Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DB: French Yule Log + Update

Merry Christmas Everyone! 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.

When I saw the 18 page recipe, and the completed pictures I freaked out for a minute. Seriously though, this was no easy task. There are 6 layers, and we had to make all 6. There's a creme brulee layer, and I've never even MADE creme brulee before! It was definitely intimidating...and with good reason! The recipe was so long because there are different flavor variations for each layer, so that helps shrink it down to size. I made the dark chocolate mousse, almond cake, coconut crisp, cinnamon milk ganache, vanilla creme brulee and dark chocolate icing.
All in all, it is very doable if you have a lot of time and freezer space...which I did not. Four days, TONS of dirty dishes, and a LOT of patience later, it is almost done. The icing set up before it could spread all along the log, so I tried to use a spatula to spread it around. Bad idea, it just took away the shine and it was too thick to spread. That stuff sets up FAST! Other than that and a small issue burning sugar it turned out pretty well. Each element isn't THAT hard to make, but putting them all together really makes for a bear of a recipe. I like one dish wonder kind of recipes, not this kind of long, laborious pretty looking type thing. It is very tasty, very rich and very smooth. I like the way it tastes, but its so labor intensive! Good things come to those who wait? Henny Penny perhaps? Its fun to try new recipes, and I'm glad I participated, but chances of me making this again are slim. Recipe to follow!
Update: I think this tastes AMAZING! YUM. Absolutely fabulous. Divine even. The cinnamon ganache might be my favorite, but I also love the coconut crisp and the almond cake. The creme brulee layer didn't do much for me, but I can appreciate the vanilla balancing the chocolate. On second thought, if I really want to impress someone (maybe the BF's parents or a fancy dinner party) I would make it again, if I had the time and patience. I was bitter with 4 days of labor and dirty dishes before, but now that all the dishes are clean and my pretty log is in the freezer, things look a little brighter! Taste: 4 stars!

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)
Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking
Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper
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.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

Finely mix the almond meal and the caster 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 Dark Chocolate Mousse
Preparation time: 20mn
Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.
2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler (or one small saucepan in a larger one), heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the rest of the cream until stiff. (THIS IS A CORRECTION)
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Cinnamon Milk Ganache Insert
Preparation time: 10mn
Equipment: pan, whisk.
If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.
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.
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp / 135g) heavy cream
A pinch of cinnamon
2.7 oz (75g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
3.2 oz (90g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. 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 (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. Heat the cream with the cinnamon (use the quantity of cinnamon you want to infuse the cream, a pinch is the smallest amount suggested) until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the milk and dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. 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 Coconut (Crisp) Insert
Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)
Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or use an empty bottle of olive oil).

Coconut Crisp Insert
3.5 oz (100g) white chocolate
1 oz (1/3 cup/25g) shredded coconut
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) unsalted butter
2.1 oz (60g) rice krispies

1. Spread the coconut on a baking tray and bake for 5-10 minutes at 375°F (190°C) to toast (a different temperature might work better for you with your own oven).
2. Melt the white chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir until smooth and add the toasted coconut.
3. Add 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
Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking
Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper
Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...
1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) 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 Icing
Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)
Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan
Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
Add to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different.
You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.
1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.
2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) 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.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) 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.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with TWO pieces of Dacquoise the order is:
1) Dacquoise
2) Mousse
3) Creme Brulee Insert
4) Mousse
5) Praline/Crisp Insert
6) Mousse
7) Ganache Insert
8) Dacquoise

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gingerbread pagoda, thai ceviche and a holiday party: the week in review

So tragicaly I haven't had enough hours in the day this week and in addition to not being able to cook Phillipine food for My Kitchen, My World this week, I didn't have a chance to post all my cooking adventures this week! So here goes... in no particular order!
We had a gingerbread house making party the other night. Here's my gingerbread pagoda, complete with Koi pond/Koi, and grass.
Here's the BF's Gingerbread Colisseum. You can't quite see, but the gummy bear "gladiators" inside are hilarious. One is beheaded, and the other is lying in a pool of blood. Happy Christmas everyone! hahaha. Tragically, neither of ours won awards... I guess I"m glad we didn't win the "Biggest Waste of Carbohydrates" award...
I made Thai Ceviche using an ingredient list thankfully provided by a chef from Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia. Their version was amazing, as is all their food, and this is my feeble attempt. It turned out pretty well, but something was missing...Still haven't figured out what it was though... Oh well, it was still good, and my dad's willing to be a taste-tester as long as necessary! One note: When you let the fish steep with the lime juice it turns a paler color, but at the restaurant it was basically fresh fish tossed with the sauce and then served...no letting the fish sit with the citrus juice on it. I think I would prefer the texture of the fish better that way, but if you prefer to have the citrus "cook" the fish as they say then by all means, let it sit an hour.
Thai Ceviche:
tuna, cubed
1 can coconut milk
3 tbsp coconut water
4 Thai chilis, deseeded and sliced lengthwise
1 Jalapeno deseeded sliced lengthwise
2 stalks lemongrass
2 limes juice and zest
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro- for garnish
Steep chilis, jalapeno and lemongrass in coconut milk and coconut water together to infuse flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze one lime over fish, squeeze other into liquid mixture and add zest. Toss fish with lime juice and sesame oil. When liquid mixture has cooled also toss with fish. Garnish with cilantro, serve.
I also prepared the food for a last minute holiday party for the parents. I bought a lot premade, but I made some key things such as these Pancetta, Pear and Goat Cheese Bites from epicurios.com. Super simple, but the taste was amazing!! The salty and crispy pancetta plus the creamy cheese and the sweetness of the pear was a super great combination. yumm.... I think I ate about a quarter of them as I made them!
Pancetta, Pear and Goat Cheese Bites:
1 Package/ 12 slices pancetta
1 package soft goat cheese
1 pear
Bake pancetta 10 min at 400 or until crispy. When cool top with 1 tsp goat cheese and slice of pear. Sprinkle with thyme.
I also made a beef roast using Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli's Food Network Recipe for Roast Beef with Potatoes and Green Peppercorns. Also AMAZING! I couldn't find peppercorns of any color in brine so I just used a jar of capers! Even after a small mix up with the oven heat and time, it came out PERFECT. The crust was fantastic. I highly recommend it!
Roast Beef with Potatoes and Green Peppercorns:
1 large beef top round, about 8 to 10 pounds Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup Dijon mustard 4 ounces green peppercorns in brine 1 lemon, juiced 4 pounds small potatoes, washed and dried
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Place the roast on a flat surface and season all sides with salt and pepper. Combine the mustard and green peppercorns and the lemon juice and rub all over the beef. Place it on a roasting rack. Place the potatoes in the bottom of the roasting pan and season them with salt and pepper. Place the rack in the pan directly over the potatoes.
Place the pan in the center of the oven and cook, undisturbed for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees F. Count about 10 minutes for each pound then begin testing the internal temperature. The thermometer should read about 130 degrees F for medium rare. Remember that "carry over" cooking (when the roast comes out of the oven and rests) will mean the temperature will increase a few degrees after the roast is removed from the oven. If it's undercooked, you can always cook it more, but if overcooked, there is no fixing it!
Remove the roast beef and place it on a flat surface for carving. Transfer the potatoes to a serving platter. Serve the roast, whole on the platter to carve at the table. Alternatively, arrange slices of beef over the potatoes and coat with a layer of the pan sauce.
So this hummus I just made look pretty...didn't actually make it... shhh don't tell the guests.
Parmesan Crisps: Super yummy, super easy. Basically, divide a tub of grated parm into thirds. Put one third at a time into a med/large nonstick skillet. let it cook until dark yellow/browned color as shown. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and dried basil while hot. Turn out onto paper towel, let cool, break into pieces. Yumm....
Red Kidney Bean Dip. Fabulous. Nigella Lawson does it again. I love her show and her recipes. The way she describes food makes it so sexy and luscious. Red Kidney Bean Dip:
3 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin) 1 large onion, finely diced 3 fat cloves garlic, minced or grated 1 3/4 cups kidney beans, reserving the liquid in the can 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 lime, zested and juiced
Special equipment: food processor
Heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until soft and golden.
Add the kidney beans and their liquid and stir in the tomato paste and spices and cook for a few minutes.
Add the lime juice to the kidney bean mixture. Take the pan off the heat and when it has cooled a little, process the mixture until it is a bumpy puree. When it is cool, arrange in small bowls and sprinkle over the reserved lime zest.
Wheew... I hope this week is a little more relaxed...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Kitchen, My World- France

Bienvenue a la France!! So this week was my first challenge with My Kitchen, My World. Lauren chose French food! Exciting but semi-intimidating. Although my family and I visited France on our vacation to Europe last summer, I don't remember much about the cuisine other than the fast food type meals we had like crepes (YUM) and Croque Madame (ALSO YUM). All I remember from high school French is "Je t'aime mon petit chou chou," petit pois, pommes de terre and other random vocabulary.

The little I know about French food seems complicated and very rich. First thing that came to mind: Quiche. Totally predictable, but I haven't made one since I was in 9th grade or so. Then I thought of Coq au Vin. Never had it, but it sounds good..who doesn't like chicken and wine? I bought some green beans from the farmer's market and decided to make them...Not necessarily french, but if I cut them french-style does that count? Here's my plate....

I made the Quiche with Arugula and Bacon using this recipe from epicurious.com. I made it as written, except I added some nutmeg to the custard, and I did not make a crust...trying to cut a few calories.
Arugula and Bacon Quiche- My style

6 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped shallots
8 ounces arugula, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 5 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup whipping cream
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)

1tsp freshly grated nutmeg

For filling:Cook bacon in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and drain. Add shallots to same skillet and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Add arugula and sauté until just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add balsamic vinegar; toss to combine.
Sprinkle arugula mixture, then bacon over crust. Whisk cream, eggs, salt and pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in cheese. Pour mixture into crust.
Bake quiche until filling is slightly puffed and golden, about 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into wedges.

For the Coq Au Vin I used a Julia Child Recipe on Food Network.com, but adapted it alot based on other recipes I skimmed.

Coq Au Jess

5oz Bacon

One chicken cut up

1/4 cup Brandy

3 cups red wine, I used Pinot Noir

1 can chicken stock (more if necessary)

3 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped

1/2 tbsp tomato paste

4 stalks thyme

1 bay leaf

12 Pearl or Boiler Onions

1 package mushroom blend

1 package baby bellas, sliced

salt and pepper

herbs de provence

Cut the bacon into bite size pieces. In large sautee pan with lid or casserole pot saute bacon until browned and crisp.

Meanwhile, blanch pearl onion for 1-2 minutes, cool, and skin will peel off easily.

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper and herbs de provence. Sautee 3 min on each side. Remove chicken from pan. Add mushrooms to pan, sautee briefly. Remove mushrooms. Add brandy to deglaze pan, scraping bits off bottom with a wooden spoon. Ignite brandy, shaking pan back and forth until flames subside.

Return mushrooms, chicken and add onions to pan. Pour wine into pan and add enough chicken stock to cover chicken with liquid.

Stir in tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf.

Cover and simmer 25 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Mushrooms in pot.

Semi-cooked chicken just after adding wine to pot.

Pearl Onions...Aren't they pretty?? I've really got to work on my photography skills...

Green Beans:

1lb green beans (Not sure how many I had, enough for 4 people....)

4 slices bacon, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 tbsp olive oil

lemon zest

lemon juice

small handful parmesan cheese

Boil pot of water and blanch green beans for 2-3 minutes. Rinse with cool water.

Heat oil and bacon in med sized pan until bacon starts to crisp. Add garlic to pan. Simmer garlic 3 min or so. Add green beans to pan, mix to

coat with oil/garlic mixture. Add lemon zest and squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and parmesan cheese. Toss and serve!

Overall, the meal was incredible. My parents and the BF all ate it and raved about it, especially the Coq Au Vin. Make sure you don't overblanch the pearl onions like I did, mine kinda disintegrated after the 20 minute simmer into little wilted chunks of onion. Still tasty, but not as asestetically pleasing as the cooked round onions. The BF, who doesn't eat cheese, LOVED the quiche, even with the gruyere. The green beans were simple but good, I love their crunch and the brightness the lemon adds. We ate all but one small slice of quiche at dinner, and most of the chicken and green beans. It's just too bad I didn't have enough time to make a luscious French dessert!! Bon Appetit!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving...late I know

So I intended to write briefly about my Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately with traveling with family and interviewing for residencies I haven't been as vigilant on here. Here's a shot of the table post dinner (and my brother):

Of course we had turkey and stuffing, but also corn pudding, my mom's specialty. It's sweet, but not as sweet as a dessert.

Also we have green jello, one of my favorite comfort foods. It is lime jello with sour cream and crushed pineapple. Simple, but amazing. I could eat a whole pan...

Homemade cranberry sauce:

And of course a sweet potato casserole. One side with a pecan and brown sugar topping, and the other with my homemmade marshmallows. yummmm.....Somehow I managed to forget to photograph the BEST part... dessert. My mom makes a 4 layer coconut cake. It is the absolute number one best most awesome coconut cake in the entire world. I have not had another piece of coconut cake in my entire life that even compares in the least to this cake, and it is definitely photogenic. I also made a sweet potato pie that was pretty good. A little over baked, but still tasty.

As soon as everything settles down (4 more interviews before Christmas!) I'll be much more timely with posting!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My First Daring Baker's Challenge!

I finally participated in my first Daring Baker's Challenge! Since I signed up in mid-October I've been a little nervous and excited about what the challenge could be. The past two months were pizza dough and crackers, so I was definitely a little apprehensive about what crazy baked good we would have to prepare, but I was more than happy to see Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting as the challenge. It definitely took me an afternoon to make it, with trials and errors, but in the end I ended up with this:
Sweet 70's tupperware cake dome courtesy of my grandma
I didn't have the deep 9 in cake pan that was called for, so I baked it in two 9 inch pans and then layered the two with some leftover caramel sauce in between, and topped it with the frosting. I also drizzled some caramel sauce on top... I wasn't sure what else to do with it! While making the sauce I only burnt one batch of sugar, and one batch of butter for the frosting. Pretty good I'd say. They both go from good to horribly wrong so fast! I forgot to take photos while I was baking... there would have been some really interesting ones!! The cake itself was heavenly, but I thought the frosting was too sweet; as in way to sweet... and I LOVE sugar so you know it was sweet if I couldn't eat it. The flavor was great, but I thought it was too sugary sweet for my taste. Next time I won't use all of the frosting on the cake, I'll just use part of the batch. Overall it was really fun and I can't wait until next month's challenge!
Shuna Fish Lydon's recipe follows or is available here, and thanks to the hosts this month: Dolores, Alex, Jenny and Natalie!
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 of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, 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.
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.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound 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)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Favorite Holiday Movie

ELF!! Absolutely hilarious. If you havent seen it, please do. It is hysterical. I laugh so hard my cheeks hurt. Fantastic way to start off the holiday season.


I've had some culinary adventures lately and have just been late putting them online. I made thai soup about a week ago now. It is the perfect thing for a cold wintery day. I made mine vegetarian but you can add shrimp or shredded chicken if that strikes your fancy. Here's my take on a thai favorite:

Thai Soup:
2 quarts chicken broth
1 can light coconut milk
1-2 inches ginger root, grated or chopped finely
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced into large pieces
1 package fresh mushrooms or one can straw mushrooms, drained
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 limes juiced
1 tbsp lime zest
3 thai chilis
Shrimp or shredded chicken
salt and pepper to taste
Add everything except meat to pot, bring to simmer. Add shrimp, cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are pink. Serve. Do not eat lemongrass.
The lime and the coconut plus the spice from the chilis really taste so good together. I think it rivals any thai restaurant soup, and its so easy and simple to make at home!

Wedding Shower

I was commissioned to bake a cake for my cousin's bridal shower last week. Her favorite is german chocolate, so I made a chocolate cake with coconut buttercream. This time I used my usual chocolate cake recipe and made the CakeLove coconut buttercream. It was even better than the first time I made it! I also used some dark chocolate cocoa in addition to the regular strength. The cake was moist and rich, and the icing contrasted it perfectly. It was a hit at the party, and my dad ate about half on his own. I hope the heart on top wasnt too corny, but I wasn't sure how else to decorate it!
Here's a picture from the wedding itself...

Yes, it was outside, in Virginia, in the COLD! Some guests stayed in their cars until the ceremony started. The reception was catered, not sure by who, but the food was great. Southern classics: fried chicken, baked chicken, super good mac and cheese, green beans, potato salad, ham, rolls and a succotash. Yummmm!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Edo's Squid, how I love thee...

Words cannot describe how much I love Edo's Squid. The food is soooo amazing. This time I had the fried calamari (as usual) and the halibut. The calamari is perfectly seasoned, fried to a perfect golden brown and just melts in your mouth. It's not rubbery or stringy, the batter is light and crispy, and a squirt of lemon juice really just makes it all wonderful. I like mine with a little bit of marinara sauce, also excellent at Edo's. The halibut was also delicious. It was a generous portion on a piping hot plate, sprinkled with herbs. Once again, perfecly seasoned so that the flavor is there, but you can still taste the wonderful flavor of the fish. The fish was moist and flaky, it was just too good for words. Even the side dish of pasta was amazing. I had the garlic sauce on it- basically garlic, oil and herbs splashed over noodles. Simple, but oh so tasty. The BF had the veal marsala- SUPER good! Thin pieces of veal perfectly cooked, and the marsala sauce was great. Very sweet and light, but rich. Scrumptious. We couldn't finish it all last night so ate it a few minutes ago...another 15 minutes of pleasure. So good. If you haven't been, go. If you love tiramisu it is also very good, but its a little too espresso-ey for me... It's really really strong, and I don't drink coffee daily. A little to strong for me... I prefer Ellwood Thompson's a little more. The gelato is also good, and the cannoloni (sp?) is good too. Everything on the menu is good. I could go on for days, but I wont. I'll keep dreaming about when I'll go there again!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Applesauce...straight from the tree!

Last week my dad and I visited some family farmland in central Virginia and did some work making some espallier apple trees
and we also picked a BUNCH of apples from some full grown apple trees that have been there for a few generations. We weren't sure what to do with all the apples so we decided on APPLESAUCE!! For the first batch we peeled, cored, and sliced them, and then cooked them for a couple hours over a wood stove. Then we ran some of them through a ricer because we had two different types of apples, the soft ones that disintegrated with cooking and the crisp ones that are better for making pies etc. After that we canned them, cooled them, and ATE 'EM. We made about 3 gallons with the first batch! Wow...homemade applesauce is GOOD. We added a little bit of sugar, but not a lot. It's nice to eat something you made, of all natural ingredients, without preservatives, and it is delicious. I could eat a jar at a time if I let myself. I'll post a picture soon. The second batch will be tomorrow most likely, except with a different technique. This time we'll boil them with the skins and cores on, then run them through the food mill to get the smooth consistency. Woohoo!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


There's nothing in the world I love more than a good cupcake, but recently I've been into cakes. I like cakes because they look so pretty when you make them. Something about all the layers and fillings, the different things you can do to the frosting- designs, decorations etc... ANYways...after eating the most incredible piece of cake at CakeLove in Tyson's Corner, I went back to the register and bought 3 more pieces to take to my family and the cookbook. Ridiculous, I know. But the cake was SOOO GOOD! Here are my first two attempts at the recipes.

First, two Saturdays ago I made the "New German Chocolate," a chocolate butter cake with coconut buttercream. wow. If you haven't had buttercream, it is SO good. I like it best at room temp, its nice and fluffy, smooth, but still rich and the flavor is out of control. If you eat it chilled it melts in your mouth, dissolving into a puddle of bliss. Even better, its not hard to make and it is definitely worth the effort! Here's my take on Warren Brown's classic:

I am still working on my photography skills, this is using the "food" setting on my camera. The cake was ridiculously good, and I think I even overcooked the cake slightly. I highly recommend it.

Last Saturday I made a vanilla butter cake with a raspberry buttercream and a chocolate ganache. I dont know which cake I liked better! The flavors all went together just beautifully and the raspberry ganache was great. You add raspberry puree to the basic buttercream recipe and voila, amazing frosting. Again, my interpretation:

It doesn't look as pretty...the ganache was still uneven and hadn't set yet. You can see the raspberries peeking out... This buttercream was an italian buttercream from the book that required whipping egg whites and making a sugar syrup, but it was worth it. I have another piece in the fridge now just waiting for me... yum.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

At last!

Hello! I've been wanting to create a food blog for a long time now, and I finally did it! I'm no professional chef or photographer, so excuse my inexperience! Hope you enjoy my adventures with food!