Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Thrown Gauntlet: December DB Challenge

Another challenge been and gone. Christmas the most anticipated holiday of the year, comes and goes in a flash. It tends to be hectic and nerve racking and we all know the 1 thing we are supposed to be doing is slowing down for some much needed time with our families and those around us we love the most.

This month's challenge was especially exciting for me. First, the challenge itself. As you can see by the description of the title, this one was what you call a doozie. 12 pages of mind warping instruction and recipe, set out for those of us that crave the greatest of challenges.

Second, it comes at the most perfect and appropriate of holidays. The dessert with all the "WOW" factor you could possibly muster.

Last but most certainly not least was the fact that I would be able to do this challenge with another DB'er...my sister, who I missed so dearly since leaving to do her Masters degree.
Long gone all the way across the pond to jolly old England, she would be coming home for a mere 10 days! and in this time we would get to collaborate together, to build the most wonderous of desserts!

The greatest part about the challenge??? and I'm sorry ladies who brought us this challenge...but it was the time I got to spend with my sister. Laughing, talking
, up to our elbows in chocolate and just slowing down and being around the ones you care about the most.

We served this wonderous of wonders at our family Christmas dinner.

Thanks Jess for doing this challenge with me. Hopefully we can make this a new family tradition.
Love you, Nika. xo

Now on to the Challenge:
This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand


Intimidating, yes. Don't be afraid though. If you make 1 component at a time everything will be "A-OK". Promise.


Element 1: Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Note:
You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.
Ingredients:
3/4cup + 1Tbsp almond meal
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 medium egg whites
4 Tbsp granulated sugar

- Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
- Sift the flour into the mix.
- Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
- Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
- Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
- Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
- Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
- Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element 2: Milk Chocolate Cremoso

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 pound good-quality milk chocolate, chopped

- In a saucepan, heat the cream with the granulated sugar until hot to the touch.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
- Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the hot cream. Scrape the mixture into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until slightly thickened, 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and let stand until melted, 5 minutes.
- Whisk until smooth.
- Transfer to a shallow bowl and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours.

Element 3: Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Note:
Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

Ingredients:
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp unsalted butter, softened

- Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color.
- While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
- Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
- Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element 4: Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:

3.5 oz milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp praline
2.1oz rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

- Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
- Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
- Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. - - - - Refrigerate until hard.

Element 5: Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert
** We used a pastry cream piped insert, but I think I would stick with this element instead**

Ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
4 medium-sizedegg yolks
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

- Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
- Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
- Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
- Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
- Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element 6: Dark Chocolate Ganache Icing

* We used a ganche beacuse my sister is a vegetarian and this recipe called for a lot of gelatin use. So we made up our own variations**
Ingredients:
2/3 cup heavy cream
5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped

- Heat cream and then add chocolate.
- Leave chocolate to melt off heat for 5 mins.
- Stir and glaze


If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with ONE piece of Dacquoise on the BOTTOM ONLY the order is:
1) Mousse
2) Creme Brulee Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

- Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.

-Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
- Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
- Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
- Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
- Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
- Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
- Close with the Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.


THE NEXT DAY...
Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the ganache.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.





Friday, December 5, 2008

It's beginning to smell alot like Christmas...


As Christmas creeps up on us all, some a little more quickly then others,we are reminded about everything that Christmas entails. Lights, trees, crazy packed malls, but most of all and my personal favourite, FOOD!

It seems the baking bug hits me the most during this winter time holiday. As the kids gear down for vacation from school, I as a parent feel that I should show some small sense of gratitude towards the teachers and caregivers that watch over my little one everyday.
I thought this year that I would try something homemade as opposed to the usual gift card or candle. This way the kid(s) can help and feel proud they made something for someone who gives so much of themselves everyday.
I adapted this recipe from Epicurious, I omitted the almond extract simply because I didn't have any, took out the nuts, and soaked some dried cranberries in Frangelico.
I also increased the brown sugar quotient to 3/4 c. to make a chewier cookie.
These are fab and they fill your house with a warm oatmeal meets fruity, chocolate smell.

Enjoy!


Recipe:

1 c all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c sugar
3/4 c (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 c old-fashioned oats
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c white chocolate chips
1 c dried cranberries or dried cherries

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Sift Flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.
Cream butter and sugar together, add egg and vanilla.
Add flour mixture to butter and mix.
Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips and dried fruit.
Place 8 rounded tablespoons of dough on a prepared cookie sheet or 2 cookie sheets.
Bake 15 minuted for 1 sheet or 12 minutes for 2 sheets and then rotate and bake another 4-6 minutes.
Cool for 10 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Paris Dreams


You know those dreams you have that leave you refreshed and enlightened to lift you through your day? Well mine are always about food. Some have included a personal tasting menu at The French Laundry, a Pierre Herme Croissant with a cafe au lait in the streets of Paris, an eating tour of Italy, and finally Jamie Oliver...I think you get the point.
So when my mum was on her way to Paris last week, she asked me what I would like from the City of Lights. "Easy", I thought. Herb du Provence and Fleur de Sel. Simple, clean and something I have been told that needs to be in every good cooks pantry.
I also decided to give my mum a piece of my Paris fantasy and gave her web links to Pierre Herme and Fauchon before she left so she could feast on a Isaphan croissant or Fauchon's famous eclairs.
Tonight she brought over my gifts. Actually gifts is an understatement. In this present extravaganza are 4 different types of spice and salt rubs, Herbs du Provence, Fauchon Fleur de Sel, maybe a few smuggled morel mushrooms, and white truffle flavoured fleur de sel, which the salesman told my mum that are excellent on scrambled eggs.
I had to share this amazing culinary treat with all of you, because I know a whole bunch of you will appreciate where I'm coming from. I actually used some black truffles tonight (I forgot to mention those) in some yummy potato gratin.
So dream on culinary fanatics, dream on and dream big!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November Challenge: Caramel Cake



Grr I set this post to show up yesterday because I was out of town and it didn't work. I hate blogger sometimes!!!!!!!!!!!


Whoa! Another Daring Baker's challenge has arrived yet again. I was really happy this month to find a new SWEET challenge. I must admit I am a sweet tooth at heart.
This month's challenge was brought to us by Dolores: http://culinarycuriosity.blogspot.com/, Alex: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/, Jenny:http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/and for our vegan/veggie buddies, Natalie:http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/
The recipe is originally from Shuna Fish Lydon
http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006/12/24/caramel-cake-the-recipe

I found this recipe really well informed and straight forward. Which is always great when making something for the 1st time. The only thing was that it was incredibly sweet! even for the likes of me and my family. I reduced the sugar in the cake to about 1/2c. BOY! was that a mistake. Instead of a cake i was left more with a dense sponge look a like. I somehow just couldn't imagine though so much sugar in a cake with such sweet icing.
The components on their own are delicious. Together were just a bit to much for me. However, this was a great challenge and I enjoyed every step of it.
In my final product I ended up making a bittersweet chocolate icing to go with the caramel icing to counter the super sweetness. This really helped I think.


Thanks again to all our wonderful hosts this month!!
Also, a HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all our US blogging friends out there.

CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

CARAMEL SYRUP

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 -3 c. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fudge Crackle Cookies: This one is for you Cathy!


So as I was doing my daily browsing of Blogs last week, I came across a most peculiar recurrence on many of my daily readings. Cookies! Cookies absolutely everywhere.

What was all this buzz all of a sudden...a new cookie book perhaps??

Turns out I was right. A new cookie book, not just any book but a fellow blogger's cookie book.

Anita Chu, of Dessert First has written the quintessential guide to all things cookie. This book entails all of the most 100 popular and bake-able recipes for cookies you can find.
I first saw her appearance for her Blog book tour at Helen's Tartelette, then it was Aran's Cannelle et Vanille, where I stumbled across these tiny little tasty morsels.

These cookies hot out of the oven taste like rich flourless chocolate cake, even though they do have flour.
I made a full batch and froze half, the other half I baked up and got 2 dozen cookies out of. These were all promptly eaten in the span of 24 hours....

I used Anita and Aran's recipe but interchanged the 72% chocolate, for bittersweet chocolate chips, since that's what I had.

Make these and they will disappear instantly. (I will not be held responsible for expanding waistlines).

Adapted from "Field Guide to Cookies", by Anita Chu
and Aran, of Cannelle et Vanille

6 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbs cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
confectioners sugar for rolling

Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Remove from heat and cool.

In the meantime, whip the eggs with the sugar until thick. Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate and mix.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder into a bowl and add this to the chocolate mixture. Mix until combined.

Place this bowl in the refrigerator for about 2 hours until the dough hardens enough to scoop out.

Preheat oven to 325F. Scoop one inch balls or teaspoon size. Roll these in powdered sugar and place them on cookie sheets lined with parchment or a Silpat. Flatten the cookies with your fingers, so they look like fat little discs and bake until set for about 12 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mint Chip Fro Yo and Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches

I recently celebrated my birthday a couple of weeks ago and the number 1 thing on my list was, Dorie Greenspan's, "Baking from my home to yours".
It came by mail. So when I came home one day it was sitting there just like Christmas!...or my birthday.
I diligently read it from cover to cover. I read a few blogs that participate in "Tuesday's with Dorie" and I am always jealous when everyone refers to it as the "Bible" of home baking.

FINALLY it's mine...all mine!!!!!


So my first recipe were these amazing malted cookies, which are bascially Whoppers or Maltesers in cookie form.




Recipe:

1 3/4 c. of Ap flour
1 c. of Malted milk powder, I used Ovaltine
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick US butter, room temp.
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 whole milk, I just used 1 %
2 c. malted milk balls, Whoppers or Maltesers coarsley chopped
1 c. chocolate chips or chunks

So the funny thing was that there was no direction of how hot the oven was supposed to be. I did the 350 rule just to be on the safe side.

Position racks so you can fit 2 sheets one on top of the other. Line with Silpat or parchment.

Sift together, Flour, milk powder, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
Cream sugar and butter together until pale about 3 minutes. Add 1 egg at a time and incorporate after each addition. Add vanilla.
Add half the flour mixture and then the milk, mix until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour and mix just until incorporated.
Add malt balls and chocolate chunks, fold in by hand.
Drop tablespoons onto baking sheet, spaced 2 inches apart.
Bake 11-13 minutes.
Cool for 2 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.
Makes about 30 cookies.
Pictured above, I just but some mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt inbetween to make sammies.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Pizzaiollo Styles - Apple Turnover Pizza

This month's challenge was hosted by Rosas yummy yums.
http://www.rosas-yummy-yums.blogspot.com/.
Rosa presented us with a fab challenge this month and one of my personal favourite foods PIZZA!
This month's blog will be short and sweet.
Who doesn't love pizza? To me it's the quintessential meal in a jiff. As a former student I think you find a bond to pizza that some people don't always understand. Late night study sessions and after a night on the town are 2 of my most vivid memories. Of course burning the roof of my mouth off with cheese is also a memory, but maybe one I would like to forget.
This month since we are still in the season of harvest I made an apple turnover pizza. I figured something a little less conventional would be fun.
So enjoy!


~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE


Method:
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.


11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.


14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.


Apple Turnover Topping:
To top 1 pizza

4 apples peeled and sliced thinly
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp of cornstarch
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp apple cider

In a bowl mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch
Coat top of pizza dough with butter, then place apples across so they overlap
Bake for recommended time above about 5- 6 minutes
Mix icing sugar and apple cider together to form a smooth icing, adding more cider if necessary.
Drizzle on hot pizza.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Caramel Apple Charlottes: A recipe in progress


When your a child there are certain memories you put in your mind and save them forever. Hoping that when your older you might be able to pull them out and use them for a rainy day.
The last week or so the air has been getting crisp and the leaves have all turned their beautiful colours of reds, oranges and golds. Fall is here.
When the weather in Ontario gets chilly and people start to feel the looming of winter upon them, this is the time to pull those warm memories from your mind and put them to good use. So that is exactly what I did.
When I was growing up my parents would go on exotic vacations a couple times a year. This meant that my sister and I would take the 30 minute drive out to the country and stay with my Nan and Bamp. Most kids in their early years of adolescence would despise this I'm sure. But when you had the grandparents I had this was like freedom only kids dreamt about.

Let me give you an example:

When dinner was finished and you thought that most elderly people would round themselves out and watch reruns of "Corrie Street" or the evening news, my grandfather would break out the cards. First order of business, "Cath, where are the quarters?", my Bamp would yell.
Yep you guessed it, this wasn't "Snap" or "Go Fish", this was Blackjack...gambling Blackjack to be precise.
My Nan would go to her quarter jar, which she kept to throw her quarters into so that each of her ( I can't remember how many we all are, but there are alot) grandkids could have $50 every birthday and Christmas, and pour them out onto the table and divvy them up so we each ended up with about 8 or 10 a piece.

After about 4 or 5 hands of cards my Nan would get up from the table and "POOF" dessert would appear. There was always something different when we went to stay, but my favourite was her Apple Charlotte.
Warm vanilla sponge baked and underneath a soft layer of apples and cinnamon. If this wasn't enough custard would magically appear out of thin air, and dessert was served. We would all dig in with haste and relish in the moment of utter perfection. It was always "Silubrious" my Bamp would say,which was his word for delicious, whatever the dessert was. Then it was back to business, Blackjack style.

So this week's recipe is an homage to my Nan and Bamp. The two people I learned quintessential life skills from. Like when to say "stay" and when to say "hit me". Also, how to never be flustered in the kitchen. Though I haven't perfected the recipe from scratch, I'm working on it...until then you can all shudder at the cake mix I used. Don't knock it to you tried it, it still tasted "silubrious".



Caramel Apple Charlottes:

1 box of golden cake mix, prepared to instructions
3 Apples, peeled, cored, sliced thinly into 2 inch pieces
Caramel Sauce, I made my own but use whatever you like

Caramel Sauce:
1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

Bring sugar and about 1 tsp of water to a boil for about 5 minutes or until carmel in colour. Remove from heat and add butter, cream and salt. Place back on low heat and stir together until smooth.
*If caramel goes grainy on you, just heat back up and add more cream until smooth.*

Heat oven to 350.
Prepare a cupcake pan, do not flour.
Pour a teaspoon of caramel sauce into each hole.
Then lay about 4 - 5 slices of apple into the bottom.
Top each with about 2 Tbsp of cake mix, or about 3/4 full.
Bakefor 18 - 20 mintues, or when you push on the top the spring back.
Cool for 5 mintues and then flip onto cooling rack.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Monday, October 6, 2008

Peach Vanilla Rosemary Jam



As Autumn fast approaches in Ontario, I feel that I am trying to grasp at the last strings of summer. Still wearing flip flops in 7 degree weather, still running in shorts and eating ice cream every last chance I get, I think pretty much qualifies me in the "grasping at straws" department.
The leaves here are finally turning their brilliant colours of red, gold and fiery oranges. The pumpkins have arrived and we are officially into apple picking season (stay tuned).

So in my last homage to summer, I went to the market a few weeks ago and bought the last of the slightly sad looking peaches in an effort to salvage their blushing pink and orange skins and sweet juicy flesh, (sorry for the "harlequin" descriptive).

As in my last post, I had recently tried canning for the first time and it was a resounding success. So I thought I would have another crack at it with my remaining jars. Martha Stewart has this amazing "Peach Rosemary Jam" recipe that I had seen a few years ago posted on her website.

My younger sister makes this amazing jam, and when I visited her in Halifax, there was always a stash in the fridge to be eaten on her organic whole grain bread or yummy croissants from the market.
Now she has moved ALL the way across the pond, so now I am left with no more of her jam. :(

So this recipe is for you Jess, and rest assured when you come home at Christmas I will be filling your suitcase with Peach AND Pear jam so that when you go back to jolly old England, I can come THERE and once again eat jam out of your fridge.

Recipe:

3 pounds of peaches, skinned*, pitted and roughly chopped
1/3 c. lemon juice, fresh
2 c. sugar
2 c. vanilla sugar
3 - 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave for 4 hours, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.

Pour mixture into a large pot and bring to a boil, cook for about 15 minutes until mixture thickens.
Puree with hand held mixer or use a potato masher and crush fruit lightly.
Skim any foam that has formed on the top of the mixture.
Discard rosemary.

Fill jars and leave about 1/3 inch at the top. Process for 10 minutes.
Let rest for 24 hours and then test seal. If sealed properly then store in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. If seal does not take store in fridge and eat within 1 month.

Makes: 6 1/2 c. jars

*I find the easiest way to skin peaches is to cross hatch them at the bottom and throw them in whole into a pot of simmering water for about 1 - 2 minutes.
Remove into a bowl of ice water, optional, or just leave them to cool for a few minutes and then peel.







Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bon Appetit: Pear Caramel Butter


So I tried my hand at canning on the weekend. My first time out and all in all it was really successful! I was so pleased when I heard the seal's take. I was on the phone with my sister in England and as I was taking out the jars we both heard the "pop", I started to yelp in excitement, my sister then said, "you've never done this before have you?", "no I haven't" I replied, hence my ridiculous amount of hysteria.
The recipe below I got in this month's Bon Appetit, which I get really excited for once a month when it comes in the mail. The recipe is also REALLY labour intensive. Peeling coring and chopping 7 pounds of pears is nobody's idea of a good time. Also I don't own a food mill, so I pureed it by potato ricer.
I'm really excited to try new recipes! Next I'm making "Peach & Rosemary Jam" a la Martha Stewart.
Happy canning everyone!

Makes about eight 1/2-pint jars
Recipe by Jill Silverman Hough
Bon Appetit October 2008

Ingredients:

7 pounds ripe Bartlett pears

1/4 cup Apple Juice


6 Tbsp of lemon juice, separated

3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

* Note the bee/wasp

Preparation:

  • Combine apple juice and 4 tablespoons lemon juice in heavy large deep pot. Peel, core, and cut pears, 1 at a time, into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces; mix pears into juice mixture in pot as soon as pears are cut, to prevent browning. Cook over medium heat until pears release enough juice for mixture to boil, stirring frequently, about 16 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes (mixture will splatter). Remove pot from heat. Press pear mixture through fine plate of food mill into large bowl. Return pear puree to same pot. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until pear butter thickens and is reduced to 8 cups, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent scorching, about 1 hour.

  • Ladle pear butter into 8 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

Curried Cous Cous Salad



A couple of weekends ago, my good friend invited me to her Bridal shower. I'm not very well versed in this sort of occassion. I've only been to 1 other bridal shower before, but as I start into my late 20's it seems that at least 1 weekend every month is starting to fill up with a wedding or bacherolette. I got 3 invitations in a span of 2 weeks! Wedding pictures are starting to pop up all over my Facebook of long lost friends from highschool or elementary school in beautiful white gowns and their partners in penguin suits.

Ok sorry, I digrese.
The one thing that I love about the all of 2 showers I've been to, is the FOOD! I love any excuse to sit around with friends and talk, drink and EAT! The 2 girls that hosted the beautiful bridal shower put on a spread of food that would bring a tear to any foodie's eye.
One dish that I loved, was the curried cous cous salad. It was the perfect mix of spice, savoury and a bit of sweet from some dried cranberries. A few days after the shower I decided to dissect the recipe in my head and give it a try.

Curried Cous Cous Salad:
2 - 3 cups cous cous
1 chicken stock cube or veggie cube
1 1/2 tbsp of curry powder (medium)
3 scallions, sliced finely
1/2 red onion, small dice
1 red pepper, small dice
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 dried fruit, I used raisins and dried papaya
salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped cilantro and parsley

Prepare cous cous by adding the curry powder and stock to boiled water as per cous cous directions.
Once done fluff cous cous with a fork to break apart.
Add all remaining ingredients together and stir with fork.
Add any additional seasining necessary.

Serves about 6 (as a side)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Katherine Hepburn Brownies


So I was sitting in my local bookstore the other day having a tea misto...mmmm...... and I ran across Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking: from my home to yours"
I have heard about this substantial baking book a million times which is often referred to as the "bible" by some other blogger's I read.
So I thought, "I wonder if the wonderful Ms. Greenspan has a recipe for brownies?"
Now, I am not a fan of brownies. I never have been. Which might make you think "why the heck did she go looking for a brownie recipe then?" But I like to think maybe I just haven't found the right recipe yet.
So I flipped to the brownie section and I came across this recipe. What drew me in was the name of course. Hepburn anything I think draws woman to the source. A wonderful set of stylish, sophisticated, talented women. Timeless, is my best description.
Also, the decription given about the recipe really grabbed me. Miss Katherine Hepburn only had 1 rule when it came to brownies: not to much flour.
"Ok" I said. Let's give this recipe a whirl!
Well let me tell you. Out came the yummiest brownies I had ever had! They didn't even have frosting.
Now I know I should be posting a recipe about...."HERE".....but I deleted it off my Blackberry :(
So if you like this recipe, stop in to your favourite book shop and buy the book. Or you can do the bad girl thing like I did and peruse over it while maybe typing the recipe into your Blackberry.
I'm getting the book for Christmas so PLEASE nobody hate me for copying this recipe out of it for right now.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Baker's Act 2: Pierre Herme Eclairs



So this month's challenge was brought to us by 2 special bloggers...Meeta K from "What's for lunch Honey?" and Tony from "antoniotahhan.com"

I have been blogging now for a little while, but before this I was heavily viewing tons of food blogs and a lot of them shared a common thread.
The infamous Pierre Herme!
I had stumbled across his name the first time when I hit Helen's from "Tartelette" blog. She had raved about his creativity and refined French pastries.
So you could only imagine my excitement when lovely Meeta picked these amazing éclairs.

Éclairs are close to my heart, and not because they pass by on the way to my stomach ;)

No, éclairs have a very specific memory for me. My wonderful Nan, who has now gone on to bigger and better things could never resist a chocolate éclair. The funny thing was she had Diabetes type 2...ok, ok, a lot of you are like WHAT!! there is no way that woman should have been eating things like that, that's not funny... but it was when you saw the 2 ends of her mouth curl up in this mischievous smile like she was about to have world domination and nobody knew except her.
My Bampy (grandfather), who is with my Nan along for the ride...used to go to this Italian store, where they specialized in tantalizing desserts and always came home with a custard horn for me and my sister, a rum baba or something equally decadent for himself and of course the prized chocolate eclair for my Nan.

I wanted to share this small memory with all of you or how ever many there are of you reading this, because I think one important thing about food whether sweet or savory is the memories you have or the moments you share and treasure around food.

So I dedicate this post to my Nanny and Bampy who were always there for me, only wanted happiness for me and never let me give up on my hopes and dreams..
For you Nan! cause now wherever you are I hope there is huge table of all you can eat chocolate eclairs, cause you deserve it...and don't forget to share with Bamps!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs:
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé(makes 20-24 Éclairs)



Assembling the éclairs:


• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)


1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.


2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.


Notes:

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.


2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.





Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough:
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly.

**Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.**



3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.


**You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.**


4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.


5) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).


Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.


6) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.


7) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.


The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.


Notes:

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.


2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.




Chocolate Pastry Cream:
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature


1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.


2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.


3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.


4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


Notes:

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.







Sunday, August 24, 2008

I ran across this interesting list from Tim at "very good taste", I cut and pasted (sp?) it from his blog and thought I would highlight everything I have eaten off this list.
Let's see how I measure up....


From Tim at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/


The Omnivore’s Hundred

Here’s what you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/ linking to your results.


The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Just "Peachy"



It may seem surprising for Ontario but there is an abundance of beautiful fresh fruit available in the summer time.

The Niagara region of Ontario is famous for wine and stone fruit. Cherries, apricots, nectarines and my favourite peaches! So when the markets start to carry them I always make sure to pick some up.
To me when you can buy local you SHOULD! and peaches are the epitomy of local farm fresh food I love.

My oven as most of you know is STILL broken so I resort yet again to my grill...ummm can anyone say Bobby Flay?
I saw him make peach crumble on the BBQ the other day and so of course I had to try.
The recipe SO simple!

The whole process takes 30 minutes from start to finish and you have a wonderful dessert with TONS of summer flavour.




Peach Crumble:
Adapted from Bobby Flay's Boy meets Grill

8 freestone peaches, halved and stones removed
Handful of granola (not instant)
Handful of brown sugar
1/4 cup of butter melted
Cinnamon, to taste

* now you can add flour if you want. I made the recipe as is and I think the next time I will add flour to my crumble mixture but it's totally up to you.*

Turn your BBQ/grill up to high and place peahes on till they have nice grill marks about 4 minutes, turn and grill for another 4 minutes.

Remove from grill.

Slice peaches and place either in a large ovenproof dish or in individual dishes.

Mix granola, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter together. (at this point I would add the optional flour and make a crumble)

Place on top of the peaches.

Place dish on to cookie sheet and put directly on BBQ, set the temp on medium or whatever will give you close to 350 -400 degrees shut the lid and leave for about 15 - 20 minutes or until crumble is brown.

*You can lower the temp if it starts to turn brown to quickly*

The recipe calls for caramel sauce and ice cream, I vanilla frozen yogurt and made a quick caramel sauce using:

Quick caramel sauce:
handful of brown sugar
couple tbsp of unsalted butter
1/4 c. heavy cream

Place brown sugar and butter in small pot and melt.

Once bubbling turn down heat, add cream and stir till incorporated

That's it!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Summer Eats - Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta Lasgna

So we just got back from the cottage yesterday (it was a long weekend in Ontario). So knowing that I didn't have any groceries in the house, I gave my boys the option of whatever they wanted for dinner.

It was a an easy pick for my little one...LASAGNA!!!

My main man piped in with a "mmm... can we have spinach and ricotta???"

Well obviously I can't dissapoint so lasgna it was.

We don't eat vegetarian all the time but with a meal like this , a dish packed full of veggies is the only way to go.

I list spinach and mushroom, but obviously you can choose whatever veg you want.

Oh I almost forgot one thing. I still have NO!!!!!! oven (my main man is clinking away at it as we speak) so this pasta dish is done on the BBQ!







Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta Lasagna:

1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
2 500ml tubs of creamy ricotta cheese (I used one full fat and one low fat)
1 small tube of herbed chevre cheese, crumbled
12 - 15 mushrooms or so you have about 2 cups , sliced
2 bags of baby spinach
1 box of oven ready lasagna sheets
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of balsamic vinager
1 sprig of fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese






Mix crushed tomatos and tomato paste together in a bowl with some salt and pepper, set aside
Mix ricotta together with chevre, add some salt and pepper to taste

Heat large pan on medium heat with a tbsp of olive oil and add garlic and thyme.
Add mushrooms and saute for 2 - 3mins.
Add a tbsp of balsamic vinager and saute for an additional 2 mins, set aside

Heat a large pan on high heat and add olive oil and garlic.
Add spinach and add some salt and pepper.
Add a tsp of water and clamp a lid on the pan for about 3 mins, till just wilted.
Set aside.

Take tomato sauce and heat itup in the microwave for about 2 mins till just a bit warm.

In a 13 x 9 inch pan , spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Line with pasta sheets. Spread more tomato sauce, cheese mixture, some mushrooms and spinach.

Top with some more tomato sauce. Repeat process until everything is gone.

MAKE SURE you end up with sauce on the top or a mixture of the cheese and sauce.

Sprinkle some parmesan on top.

Cover the top with foil and place on the BBQ.

Use indirect heat at about 375 degrees for 45 - 50 minutes

My broiler still works so I browned the top (without foil) for about 5 - 7 minute.

Let sit for 10 minutes and then

MANGE!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Daring Challenge



So this month was my 1st ever DB challenge! and let's just say challenge would be an understatement, for me anyway.

A shout out to Chris from Mele Cotte for this month's challenge!!!

Let's start with the beginning...first off my oven, dead, and I mean dead. The broiler works and the stove works but of course not the OVEN!
So my wonderful and talented partner J. decided he would have at her and actually got the girl to work, well at least that what's we thought...
I had just come to the end of the genoise recipe and my folding of ingredients was complete. So I turn around to open the oven door and put my would be masterpiece in and nothing!!!!
NO heat, NO 375!
I let out a bloodcurdling scream with some profanity that would make a biker blush. Slammed the oven door shut and promptly walked over to my vacant neighbours house and preheated her oven all in which at the same time praying I would not have deflated eggs whites in this 30 degree weather.
Needless to say it turned out fine, maybe not as voluminous as I would have liked but the cake was a cake...phew!
After this most painstaking process I took a good week off from the challenge. I was motivated to make praline paste which was easy peasy and that's was about it.
So one evening before leaving for the cottage I got all my muster up and went B-A-N-A-N-A-S on the challenge. I made buttercream and ganache and syrup and glaze...then proceeded to put together my cake.
While slicing my cake I noticed it wouldn't make 3 layers...(damn oven) and I also forgot to syrup my first layer...oh well c'est la vie I guess.
The final product was yummy...however for me not worth the fuss...SORRY :(





Almond Genoise with Praline Buttercream

Adapted from "Great Cakes" by Carol Walter

Recipe:

Almond Genoise
Praline buttercream
Fruit Jam Glaze
Simple syrup
Chocolate Ganache


Almond Genoise:


One 9 inch cake sliced in 2 layers (or 3 if your an expert)


- 4 large egg yolks

- 1/2 cup sugar

- 4 large egg whites

- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

- 1 tbsp sugar

- 1/3 cup almonds, ground

- 1/2 cup AP flour

- 1 1/2 tbsp butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line 2 - 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper then butter and flour bottom and sides.

In a bowl whisk whole eggs and sugar in a double boiler over hot water and beat until triple in volume then remove from water.

In another bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to form soft peaks

Add sugar while beating

Fold egg whites into whole egg mixture and gently fold in ground almonds, flour and butter.

Distribute batter between the 2 pans. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until lightly brown and springy to touch. Cool in pans.

Can be made in advance and frozen or refrigerated once cool.


Praline Paste:


- 1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Almonds, toasted and skinless

- 2/3 cup Sugar

- Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter or a Silpat

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet.

Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges.

Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly.

When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters.

Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture**

Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder.

To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place.

Do not refrigerate.


American Praline Buttercream:

- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
- 1 cup confectioners sugar

- 1/2 recipe of praline paste

Cream butter and sugar together till fluffy and add praline paste, make sure to break up paste otherwise you will end up with chunks, and I mean chunks!

Add more sugar if needed. Set aside until ready to use. Do not refrigerate unless your using the icing the next day or later.


Apricot Glaze:

Good for one 9-inch cake

- 2/3 cup thick apricot preserves

- 1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants.

With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.


Sugar Syrup:

Makes enough one 9-inch cake


- 1 cup water

- 1/4 cup sugar

- 2 Tbsp. dark rum or flavoured liqueur (kaluha, cointreau, frangelico)

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake.

*Can be made in advance.


Ganache Glaze:

- 8 oz whipping cream

- 8-9 oz chocolate chips (bittersweet)

Heat cream on low for 10 minutes, do not boil.

Add chocolate off heat and leave to melt for 5 minutes then whisk till smooth.

Cool for 15 - 20 minutes.




Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Night Nosh




Ok so at the end of a long week the last thing some people feel like doing is putting together a nice dinner.

Well consider me the alternative. The only way for me to unwind after a week of work is to cook something I have a deep desire for. Something comforting and above all tasty!

We have recently started having our produce delivered by a small family run business that specializes in organic foods.

For the price of going to any big box store, I now can have organic locally grown food brought to my door.

Hezah!

So when I peeked in the fridge today to see what remain of my weekly delivery I was presently surprised by what I found:


-cremini mushrooms
- yellow squash
- basil


Well this called for something yummy, a risotto perhaps???

So here it is, not the most conventional dish for July but scrumptious none the less!


Creamy risotto with cremini mushrooms and yellow squash:

2 garlic cloves , minced

2 small onions , minced

8 cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 yellow squash, halved and sliced thinly

1 - 1.5 c. arborio rice

6 cups chicken stock, don't worry about homemade... I don't

1/4 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated

1 - 2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

handful of basil

salt and pepper

Directions:
Warm chicken stock over low heat till slightly simmering.

Place a large heavy pan on the stove over med- high heat.

Add olive oil and butter together, melt.

Once butter has melted add garlic and onions, saute till translucent about 3 - 5 minutes

Once they are softened add the rice and stir to coat all the rice with the oil/butter mixture.

**Don't let the rice brown***

Turn heat to medium

Add one ladle of the stock to the pan and stir to incorporate into rice. Keep stirring till all the liquid has been absorbed.

Repeat this process of one ladle at a time and the stirring for about 20 minutes.

Once rice still a bit al dente add the mushrooms and squash.

Add a ladle of stock and let the mixture sit for about 3 minutes before stirring.

Taste for salt and pepper

Test for doneness.

Risotto is one of those things that people either like al dente or a bit softer.

*** Always remeber it is supposed to be creamy though***

After about 25 minutes is good and it should be done.
Turn off heat.

In a small bowl mix together cream, cheese and basil.

Add this to the risotto and mix.

Serve with more basil for garnish or more cheese, whatever you like!

Serves about 4ish



Soo not used to this!

Ok so the funny thing about food blogging is that you can talk on just about anything!
Here's the deal. I always forget to that anything I make up for dinner or dessert out of my head or otherwise I can put on here. 3 weeks ago I made 2 keylime pies and didn't take a single picture. Then 2 Sunday's ago I made a Korean BBQ feast and a double layer ice cream pie...grrrr... and still NO pictures.
Someone remind me of what I'm doing here.
So I have decided to try and do 1 post a week on anything sweet or savoury and maybe eventually it will become habit and I won't be one of those people with a 1 a month post.
:(
Sincerely,
NSV

Friday, July 4, 2008

Protein Punch


So lately I have been looking at ways to change my eating habits. I LOVE food. Any kind for that matter. I love a big meal at the end of the day; however, my hips..not so much. So to level off my huge intake at the end of the day I decided to make breakfast a protein power packed extravaganza! Not leaving out of course a little bit of sweet ;)

Makes 6 servings or so

This recipe can be modified in infinite dimensions with any fruit you like, I used cherries because they were in season and they are yummy:

1/2 pint Blueberries
1 cup cherries (halved and pitted)
2 Tbsp maple syrup (NOT the fake stuff)

Throw it all into a pot on med/high for 5 - 7 minutes.
Taste for sweetness and adjust to your preference.
I also like to add a bit of lemon juice at the end for a hint of tang.

Now the protein part you ask?
Well once your concoction has cooled, spoon about 1/4 of cup of the fruit onto 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.

FYI - Cottage cheese (low fat) packs 15, yep 15 grams of protein!!!! all for a measly 100 calories - that's without fruit.

Blueberries are fab at the elimination of free radicals a.k.a "bad guys" running through our bodies. Take away the sugar aspect in the blueberries and your are dealing with an antioxident party for 1! So a serving of those hurts NOBODY! except the "bad guys".
They also pack 8.4 grams of fibre per 100 grams!
Not bad for the little fruit huh?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My blog name

Ok, ok before people start getting all up in arms thinking I am a vanilla hater, I am not!!!!
I first posted my name as "Dessert First", but after a wonderfully nice blogger, Fanny brought to my attention that I may have potentially pinched someones name I decided I would pick a new one. One that is sort of a play one words.
My background is "not so vanilla". I'm half British and half Asian..."waysian" for those who don't know the term. No we don't find it derogatory we actually embrace it with open arms.
So this post is just to clarify that I am NOT, repeat NOT a vanilla hater. Bring on the creme brulee, panna cotta and ice cream!!!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

So it's a start...




Here it is...the cake I mean. It turned out just ok. I think I should have gone out and bought sourcream like the recipe suggested.

The strawberries look half decent.



The recipe is an adaptation from Donna Hay's "Off the Shelf", the icing is from epicurious.com, it's a white chocolate buttercream.



It's my first go so if you would like the recipe just let me know. I'm not going to publish it because I'm not completely sastified with it.