COMMON TABLE, SOMETHING NEW IN MY LIFE

It is quite obvious that I love to bake. From cakes to cookies, from bread to pies, I love it all. Last year I got a lot more serious about my hobby, as I went through the process of screening for the Great American Baking Show (you can read about it here, in case you missed it).  When that did not materialize I kept searching for an outlet for my baking, something that would keep me focused on it and help me improve. It took a bit long, but I’ve finally found it: Common Table, a meal for homeless people organized by volunteers and churches from our town.  They serve meals a few times each week, I’ve been taking my bakes on Fridays. It is the most rewarding and satisfying thing I’ve done in a while. I enjoy everything about it, planning what to take, baking, and finally delivering my bakes in the meal room, at 17:45hs, when folks are starting to arrive. I had no idea so many people rely on this type of charity to get by. Probably the only chance they have for a decent meal. I feel lucky to be able to help.

I share today the recipe I took on my first participation (April 26th) and after that a list of what I’ve made so far.  It would be pointless to blog on each of them, unless I wanted my blog to turn into a baking site at the expense of general cooking, which is not my intention.

COCONUT TRES LECHES CAKE
(adapted from this recipe)

for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour (130 g)
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 whole eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided (215 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk (82 g)

for soaking after baking:
6 oz coconut milk (1/2 can, well-shaken)
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

for the icing:
1 pint heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high-speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high-speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, coconut milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1/3 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. I actually allowed it to sit in the fridge overnight, lightly covered with aluminum foil. To ice the cake, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until thick and spreadable.

Spread over the surface of the cake, you might not need all the amount made, but a thick layer of icing should be your goal. Decorate cake if you like, with toppings of your choice. Cut into squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I chose this cake for my first contribution to Common Table because it was by far the most popular cake I’ve ever made to our department. I was curious about adding a hint of coconut to it, and when I tried a bit of the cake trimmings, I knew it was going to be another winner.  It was very well-received in that meal. If you like Tres Leches, try this version, you won’t be disappointed.

And now, let me share the bakes I’ve made since then…

Millionaire’s Shortbread Bars
(May 3rd)

 

Raspberry-Rose Petit Fours
(May 10th)

 


Chocolate Cake Pops

(May 17th)

 

Chocolate Raspberry Celebration Cake
(a smaller version of this one)

(May 24th)

Chocolate Blood Orange Curd Cake
(May 31st)

 

Come to think of it, it’s clear I’ve been playing the chocolate tune quite strongly…
Must add a bit more variety from now on.
😉

ONE YEAR AGO: The Daisy, a Bread with Brioche Alter-Ego

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin, Braciole Style

THREE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Buckle

FOUR YEARS AGO: Seafood Gratin for a Special Dinner

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-Vide: Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Loin

SIX YEARS AGO:  Farewell to a Bewitching Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen. June 2012

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

NINE YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

 

PURPLE STAR MACARONS

When it comes to macarons, people are divided in two teams, those who think the color of the shells should match the type of filling, and those who could not care less. I can go either way, but with this bake I joined the rebels. Shells are purple, filling is strawberry-based. My goal was to make macarons with the colors of KSU (purple and silver), but I wanted to use my made-from-scratch jam as part of the filling. So there you go, purple macarons with a strawberry-balsamic-black pepper buttercream.

PURPLE STAR MACARONS
(adapted from Colette Christian’s Craftsy version)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
113 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
purple food gel from Chefmaster
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

for the filling:
3 tablespoons (40gr) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (100gr) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 tablespoon strawberry jam (I used this recipe)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

to decorate:
white candy melts dyed purple
silver pearl dust
vodka or lemon extract

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal   in a food 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.

Switch to paddle attachment. Add half the almond meal mixture, turn the mixer on low and mix for about 3 seconds. Stop and add the rest of the almond mixture, turn the mixer on low, and process for about 5 more seconds. It should still be reasonably thick, but the grains of almond should be more or less disappearing in the batter.  Remove the bowl from the mixer, and finish the macaronage by hand.  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 300 F. 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:  Whisk the butter with the powdered sugar until creamy, slowly add the heavy cream and continue whisking until fluffy and smooth. I used a hand held electric beater. Add the vanilla, salt, and finally the strawberry jam. Whisk to incorporate, keep in the fridge until needed.  Place it in a piping bag fitted with a star tip like Wilton 1M.

Paint each shell before assembling.  In a very small bowl, mix silver pearl dust with vodka or lemon extract until it has a nice consistency to brush on the shells. Use a fan brush to get a nice effect. Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of buttercream filling on top of one shell, close with the other, and squeeze gently.

To make the stars, dye a small amount of melted candy purple. Spread on a piece of parchment as a thin layer. Let it set at room temperature, cut star shapes.  Right before using, add a bit of silver pearl dust and shake them gently around to cover lightly. Glue one or more stars to the top of each assembled macaron using candy melts.

Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The stars can be a bit tricky to make because the points are very fragile and tend to break, so make more than you think you’ll need.  I coated them with a bit of silver pearl dust, the same one used to brush the shells, except that I added them dry to the candy melt stars.

The strawberry jam is absolutely delicious, and I’ve used it in two other desserts that should be featured in the near future. The recipe comes from the most trustworthy baking website in the known universe: Pastries Like a Pro, from Helen Fletcher. If you want to improve your baking skills, you must follow her. Making the jam was a lot less complicated than I expected, so I see other jam adventures in my horizon. I have plans for a mango version to materialize in the Bewitching Kitchen sometime soon.

ONE YEAR AGO: Smoked Salmon, Fait Maison

TWO YEARS AGO: Kouign-Amann, Fighting Fire with Fire

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, Yin and Yang

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chocolate Toffee Banana Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, June 2014

SIX YEARS AGO:  Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Baked Coconut and “The Brazilian Kitchen”

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Honey-Glazed Chicken Legs

NINE YEARS AGO: French-Style Rolls

 

 

CHICKPEA BURGERS: VEGAN AND DELICIOUS

No, I am not turning vegan. How could I? Not only I am quite fond of animal protein in my diet, but I am too passionate about patisserie and once you get dairy and eggs out of that world, things get a bit dicey. But as it seems to be the case for many people, we are reducing the amount of meat we consume – particularly red meat – and incorporating some vegetarian-friendly meals in our routine. These veggie burgers are quite amazing. The tahini sauce is based on yogurt, so there goes the vegan component out the window. Such is life.

CHICKPEA BURGERS WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way)

for the veggie patties:
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
1 celery rib, roughly chopped
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp za’tar
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chickpea flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)

for the sauce:
1/2 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt to taste
Sriracha sauce to taste  

Cover the chickpeas by 4 inches of water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly.

Heat  the oven to 400°F.  Combine the chickpeas, celery, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin, za’tar, baking soda, salt, and black pepper in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water, but no more than 2 tablespoons.  If it seems a bit too lose (it was the case for me), add the chickpea or regular flour.

Place the patties on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until golden and firm.

Combine all the ingredients for the tahini sauce in a small bowl, serve with the chickpea burgers, with the toppings of your choice. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: This was adapted from a great book by Lukas Volger, with all kinds of veggie burgers you might dream of, unusual combinations of flavors, I had a hard time deciding which one to cook first. I can tell you the next might be Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Chestnuts Burger… how about that? 

These Chickpea version had me worried all the way through serving time, and I even told the husband that we could be facing a Plan B, aka as Going Out for Dinner. I thought they were going to crumble in the oven, they seemed too delicate and not quite holding together. But the secret for all these burgers that incorporate grains and mashed veggies is to place them over a baking sheet well coated with oil, and let the oven do its magic. It forms a crust that gets things going in the right direction. Flip it once, gently, and that’s it.

I had to include the above picture because once I realized what I was doing, I laughed at myself. The drizzle of tahini sauce? I used a mini-piping bag, designed for ganache or tempered chocolate or Royal icing drizzles. Yeap. I might be just a tad obsessed.  You can use a fork, a spoon… or follow my twisted path. I won’t judge.

Please notice that the chickpeas are incorporated in the patties raw, just soaked in water for 24 hours. According to Lukas, that’s the best way to use them in veggie burgers, otherwise they will crumble as you try to cook them.  Something to consider if you try to design your own version.

The tahini sauce. Most recipes, in my opinion, add way too much tahini, to the point that the taste seems to glue to the back of the tongue and sit there until next day.  I prefer to have a hint of tahini, a bit more lemon, and the more pleasant saucy texture of a higher proportion of yogurt. You do what feels right for you, it’s your kitchen…

Leftovers were still pretty good next day, after a very quick warming up in the microwave. They go well with Kaiser rolls. I thought about including the rolls in this post, but I need to improve my shaping skills. If you like to see the recipe I used (everything was excellent, except my work shaping them), pay Karen a visit with a click here.

ONE YEAR AGO: Macarons with Ganache Noisette

TWO YEARS AGO: Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

THREE YEARS AGO: Fakebouleh

FOUR YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

NINE YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

 

CHOCOLATE CELEBRATION CAKE

If you are a serious chocolate lover and have a special occasion coming up – a birthday, anniversary, or a dinner party for dear friends – this cake is for you. All components can be made in advance if you prefer, although I would advise you to bake the decorative Jaconde layer on the day you intend to assemble the cake. It is a very delicate component, I would be a bit worried about keeping it in the freezer or fridge for a while. Raspberries mellow the overall sweetness in a nice way.

CHOCOLATE CELEBRATION CAKE
(inspired by many sources)

for the decorative layer:
50 g butter
56 g powdered sugar
60 g egg whites
56 g all-purpose flour
25 g cocoa powder

Mix the butter and sugar in a Kitchen Aid type mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the egg whites very slowly, a little at a time. Clean the sides of the bowl often. Add the flour and cocoa powder and gently mix on very low-speed. Spread on a silpat or parchment paper using a spatula. Aim at a very thin layer. Using a comb, make diagonal stripes removing the paste, exposing the paper underneath.  Freeze for 10 minutes (or longer, overnight is fine)

for the Jaconde layer:
65 g powdered sugar, sifted
36 g all-purpose flour
65 g almond flour (or ground almonds)
100 g whole eggs
120 g egg whites
30 g granulated sugar
75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Heat the oven to 400 F. Add powdered sugar, flour and almond meal to the bowl of a mixer. Mix gently to incorporate them.  Add the eggs and beat on high-speed for about 5 minutes, until very fluffy. Reserve.

Make a meringue with the egg whites and sugar, bringing it to soft peaks. Start with the egg whites in the mixer on low-speed, increase to medium, once you see a trail forming as the mixer is going, start adding the sugar slowly.  Once you get to soft peaks, stop. Over-beating the meringue will make it hard to incorporate it in the cake batter.  Gently fold the meringue on the egg-flour mixture that you reserved.  Add a bit of the mixture to the bowl with melted butter, mix gently. Pour that into the cake batter and gently fold.

Remove the design from the freezer, pour the batter over it, trying to level it as best as you can with an off-set spatula. You want to keep the air incorporated in the batter, so be gentle. Run the spatula just over the surface, you don’t want to risk disturbing the pattern underneath it.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. You need to start noticing a little browning on the surface, but not much. If you notice the edges getting crunchy, remove from the oven. Let it cool before proceeding. Invert on a flat surface covered with parchment paper, and remove the paper that held the design during baking.  Reserve.

for the chocolate cake:
55 g  unsalted butter; plus more for the pans
230 g egg yolks
140 g granulated sugar
15 g cocoa paste, chopped
80 g cake flour
35 g cocoa powder
190 g egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
A pinch of salt
30 g granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350 F. Prepare the cake pans by lining them with parchment paper. Grease just the center of the paper.

Place the egg yolks in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and mix on medium speed while gradually pouring the 140 g sugar. Once all the  sugar is added, increase speed to high and whisk until it forms a ribbon (this will take several minutes, keep going, there is no risk of over-beating egg yolks).

While the egg yolk mixture is mixing, melt the butter in a small saucepan; remove from the heat. Add the cocoa paste, stir gently until fully melted. Reserve to cool slightly. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder; set aside on a piece of parchment paper to make it easier to add to the mixer bowl later.

In a clean mixer bowl, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt and mix on high speed. When the whites are foamy, slowly add the 30 g (about 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar, and then whip to medium-stiff peaks.  At this point you do not want to risk over-beating the whites, because they will be tough to incorporate with the cake batter if they are over-beaten. If in doubt, beat less rather than more.

Fold the butter and cocoa paste mixture and one-third of the dry ingredients into the egg yolk mixture until barely combined. Continue folding in the dry ingredients in two more additions, stopping just before the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add one-third of the meringue and fold until just combined. Then pour the barely-mixed chocolate mixture into the remaining meringue and fold until the batter is almost homogenous, but do not overmix.

Evenly divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes, until the top springs back when pressed lightly. Allow to cool to room temperature before inverting and removing from the pans.

for the cremeux filling:
2 g sheet gelatin
300 ml heavy cream
70 g  egg yolks,
45 g granulated sugar
Pinch of table salt
115 g  chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa)
fresh raspberries

Put 10 g (2 teaspoons) cold water in a small bowl. Use scissors to the gelatin sheet into small pieces so they fit inside the bowl. Submerge the gelatin in the water; set aside to bloom.

Combine the cream, yolks, sugar, and salt in a saucepan, and stir well to combine. Cook the mixture on medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk at first and then switching to a spatula. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 158-162 F, then immediately remove it from the heat. Add the gelatin and stir until it is completely dissolved.

Put the chocolate into a large bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate; let sit for a minute to melt the chocolate. Whisk to combine, then use an immersion blender to emulsify completely. Refrigerate, without a lid, and allow to set fully for several hours. You can make it the day before.

for the buttercream frosting:
150g softened butter
400g icing sugar
200ml heavy cream
150g dark chocolate (melted, and cooled slightly)
4 tbsp cocoa powder
golden sprinkles for decoration (optional)

Combine the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with the paddle beater. Beat until well combined, adding the cream slowly once the mixture starts to be homogeneous.  Add the melted dark chocolate and the cocoa powder then beat vigorously until smooth and workable. Place in a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice, I used Wilton 1M.

Assembling the cake: Place the cake on a board over a rotating cake support. Add a ring of chocolate buttercream around the edge of the cake to retain the filling. Place a good amount of chocolate cremeux  covering the cake layer, then add fresh raspberries. Place the second cake (cut side up) on top, press gently. Spread a thin layer of chocolate buttercream on top and sides. Now very carefully measure the height of the cake.

Cut the Jaconde layer to be just a tad taller than the cake when rolled around it. You should have more than enough to go around the cake using two pieces of Jaconde. For an 8-inch cake, you need about 25 inches total, so cut one layer as big as you can, and use a smaller portion to fill the gap. Press gently to make sure it glues well to the side of the cake. Don’t forget, the pattern should face the outside of the cake (yes, stuff happens).

Pipe decorative stars all over the top with the buttercream, sprinkle with golden stars, if that suits your taste. Refrigerate for several hours before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I enjoy the process of making decorated Jaconde, but let me be brutally honest: it is messy. I don’t care how neat of a cook you are, it will be messy. You need the pattern to go all the way outside the parchment paper, because it is best to maximize the area of cake with good, solid pattern on it. At least for my skill level, boo-boos happen here and there. The pattern must be frozen before adding the cake on top, so make sure you have space in your freezer to lay a baking sheet flat with the paper on top.

I’ve made a patterned Jaconde in the past, but with a stencil. Having used this method now, I believe the stencil is easier, because it is hard for the comb to remove the batter efficiently. Sometimes I had to spread the batter with the spatula and pass the comb twice or three times until I got a nice, clean surface underneath. By doing that, it’s hard to get stripes that are identical in width. The end result will be a bit more rustic, just keep that in mind. Nothing wrong with rustic. Right? I thought so.

The cake is obviously very rich and feels pretty decadent, a small slice will be enough. I thought it was very delicious, the buttercream does not taste overly sweet. A few little tweaks could be considered for a next version: the pattern could be red to reflect the fruit inside, and in addition to fresh raspberries in the filling, I would add a spread of raspberry jam on the cake before spooning in the cremeux. Finally, perhaps adding a few fresh raspberries in the middle of the piped frosting could be cute, making the piped stars to be similar in size to the berries. The golden star-shaped sprinkles? They stay in any version, I am quite fond of them.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four, May 2018

TWO YEARS AGO: Tangential Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

THREE YEARS AGO: Fakebouleh

FOUR YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

NINE YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR: MAY 2019

Once again I offer you a small collection of non-recipes, so simple that I wonder whether they are blog-worthy. The first two use the air-fryer, but you could make them both in a regular oven. It will just take a little longer, and maybe the texture will not be quite the same.  The second two call for preserved lemons, an ingredient that is worth experimenting with. You can make your own, or buy a bottle, which is what I did.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #1

AIR-FRIED TORTILLA CHIPS

Excellent use for tortillas that are getting past their prime, and wave at you when you open the fridge… “Please, do something about us laying here in this lousy bag. We are not getting any younger…”

Grab a pair of scissors, cut each tortilla in four wedges, each wedge in two. That will make 8 pretty good size chips from each corn tortilla. Spray olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite spices (I like to use a combination of smoked paprika, cumin, and a very light touch of cayenne pepper).  Season with salt. Put in the air-fryer set as high as it will go (mine goes to 390F). Fry them until golden brown and crispy, shaking the basket every few minutes. They should be ready in 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen absorbent paper, and serve while still warm, but they are great at room temperature, getting a bit harder then. Amazing how much better they are than those you can buy in bags. If you only need a small amount, the air-fryer is definitely your best option. A very efficient way to exercise portion control: don’t make a massive amount!

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #2

AIR-FRIED ARTICHOKE HEARTS

You might be surprised to learn that I found this recipe in a vegan forum. I do have a pretty open mind when it comes to cooking, and vegan recipes can be quite creative and intriguing. Members of the forum were raving about it.  Grab a bottle of oil-packed artichoke hearts. If you can only find those that come in a brine type solution, no worries. Simply drain the liquid well, dry them a bit, and coat them with a nice layer of olive oil.  Place them in the air fryer basket, set to high. Fry until they get golden the way you like. Some bits will threaten to get charred. Those are good bits, embrace them.

I can only advise you to get more than one bottle going. These fried morsels are addictive, they shrink, and you will regret not frying a few more. Plus, leftovers are fantastic added to pasta, couscous, as pizza topping. You need these in your life.  I imagine you can do them equally well broiling in a regular oven. Simple. But so very tasty…

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #3

ROASTED VEGGIES WITH PRESERVED LEMONS

For this “non-recipe” I got a bag of those rainbow carrots, and cut them quarters lengthwise, then in sticks. Did the same with some zucchini. Added all veggies to a bowl, drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper. Grabbed 4 slices of preserved lemons, diced them (they are so soft they more or less melt as you cut them), added to the bowl, mixing gently.

Placed in a roasting pan and into a 425F oven.  Thirty minutes later, they were ready to be enjoyed!  Very nice lemony flavor, perfect side dish for a busy weeknight.  Probably doable in the air-fryer also, but I was hoping for a bigger batch, with leftovers in mind.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE #4

GRILLED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH PRESERVED LEMON MARINADE

Get a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, slice them in half to make them thinner, and pound them slightly.  Now get about 6 thin slices of preserved lemons and add to a small food processor with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a couple of teaspoons of agave nectar.  Process into a paste. Add to the chicken breasts inside a plastic bag, leave to marinade a few hours or overnight. Remove the meat from the marinade, grill about 5 minutes per side.

Pure citric flavor, that will also tenderize the meat slightly. It will be moist and flavorful, a combination not always easy with chicken breasts. This preparation reminds me of the whole-lemon marinade I blogged about in the past.

I hope you enjoyed my little collection of quick and easy recipes, they tend to become part of our regular rotation, in fact preserved lemons will have a permanent spot in our fridge. Right there next to the rose harissa…

ONE YEAR AGO: French Style Baguettes

TWO YEARS AGO: Sad Times

THREE YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas Lettuce Wraps and Paleo Planet Review

 

ISPAHAN MACARONS

Little annoucement: I edited my Index page, so that Macarons are now in a category by themselves, separated from other cookies.  I hope you find that helpful…


Pierre Hermé is the genius behind the combination of flavors known as Ispahan: lychees, roses, and raspberries. Nowadays you can find this sexy trio as a base for cakes, tarts, bonbons, but they were originally conceived many years ago as macaron filling. I read somewhere that Hermé designed them while working at Ladurée, but for one reason or another they were not a big hit then. Only when he opened his own shop and included Ispahan Macs in his regular production customers fell in love, head over heels. The rest is history.  You can find his original recipe here. I had a few issues with his macaron recipes in the past (operator error, I am sure), so to play it safe I used the method that almost never fails me.

ISPAHAN MACARONS
(inspired by Pierre Herme’s recipe)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
113 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Teal food gel from Chefmaster
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

for the filling:
210g white chocolate, diced finely
200g lychees (preserved in syrup)
40g whipping cream
1/8 tsp rose extract
seedless raspberry jam

to decorate:
white candy melts dyed pink
brown food safe marking pen

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal   in a food 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.

Switch to paddle attachment. Add half the almond meal mixture, turn the mixer on low and mix for about 3 seconds. Stop and add the rest of the almond mixture, turn the mixer on low, and process for about 5 more seconds. It should still be reasonably thick, but the grains of almond should be more or less disappearing in the batter.  Remove the bowl from the mixer, and finish the macaronage by hand.  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 300 F. 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 chopped white chocolate in a bowl. Process the lychees in a food processor to form a puree. Drain excessive liquid. Warm up the heavy cream almost to boiling, add the lychee puree, continue simmering until almost boiling again. Pour over the chocolate. Wait for a couple of minutes and gently mix the chocolate to dissolve it fully. Add the rose extract. Allow it to cool to room temperature and then whip it with a handheld mixer until fluffy.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a star tip such as Wilton 1M.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of lychee ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place a bit of raspberry jam in the center, and close with another macaron shell. Squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.

To make the decorations, dye a small amount of melted candy pink. Spread on a piece of parchment as a thin layer. Let it set at room temperature, cut flower shapes. You can also just fill tiny little silicone flower molds with the melted candy, and freeze. Make enough to have several flowers for each macaron shell. They can be made well in advance and frozen.

Decorate the top of each macaron with branches using a brown food-safe marker. Add flowers using melted candy to glue them on the cookie shell. Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I don’t know for how long I’ve been flirting with this recipe, trying to imagine how the flavors would work together. Pierre Hermé makes a raspberry jelly from scratch, cuts in pieces and places that on top of the lychee ganache. I actually did that, but was a bit unsure of how well the gelatin did its job. My little discs of raspberry jelly seemed a bit too watery once removed from the freezer. I did not want to risk ruining my macs, so I used seedless raspberry jam instead. I guess it made them slightly sweeter than they should be, but I really liked the way they turned out. 


For the decoration, I used candy melts, but it’s of course totally optional, they would look pretty nice with a delicate brush of pink luster dust, for instance, making the whole decoration step a lot simpler and faster.  More or less along the lines of these from last year. Keep in mind that these little flowers keep very well in the freezer. In fact, I had made them three weeks earlier. I cannot take credit for the idea, though. I saw macarons similarly decorated on Pinterest a couple of years ago, and saved the idea. I think it was from a German food blog. Wish I could give credit, but a google search did not take me back there.

The lychee flavor is so unique, if you’ve never tried it please do so. It is exotic and mysterious, a great match for the rose extract. Hermé hit this one perfectly. I need to bake a Ispahan Entremet Cake sometime soon. Expect a mirror glaze. Because… Ispahan begs for it…

ONE YEAR AGO: Smokin’ Hot Meatloaf and Homemade Ketchup

TWO YEARS AGO: Banana Bread with Espresso Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas & Paleo Planet Cookbook Review

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Making of a Nobel Reception

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SIX YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

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

NINE YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

 

ROASTED CORN AND ZUCCHINI SALAD

You know that kind of recipe that shows up in one of your favorite food blogs and you just have to make it right away? This was it. I saw the picture, the list of ingredients, and fell in love with it. Plus, human beings who have braces on their upper and lower teeth live in a permanent state of craving corn on the cob. The type of pleasure that is far removed from their reality. This salad brings corn back into play. Still a bit hard to negotiate, but doable. Totally doable. Or I should say chewable… Sorry. Got carried away…

ROASTED CORN AND ZUCCHINI SALAD
(very slightly modified from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ears roasted corn, cooled, and kernels cut off
2 zucchini, chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Whisk the olive oil,  lime juice and zest together in a small bowl until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, add the corn, zucchini, jalapeño, and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss until combined. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to 12 hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can grill the corn as Karen suggests, but also broil in the oven, which is what I ended up doing. Quick, easy, you just have to keep an eye to avoid burning the delicate kernels, in case you set up your rack too close to the broiler. I prefer to keep it about 6 inches below, which is a good compromise.  Simply rub the corn with a touch of olive oil, and set under the broiler, moving the cob to get all sides nicely charred. Once that is done, let them cool a bit and shave the kernels off to use in the salad.

My recipe was almost exactly like Karen’s, but I made half the amount, and reduced a little bit the proportion of olive oil in the dressing, making it slightly more lemony.  This was refreshing, light, delicious, it will be a regular dish in our rotation, as the husband already requested it for next week. He lives in fear that a dish he really likes might never show up at our table again. No risk with this one.  Raw zucchini, when cut in small dice and allowed to sit with the acidic dressing for a few hours, turns out perfect. I cannot recommend this recipe enough!

We enjoyed it with turkey burgers (my default recipe which we adore), sweet potato fries, and avocado slices.

Karen, thank you for being a constant source of inspiration in my cooking…

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