick bread, made in a loaf pan. Another absolutely gorgeous picture included. Now, how about some Cumin Bread with Smoked Eggplant? I swear, it’s just one amazing twist after another. Another great temptation for yours truly, Chocolate and Chilli Loaf.  As Chetna put it:

This beautiful loaf has the indulgent feel of a cake yet is, in fact, very light…
The cocoa creates a deep-colored loaf, while the chilli provides a real kick to the aftertaste.

A couple more examples for you, Star Anise, Date, and Chocolate Bread (amazing shaping), and a Lemon Challah with Coconut Paneer. She closes the chapter with several options for Parathas, and a Chicken Naan. Yes, you read it correctly. A version of the quick bread naan, turned into a full meal with ground chicken and plenty of spices. To die for, I am sure!

Accompaniments. In this chapter, she offers little goodies that will go well with many of the recipes in the book. Seven types of chutney, two types of pickles (beets, and cauliflower), Indian Coleslaw, and three types of Raita, the classic cucumber, plus Boondi and Bhindi Raitas. Curious? Boondi are fried chickpeas… Imagine them as a base for raita… Bhindi is okra. Not my favorite veggie in the world, but I bet that prepared the way Chetna describes, I would eat it all with a big smile!

So that wraps up our walk through The Cardamon Trail.  In my mind, it is a perfect cookbook because I adore spices both in savory and sweet concoctions. As I watched the Great British Bake Off, Chetna’s confidence and creativity with the use of spices left a huge impression on me. This book simply confirms her skills. I could not wait to start baking once I got the book downloaded, but then was sort of paralyzed by the number of recipes I picked as “top” choices.

To order the book, click here

I would also like to mention that Chetna has a blog and is also very active uploading videos on her youtube channel.  On youtube you can see her cooking with her kids, with her Mom, it’s really nice!  I subscribe to both blog and videos, so I never miss anything new coming from her.

Chetna, thank you for giving me permission to publish one of your recipes…
I am just about to start a batch of your Black Sesame and Macha Tuiles…
looking forward to enjoying them!

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ONE YEAR AGO: When Side Dishes Steal the Show

TWO YEARS AGO: Venting on Vaccines

THREE YEARS AGO: Prime Rib Roast, Mexican Style

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

TIRAMISU

Some things do not make much sense. Take Tiramisú, for instance. It is definitely one of our favorite desserts, up there with Crème Brûllée and Oeufs a la Neige. However, after almost 8 years of food blogging, I do not have a single recipe for it in the Bewitching Kitchen. How could that be? I’ve made it in the past, but during this stretch of 8 years we’ve only enjoyed it in restaurants. To be completely honest, one example totally ruined us for other versions. A small Italian restaurant in Paris, called La Trappola, very near our apartment in the 7eme had simply the best, the very best, the most awesome, delicious, luscious, fantastic, superbly addictive Tiramisú in the known universe. Before we left Paris, I tried to convince the owner to share his secrets, but no matter how much batting of eyelashes and smiling I did, he was unmoved. Acted like a real gentleman, but kept saying he wanted us to come back to his restaurant whenever we were in town. Yeah, as if Paris was a cab ride from Manhattan, Kansas. The humanity! Oh, well. I don’t have his recipe, but David Lebovitz shared his online, and I can tell you it made Phil and a couple of friends we had over for dinner very very happy. Oh, and me too!

TIRAMISU
(slightly modified from David Lebovitz)

makes 4 servings
1/2 cup (125 ml) espresso, at room temperature
2 tablespoons dark rum
2  large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
7 tablespoons (90g) sugar, divided
1 cup (250g) mascarpone
twelve 3½-inch ladyfingers (70g)
optional: 1 ounce (30g) bittersweet chocolate
unsweetened cocoa powder, for serving
 .
Mix together the espresso and rum. The mixture should taste strongly of alcohol. If not, add more until it does.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to get stiff. Beat in half of the sugar until stiff. Scrape the egg whites into a small bowl and reserve.
.
Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until stiff and light-colored, about three minutes. Beat in the mascarpone (still cold from the fridge) until lump-free. 
Fold in half of the reserved beaten egg whites, then the remaining half, just until fully incorporated.
.
Submerge each ladyfinger in the espresso mixture for 3 seconds on each side, until soaked but not overly so. Layer them on the bottom of individual serving bowls. Top with mascarpone cream, grate semisweet chocolate on top. Add another layer of lady fingers, top with more cream. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, preferably overnight.
.
Right before serving, shower with cocoa powder and shave some bittersweet chocolate on top.
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: At first I intended to make a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, but when I realized the huge amount it made, I quickly moved away from it, but kept some of their special tips in mind. One of them: contrary to what most recipes advise, do not bring the mascarpone cheese to room temperature before beating it. It has a tendency to separate. It will result in a perfectly creamy texture if you whip it while fridge-cold. Yeah, mind blown. So that’s what I did.  Worked like a charm. Also, I prefer not to over-soak the lady fingers, because I rather have a little bit of texture remaining in the cookie component. If you go by Lebovitz, he states “cut them in half to make sure they are saturated enough, they should be dropping wet.”  Decide how you like it best, and do it that way.

I wanted a recipe that would give us just enough for a dinner party with a couple of friends, and David’s version delivered exactly what I was looking for. I got the little glass dishes at Pier 1 Imports. They had only 6 left in stock, and by the time I left, their inventory dropped to two. It gave me a thrill to find exactly what I needed, one day before showtime. It’s not always the case, trust me on that.

Was it as good as La Trappola’s?  I am afraid nothing will match that version. Maybe being in Paris was part of it. Still, this was one spectacular dessert. At first I thought the portion was a bit too big. But next thing I knew, I was licking the spoon and staring at a clean little bowl. Such is life.  Woke up next morning and went for a nice jog. Order of the universe restored!

As I was composing this post, Phil found two photos from our past…
One at the entrance of La Trappola, and another of the Tiramisu of our dreams!  

(unfortunately La Trappola is not in business anymore)

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Pulled Pork, Slow-Cooker version

TWO YEARS AGO: The Pie of the Century

THREE YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken

FOUR YEARS AGO: Leaving on a Jet Plane

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

SIX YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Here I am to share with you not one, not two, but four recipes that are so simple you could make them in your sleep. Each delivers a lot more than you’d expect in flavor and you will find yourself making them again and again. Not necessarily in your sleep.

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From top to bottom, left to right, here they are:

CHEESE JALAPENO CRACKERS. Credit should go to Angela, from Divalicious Recipes.  Recently she composed a post with 50 ideas for low-carb appetizers very well-timed for a Super Bowl party.  These crackers are pure cheese, with a kick of Jalapeno. I made only eight for the two of us. There was a bit of an argument over the last one, we could not quite agree on who had the right to grab it. I won. Determination is everything.

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My version, 50:50 Monterey-Cheddar & Parmigiano.
Baked at 350F for about 10 minutes.
Watched them like a hawk.

MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD. I saw this recipe at FoodTV the other day, a show I don’t normally watch called Valerie’s Home Cooking. I admit to having a bit of a problem with Hollywood folks turned into FoodTV chefs. Maybe I should open my mind a little? Nah, I like my mind the way it is… Anyway, her recipe sounded great but I adapted on my second time around because she used too heavy a hand on the sesame oil. It pretty much overpowered the delicate cucumber.

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In a small bowl mix and whisk well:

1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil.

Slice one cucumber as thin as you can make it, a mandoline could be helpful. I used a Persian cucumber, so I did not remove the seeds, but if you only find regular ones, removing the seeds is a nice touch. Delicately mix the cucumber slices with the dressing, refrigerate for half an hour if you have the time, but it’s good right away too.
So refreshing!

FRIED EGG OVER LABNEH WITH ZA’TAR. This is unbelievably good!  I confess I’m addicted and have it several times each week for my lunch.  I know you will find the combination a bit odd, but trust me, it is to die for. Just smear some labneh or thick Greek yogurt on a plate. Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a little salt (no need for salt if using labneh). Sprinkle za’tar all over, use a heavy hand if you are a za’tar lover.  Fry an egg whichever way you prefer, for this concoction I like a little bit of a crisp edge. Rest the egg on top of the cold labneh or yogurt mixture. Swoon!

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I use different spices sometimes.  Sumac goes well, Ras El Hanout is superb, but za’tar is hard to beat. There’s something about the mixture of the runny egg yolk with the cold seasoned yogurt, I never tire of it.  I first saw this combination at Maureen’s beautiful blog, she also included in her cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, which I own.

BLUEBERRY CHIA PUDDING.  I am usually pretty slow to jump on fashionable ingredients, and most of my adventures with chia seeds have been unremarkable. Not this one. It turned out so good I would serve it for company without thinking twice. It is creamy, sweet and tangy at the same time, the coconut flavor so subtle it would not offend those who are not too fond of it.  All you need to do is remember to soak the chia seeds the day before, or at least a couple of hours in advance.  A minute in the blender, and there you have, Nirvana in a bowl.  You can find the recipe here, but I highly recommend you get the book My New Roots, where you’ll find this one and a multitude of other interesting recipes.

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for the recipe, visit Les Petites Pestes

Sometimes simple is all we need…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FOUR YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

LAVENDER MACARONS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

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Confession number one:
 I have a macaron obsession. Odd, because when I lived in Paris by myself I never touched a macaron. Then a few years later, when Phil and I went back together for a sabbatical, I got hooked. It is the type of  concoction with just the amount of sweetness I like, the different fillings are a feast for the taste buds, but what really gets me, as you might imagine: the colors. I have a soft spot for colors. All of them. You should see my wardrobe. 😉

Back to macarons. A few months ago our friend Gary – Patissier Extraordinaire –  brought to my attention a book by Pierre Hermé, called quite simply Macarons. Once I got it, I quickly realized that  much like his classic masterpiece Desserts, Macarons is not for the faint of heart. My first adventure with it was almost a complete disaster, save for a few pistachio macarons that would barely qualify as such. In the book he says to use a convection oven at 350F, and I guess that was too high, or my oven misbehaved. Hard to tell. All I know is that my beautiful bright green macarons turned brown in 2.5 seconds right in front of my eyes, as I happened to be staring through the oven door when the metamorphosis took place. You know, the one that took perfect macarons to ruined ones.  Of course, they did not turn homogeneously brown, but all blotchy, really unappetizing. Yes, there was considerable amount of profanity that afternoon, in three languages, although French was first.

After that dreadful weekend, serendipity hit big time. I got an email from Craftsy.com with a special offer for their online classes. One of them was Miniature French Desserts, which included – you guessed it – macarons! I read the reviews and everyone raved about it. I signed up, downloaded the class and here I am to share with you my first real nice experience with these finicky creatures! Plus, Colette Christian, the wonderful instructor, gave me permission to share the recipe with my readers. How cool is that?

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LAVENDER MACARONS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
(slightly adapted from Craftsy.com, published with permission from Colette Christian)

Yield: About 72 shells; 36 assembled macarons

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
1/8 teaspoon dried lavender
113 g egg whites (I aged mine for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Purple Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract
for the filling:
170 g white chocolate
85 g heavy cream
2 drops lavender extract

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and lavender in a food processor or mini processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. When you hold the beater up, the meringue should gently fall with and angle supporting the peak at the  with the angle supporting the peak at 11:30hs (easier to understand on the tutorial video). Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C/gas mark 3). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling: Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a rolling boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let stand for 15 seconds. Stir with a spatula until smooth. If the chocolate has not fully melted, place the bowl in a saucepan of steaming water (the heat should be off), and let stand for 1 or 2 minutes. Stir again until the chocolate is fully melted. Add the lavender extract.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours before devouring them… or sharing with great friends!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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We’ve got feet!

Comments: I cannot tell you how much I loved this online class! Colette is personable, fun and a natural teacher.  The video perfectly timed so that you can actually make them in real-time together with her, pausing the video during baking, obviously. You can pause it, rewind it, save and watch it again and again. You’ll also get printed material with full recipes and variations.  Now, Colette is one super neat chef, because her kitchen ends up in the exact pristine condition as it was in the beginning. The same applies to her apron. I need to evolve into another type of human being to match her serenity and grace.

Her method is pretty straightforward.  For starters, she skips the sifting – and has a rationale for doing so. And she also prefers the simpler French meringue, again for reasons she states during class. I have to say that visualizing the macaron batter, and following her very careful explanation made all the difference. I concluded that in all my previous attempts I failed to mix the batter enough – that’s why many of my shells would crack and end up with a coarse texture, some hard chunks inside. If you have a deep desire to conquer macarons, her online video is a great option. I haven’t watched the other classes in the same video (Madeleines, Lemon Meringue Tartlets, and Opera Cake), but intend to do so in the near future. Madeleines have been on my list of goodies to make for… ever.  Or so it seems.

layersHer tip to add the dry ingredients in layers inside the food processor makes sure that things are incorporated smoothly. Macaron success is all in the small details and proper technique.  These had a very delicate lavender flavor. When you taste the white chocolate ganache – I know you will do it – try to stop after the second teaspoon, or you might run out of filling. Just saying…

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Colette also gives many tips to create your own flavors, it is amazing how versatile this cookie can be. As long as you respect simple rules to avoid messing up the basic formula, you’ll be fine. I would also like to invite you to take a tour of the blog Pizza Rossa. Rachael is very creative with her macarons, and came up with wonderful variations, including one that uses sesame seeds instead of almonds. She is inspiring me to spread my wings and try to fly a little higher.

I still want to try again the Italian meringue method because I am stubborn. There, I admitted it. And yes, that was confession number two. But Phil doesn’t need to know.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

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