Monday, December 28, 2009

devilish chocolate roulade

I made these for holiday dinner with my family. We enjoyed them, but they were a little too rich for me. I think perhaps the "plain chocolate" was supposed to have been milk chocolate, but I used dark. I make this again, I'll either omit the chocolate filling entirely, or make it with milk chocolate and use half as much, and I would increase the mascarpone.

devilish chocolate roulade (from Chocolate, Christine France)

6 oz dark chocolate, broken into squares
4 eggs, separated
1/2 C baking sugar
cocoa powder for dusting

8 oz. plain chocolate, broken into squares
2 eggs, separated
generous 1 C mascarpone

(The recipe also called for brandy in the chocolate filling and for chocolate-dipped strawberries for decoration; I omitted these because I didn't have brandy or strawberries on hand.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 13 x 9" Swiss roll pan and line with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar ina bowl until pale and thick, then stir in the melted chocolate evenly.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then fold lightly and evenly into the egg and chocolate mixture.

Scrape into the pan and spread evenly to the corners. Bake for 15-20 min., until the sponge is well risen and firm to the touch. Dust a sheet of parchment paper with cocoa. Turn the sponge out on the paper, cover with a clean dish towel, and leave to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over hot water. Remove from the heat. Beat the egg yolks together, then beat into the chocolate mixture. In a separate bowl,a whisk the whites to soft peaks, then fold them lightly and evenly into the filling.

Uncover the roulade, remove the lining paper and spread with the mascarpone. Spread the chocolate mixture over the top, then roll up carefully from a long side to enclose the filling. Transfer to a serving plate and dust with cocoa powder.

prickly pear mousse

I made this because B loved a prickly pear smoothie mix that he found in the cupboard. Looking through our cupboards is not unlike going on an archeological dig. I buy things that I have no idea how I'll use and I can't bear to throw away anything interesting or potentially useful. So, you can look and find gravy mixes from when my great-grandmother died and I inherited half her pantry and spices I received third-hand when a friend moved to California. The prickly pear smoothie mix was from a fundraiser seven years ago. Which is to say that when the small box ran out, I had no idea how to get more. But our grocery store carries prickly pears, so I decided it would be fun to make something with them. A mousse seemed like the best way to ensure that the prickly pears' flavor wasn't overwhelmed.

It turned out to be pretty good, although it was quite time consuming to process the pears. (If anyone has tips on processing prickly pears, I'd love to hear them.) And next time it will take even longer, because I'll use more prickly pears.

prickly pear mousse
5 prickly pears
2 C heavy cream, chilled
2 egg whites
1/8-1/4 C sugar

Peel the prickly pears, using caution and/or gloves. Even though most of the spines are removed from those sold in stores, I still managed to get on in my hand, and because it was so tiny, it was hard to find and remove.

Mash through a strainer, saving juice and discarding seeds. I used my pestle with the strainer for this.

Reduce juice (I started with around 1.5 C) to around 1/4 C. (I reduced mine in two batches; the first I reduced too far--it was a thick paste--and the second I left more watery. Next time, I'll shoot for a nice syrupy reduction.)

Whip cream to stiff peaks, adding half of sugar when soft peaks are reached. Mix in prickly pear reduction. Whip egg whites to stiff peaks, again adding sugar when soft peaks are reached. Lightly fold into whipped cream mixture.

We ate our mousse immediately; I don't know how well it keeps.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

lentil soup

A few weeks ago, B convinced me to try some of Amy's Organic Lentil Soup. It was a hard sell, because lentil soup is ugly. It isn't just plain jane- or ugly betty-ugly. It's hideous
brunehilda-ugly. Lentils aren't just badly dressed but secretly beautiful. Designer clothes, a
makeover, and losing the tacky glasses won't save this dish. There's no recovering from looking like something the dog has already digested. And to top it off, this stuff smells a little bad. But underneath the ugly is an amazing soup. Healthy, filling, and delicious. I fell in love.

Unfortunately, Costco only carries it packaged with an equal amount of minestrone, and while Amy's minestrone is fine, it just can't compare to the recipe we make. So, after reading the back of the soup can and looking up a few recipes online, I threw this together. And I think it's as good as Amy's.

A couple of things: If the soup doesn't taste good, add more salt. Seriously. Salt makes all the difference with this soup. And when you puree, use the blender and not your food processor. It's a real pain to get all the little bits of lentil out of the inside of the blade of the food processor afterward.

lentil soup
5 C dried lentils
2 ribs celery, sliced very thin
carrots, sliced thin (about same amount as celery)
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped small
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
salt, to taste

Put lentils in pot; cover with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium. Add vegetables and spices. Simmer, stirring and adding more water occasionally. When lentils are soft and you are happy with the amount of liquid, turn off the heat. (This will be fairly thick soup.) Take a few cups of the soup and puree them in the blender. Add back to the soup. Salt to taste.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

peach pie and fruit theft

It amazes me, the entitlement people feel toward other people's fruit trees. People who would never dream of stealing so much as a pen think nothing of snatching the tempting fruits of their neighbors' trees. About a year ago, I was reading a popular food blog. The author had posted about fruit was falling to the ground from a neighbor's tree in copious amounts and was apparently going to be wasted. The author confessed to going climbing into the neighbor's yard and taking the fruit. This elicited a barrage of comments from like-minded readers, patting themselves on the back for preventing precious fruit from going to waste. One even had the audacity to strip a neighbor's tree without permission and then present the neighbor with a jar of jam, as though that made up for the theft. (Apparently the neighbors were, in fact, forgiving.)

I was angry when I read the post and the comments, joking about and justifying such theft. But I refrained from commenting because I hadn't commented on the blog reguarly, and I don't like my only comments to be critical. If the negative things on a blog compell me to post more than the positive ones, I just stop reading.

But now I wish I had. Last summer we were delighted to discover that our new home has a peach tree. And the peaches on this tree are the best we've ever tasted. So good that even I, mistrustful of peaches after a childhood of eating far too many canned ones, have looked forward to our peach harvest since January. When the peaches were finally ripe, I put off picking them because I was dismayed by the strange spots they all had. I didn't want to face the possibility that they could be bad. And because we just had a baby, and it has been no small adjustment. Finding even the little time needed to pick the fruit felt overwhelming.

So, the peaches were starting to fall. My husband wanted to eat them, spots notwithstanding. And I, remembering that blogger's post, decided the day had come to pick the fruit regardless of
whether we were actually going to use it. If it was good, we would celebrate with pies and cobblers. If it wasn't, I would prevent any passersby from feeling entitled to take our fruit next year on the mistaken idea that we had wasted it this year. I had a busy day running errands (everything takes so much longer when there's a baby involved), and at night, remembered my
peaches. When I went outside, I discovered that someone had stolen our peaches. Every last one.
I was devastated. We hung a sign on the tree, begging for the return of our fruit. But to no avail. So, I'll say to the internets what I wish I could say to the peach thief: Just because the fruit hasn't been picked yet doesn't mean it won't be. And even if it isn't, even if the fruit rots on the ground, that doesn't justify you in trespassing or stealing from your neighbors. Most of you wouldn't sneak into someone's house to take leftovers out of their fridge to prevent food from wasting, and it's no more your business if they choose to waste their fruit. Either get permission to pick or pony up the dough and go buy your own fruit. Chances are, if your neighbor has a tree, there's a fruit stand selling the same thing. And chances are, if your neighbor isn't going to use the fruit, they'll happily share. We can't give the fruit from our other trees away fast enough. Ask about our cherries or our pears, and the answer will be please, take more! We can't use it all, and it's a shame to waste it. We are delighted to be able to share, and we are all the more delighted that people are considerate enough to ask instead of just taking what is easily in reach.

So--if it's not yours, don't take it.

And now, for the peach pie. We resorted to buying our peaches from a local stand this year, and they were quite good, if not as good as our own peaches would have been. B's father was visiting and peach pie is his favorite, so B asked me to make one for him. I haven't made many pies and the crusts I've tried have been hit-and-miss. So I was excited to try the Best American Classics version. And my excitement was completely justified. This pie was amazing. I'll be making it every year now, and I can't wait to use the crust for a sour cherry pie, too. I made two pies, one with almond extract and one without. Somehow, even though I used the same peaches for both pies, the peaches in the pie without the extract were juicier and created a bit of a flood. The pie was still good, though a bit soggy.

lattice-top peach pie (from New Best Recipes, editors of Cook's Illustrated)
1 recipe pie dough for lattice-top pie
flour for dusting the work surface
6-7 medium, ripe peaches (about 7 C sliced)
1 TB juice from 1 lemon
1 C (7 oz.) + 1 TB sugar
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
pinch salt
3-5 TB potato starch or Minute tapioca
*I added about 1 TB almond extract

Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable). roll the larger piece of dough to a 15 x 11" rectangle about 1/8" thick; transfer the dough rectangle to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a pizza wheel, fluted pastry wheel, or paring knife, trim the long sides of the rectangle to make them straight, then cut the rectangle lengthwise into 8 strips 15" long by 1 1/4" wide. Freeze the strips on the baking sheet until firm, about 30 minutes.

Following the illustrations on page 884, roll the smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface or between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a 12" circle. Transfer the dough to a 9" pie plate by rolling the dough arounda rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan. Working around the circumference of the pan, ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressinag it into the pan bottom with the other hand. leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate in place; refrigerate the dough-line pie plate.

Remove the dough strips from the freezer; if theya re too stiff to e workable, let them stand at room temperature until malleable and softened slightly but still very cold. Form the lattice top and place in the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan and fill a large bowl with 2 quarts cold water and 2 trays ice cubes. Score an X in the bottom of each peach and simmer in the boiling water 30-60 seconds, depending on the peaches' ripeness. Transfer peaches to ice water and let stand about 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Starting from the X, peel the peach, using a paring knife to lift the skin off in strips. [I skipped this step, peeling my peaches with a vegetable peeling. I'll probably try this next time, as my way took forever.] Halve and pit each peeled peach and cut into 3/8" slices.

Toss the peach slices, lemon juice, 1 C sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and potato starch into a medium bowl.

Turn the peach mixture into the dough-lined pie plate. Remove the lattice from the freezer and place on top of the filled pie. Trim the lattice strips and crimp the pie edges. Lightly brush or spray the lattice top with 1 TB water and sprinkle with the remaining 1 TB sugar.

Lower the oven temperature to 425 F. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake until the crust is set and begins to brown, 25-30 minutes. Rotate the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F. Continue baking until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices bubble, 25-30 minutes longer. Cool the pie on a wire rack at least 2 hours before serving.

basic pie dough, lattice-top variation (New Best Recipes)
3 C flour (15 oz)
1 tsp salt
2 TB sugar
7 TB vegetable shortening, chilled [I used butter-flavored]
10 TB cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
10 TB ice water

Process the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle the ice water oer the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4" disk. Wrap in palstic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.

key lime cupcakes

My family and I have quite the sweet tooth (teeth?), so when we get together, someone frequently ends up baking dessert. One brother does pies, another has taken over Dad's fudge recipe, though Dad occasionally makes it himself, with mini-M&Ms thrown in while it's still hot. My mom and my sisters and I do the brownies, cookies, and cakes.

However, thus far, only the pie brother is willing to spend the hours baking that result in the kinds of desserts that I love. (We once created a rose cake together that will live forever in infamy. Improvisation in the kitchen, admittedly, has not been my strong point.) So when I bake with my sisters, I try to find simpler recipes that we can make together, so I can slowly convince them of the superiority of from-scratch recipes that don't require half a day to make.

So last time we were all craving dessert, I suggested we try these. We made my favorite yellow cupcake recipe (from New Best Recipes)--quick and no fail. And then we mixed up a batch of key lime pie filling and threw it into the cupcakes. Easy and delicious. You don't even need frosting. B thought they were too sticky and continues to disparage them, but my family and I loved them. If you find them too sticky as well, you could up the liminess of the cupcakes by using more zest and decrease the filling. Or you could use the cone method to fill the cupcakes after baking, if you don't mind raw eggs.

key lime cupcakes
yellow cupcakes: (modified from The New Best Recipes, editors of Cook's Illustrated)
1.5 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 C sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp salt
8 TB unsalted butter, softened
.5 C sour cream
1 large egg, plus 2 yolks, at room temperature
2 TB key lime juice
grated lime zest

key lime filling (from
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
.5 C + 2 TB key lime juice

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tins and line with muffin cups.

Mix dry ingredients. Add butter, sour cream, egg, yolks, lime juice, and zest, and beat until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula and stir by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

Whisk together sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks until combined well. Add lime juice and whisk until combined well.

Divide half of cupcake batter amount muffin tins. Add a generous helping of key lime filling to each tin, and cover with more cupcake batter. Bake as appropriate for size of cupcakes. (You may need to bake slightly longer because of filling.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

dinner & dessert: goat cheese and thyme-stuffed chicken breasts with bacon-shallot-sherry vinegar peas and herbed rice, and praline bread pudding

In an effort to improve our cooking skills, a friend and I have started cooking dinner and dessert together once a week. This was our first meal. The stuffed chicken breasts were very pretty, but it turns out that I don't like goat cheese (except served with cranberries as a spread for crackers), so I didn't care for the chicken. The peas, however, were delicious. The rice is my husband's grandfather's recipe, and like all the recipes he has come up with, it is wonderful. The bread pudding is simply the best bread pudding I've ever eaten. I recommend making extra sauce.

breaded stuffed chicken breasts (The Best Chicken Recipes, editors of Cook's Illustrated)
4 (5-6 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed with tenderloins removed
salt and ground black pepper
goat cheese and thyme filling
2 C panko
.5 C flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp Dijon mustard

1. Adjust a rack in the oven to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 F.

2. Butterfly each chicken breast and pound between two sheets of plastic wrap to .25" thick, with edges .125" thick.

3. Place stuffing near tapered end of breasts. Roll each chicken breast over filling to form a neat, tight package (roll up the end to completely enclose the stuffing, and then fold in the sides and continue rolling to form a cylinder), pressing on the seam to seal. Refrigerate, seam-side down and uncovered to allow edges to seal further, about 1 hour.

4. Toss panko with salt and pepper and spread over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and dry, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a shallow dish and cool to room temperature. Increase oven temperature to 350 F.

5. Combine flour, .25 tsp salt, and .125 tsp pepper in a second shallow dish and whisk eggs and Dijon together in a third shallow dish. Working with one chicken roll at a time, dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess, then coat with the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off. Finally, coat with bread crumbs, pressing gently so that crumbs adhere. (Up to this point, the chicken can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. Increase the baking time by 5 to 10 minutes.)

6. Place the chicken rolls at least 1 inch apart on a wire rack set over a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the center of the chicken registers 160 to 165 F on an instant-read thermometer, 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

goat cheese and thyme filling (The Best Chicken Recipes, editors of Cook's Illustrated)
1 TB unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed (about .5 tsp.)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 oz. goat cheese, softened
.125 tsp salt
.125 tsp ground black pepper

1. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the thyme and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; set aside to cool.

2. Mix the cooled onion mixture, cream cheese, goat cheese, salt, and pepper together until uniform. Spoon the cheese mixture onto the chicken.

peas with bacon, shallot, and sherry vinegar (The Best Chicken Recipes, editors of Cook's Illustrated)
6 oz. bacon, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed (about 1 tsp.)
2 tsp. sugar
1 pound frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
salt and ground black pepper

Fry bacon in nonstick skillet until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and pour off all but 2 TB of the fat. Add the shallot, garlic, and sugar; cook until softened, about 2 min. Stir in the peas and cook, stirring often, until just heated through, about 2 min. Off the heat, add 2 tsp. sherry vinegar, as well as the bacon and thyme, to the pan.

Jack's herbed rice
6 tbsp butter
2 small onions, chopped
2 cups white rice
2/3 tsp marjoram
2/3 tsp summer savory
1 1/3 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
4 chicken bouillon cubes
4 cups water

Melt butter in pan. Saute onions and rice until lightly browned. Add seasonings and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 min. on low-medium. Cool for ten minutes on warm.

praline bread pudding (Restaurant Favorites at Home, editors of Cook's Illustrated)
12 oz. good-quality French baguette, cut into 1.5" cubes
2 C pecans
6 TB unsalted butter, cut into .5" pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
12 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3 TB vanilla
2 TB hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico (I used Kahlua)
1.5 C sugar
6 C heavy cream

4 large egg yolks
.5 C sugar
.25 C hazelnut liqueur
8 TB unsalted butter

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 250 F. Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry, 30 to 40 min. Remove from oven, transfer to large plate, and cool to room temperature. Increase oven temperature to 350 F. Spread nuts on empty baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan once to turn the nuts, until fragrant, 5 to 8 min. Set aside and turn off the oven.

2. Grease 13 x 9" baking dish with butter. Spread dried bread cubes evenly in baking dish. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, hazelnut liqueur, and sugar together in a large bowl. Whisk in the cream. Pour three quarters of the custard over the bread and sprinkle the toasted pecans over the top. Using a rubber spatula, press the bread into the custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 min. Pour remaining custard evenly over the top, replace plastic wrap, and refrigerate until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour.

3. Return the oven temperature to 350 F. Remove plastic wrap and dot the top of the pudding evenly with the remaining 6 TB butter. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown, the center is slightly puffed, and the custard begins to climb up the sides of the baking dish, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool until set, about 20 min.

4. For the sauce: While the pudding is cooling, place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. heat the sugar and hazelnut liqueur in another medium bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 min. Slowly stir the warm liqueur mixture into the egg yolks. Place the bowl of yolk mixture over the simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is fluffy, pale yellow, and the whisk leaves distinct trails, about 2 min.

5. Melt the butter. Slowly drizzle the hot melted butter into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all of the butter is incorporated and the sauce is thick and creamy.

6. To serve: Cut the pudding into 12 squares. Transfer to plates and top with 2 TB of the hot hazelnut sauce each. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I love minestrone. It has a nice, rich flavor, and it always feels like a healthy thing to eat. Whenever I've had too much junk and need some vegetables, I find myself craving minestrone.

I've made some rather fantastic failures in trying to get a good minestrone. Undercooked cabbage, flavorless broth. And then I got a copy of The Best Italian Classics, which has you cook a parmesan rind in the broth and finish it with pesto. And that made all the difference. This is a great soup.
Because I'm utterly incapable of cooking a meal for two people, I can't take seriously directions that include 3/4 C carrots to make soup for six to eight people. I always add a little more of this and a little more of that until suddenly I have a cauldron of food for forty. So be warned--my directions below make a ridiculous amount of soup.

minestrone (adapted from The Best Italian Classics, editors of Cooks Illustrated)
1 small green cabbage, chopped small
2-2.5 lbs baby carrots, chopped
2 lbs green beans, chopped
3 cans stewed tomatoes
6 cans cannellini beans
2 onions, chopped
half bundle of celery, chopped
2 medium zucchinis, chopped
2 bundles spinach leaves, stemmed and cut into strips
24 C water, more as needed
1 wedge parmesan, plus any extra rind available
2 C rice
1 small jar pesto
salt and pepper

Bring water and cheese rind to a boil in a very large pot. Add vegetables and cook till tender. (Because I never prepare mise en place, I heat the water and then just start chopping things and throwing them in, beginning with the vegetables that need to cook longest, such as cabbage and carrots.) Twenty minutes before finishing, add rice. (Wild rice should be added sooner; check directions on the package.) Five minutes before finishing, add beans. Remove pot from heat. Add pesto. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, September 4, 2009

chicken breasts with duxelles stuffing and supreme sauce

A while ago, when I was feeling ambitious, I sat down with B and a stack of my cookbooks to make a list of dinner recipes to try. I've never been much of a cook when it comes to dinner. Dinner, unlike dessert, is something I don't crave. So it never occurs to me to cook it until I'm starving and then I don't feel like waiting. So I usually just eat cereal or a sandwich. Given the dearth of dinner posts here in the last several months, you can see how long my cooking resolution lasted. Anyway, this is the one thing on the list that I did make.

This was probably the most complicated dinner I've ever made, what with the packet of spices and the mirepoix and sauce and the stuffing. The mirepoix was the first I'd made, which was fun, even though it wasn't very appetizing. I cheated and used bouillion for the chicken broth. I also used a bag of those microwave steamed vegetables.

The recipe was easy enough to follow; it just took forever on account of chopping and slicing a million tons of mushrooms. The only trouble I ran into was that, being tired after the mushrooms, I neglected to pound my chicken (breasts rather than supremes), so I had to finish my chicken in the oven after frying it. I won't skip that step next time. There's nothing as disheartening as spending four hours in the kitchen to produce a meal and then taking a bite and realizing it's still basically raw.

I hate mushrooms, so I made this one entirely for B's benefit. By the time I was done, I hated mushrooms even more. The kitchen stank of mushrooms, and they ruined the sauce for me. But B enjoyed the meal, so I suppose it counts as a success.

breast of chicken with duxelles stuffing and supreme sauce (The Professional Chef, 8th ed., Culinary Institute of America)
10 (7-8 oz) chicken supremes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 lb duxelles stuffing
5 oz all-purpose flour, or as needed
6 fl oz. egg wash, or as needed
12 oz bread crumbs, or as needed
24 oz clarified butter or oil, or as needed
20 fl oz supreme sauce

1-Trim the chicken supremes and remove the skin, if desired. Butterfly each breast portion and pound between sheets of parchment or plastic wrap to even thickness.

2-At the time of service or up to 3 hours in advance, blot dry the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Fill each breast with a portion of the duxelles stuffing and roll the breast around the stuffing. Overlap the edges to form a seam.

3-Apply a standard breading: Dredge the chicken in flour, dip in egg wash, and roll in abread crumbs. (Refrigerate seam side down if breaded in advance.)

4-Heat .5" of the butter or oil to about 350 F over medium heat. Add the chicken to the hot oil seam side down first and pan fry for 2-3 min, or until golden brown and crisp. Turn once, and finish apan frying on the second side, 3 minutes more or until it reaches an internal temperature of 170 F. (Finish cooking in a 350 F oven once the ccrust is properly browned, if preferred.)

5-Blot the chicken on absorbent paper towels briefly before serving with the heated supreme sauce.

supreme sauce
2 oz clarified butter or vegetable oil
8 oz small-dice white mirepoix
12 oz blond roux
1 gal chicken stock
1 sachet d'epices
salt, as needed
ground white pepper, as needed
32 oz heavy cream
2 lb sliced mushrooms

Heat the butter or oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the mirepoix and stock, stirringa occasionally, until onions are limp and have begun to release their juices, about 15 min. They may take on a light golden color but should not be allowed to brown.

Add the roux to the mirepoix and cook until the roux is very hot, about 2 mi.

Add the stock to the pan gradually, stirring or whisking to work out any lumps. Bring to a full boil, then lower the heat to establish a simmer. (Use a heat diffuser, if desired, to avoid scorching.) Add the sachet and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until a good flavor and consistency develop and the starchy feel and taste of the flour have cooked away, 45 min. to 1 hr.

Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve. Strain a second time through a double thickness of rinsed cheesecloth, if desired, for the finest texture.

Return the sauce to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add cream and mushrooms. Simmer, stirring and skimming the surface frequently, until it coats the back of a spoon. If desired, the sauce may be finished with 6 oz butter.

white mirepoix
2 parts onion or the white of leeks
1 part celery root or hearts
1 part parsnips

blond roux
3 parts flour
2 parts fat

Heat fat over medium heat and add the flour, stirring to combine. Cook to a golden straw color with a nutty aroma.

duxelles stuffing
6 oz minced shallots
2 oz butter
2 alb small-dice mushrooms
1 TB salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
8 fl oz heavy cream, reduced
8 oz fresh bread crumbs
1 TB achopped parsley
2 oz abutter, melted
20 fl oz supreme sauce

Sweat the shallots in the butter over medium-high heat until translucent, 2-3 min. Add the mushrooms and saute them until dry to create a duxelles. Season the duxelles with some of the salt and pepper.

Add the cream, bread crumbs, and parsley and mix well. If desired, the duxelles can be chilled and reserved for later use.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dorie Greenspan's molasses spice cookies

When it comes to cookies, I am a chocolate fan, almost to the exclusion of everything else. And so are my mom and most of my siblings. My dad likes snickerdoodles, so we make them for him once or twice a year. B likes oatmeal cookies, pumpkin cookies, and inferior versions of snickerdoodles. I like none of these, so he has to buy his cookies from the store. If left to myself, I would never have tried these cookies. If left to myself, I'll never make them again, either. I just don't love spice cookies. But my sisters and I were baking and my sister wanted to try these, so we did.

Because I wasn't precise in following Dorie's directions, mine came out chewy. Fine with me, as all of us who ate them prefer chewy cookies to crispy. In fact, the texture was the major draw of these cookies for B and me. The level of spice and the flavor of the molasses were nice. My dad, who had wrinkled his nose at the idea of pepper in cookies, ended up liking them a lot. As spice cookies go, these are good. But me, I'm sticking with chocolate.

Molasses Spice Cookies (from Baking, Dorie Greenspan)
2.5 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
.5 tsp ground cinnamon
.25 tsp ground allspice
pinch cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
16 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 C (packed) light brown sugar
.5 C molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg

about .33 C sugar, for rolling

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper.

With a mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add brown sugar and molaasses and beat for app. 2 min. to blend. Add egg and beat for 1 min. more. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, mixing until flour and spices disappear. If some flour remains on bottom of bowl, to avoid overbeating, mix by hand with a rubber spatula. Dough will be smooth and very soft. Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for 30 min. or refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 4 days).

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Put the sugar in a small bowl. Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a smooth ball between your palms. One by one, roll the balls around in the bowl of sugar, then place them on the baking sheets. dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar and use it to press down on the cookies until they are between .25 and .5" thick.

Bake one sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops feel set to the touch. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, iaf the cookies have spread anda re touching, use the edge of a spatula to separate them while they are still hot. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

rhubarb big crumb coffee cake

I saw this recipe in the Times a couple of years ago and have been meaning to try it ever since, as B and I both love coffee cake.

This was a hit--quick, easy, and delicious. B even liked it despite his hatred of ginger. Unfortunately, I was having bad problems with heartburn when I made this, and between the rhubarb and the rich crumb topping, I wasn't able to eat more than a slice. But I will be making it again.

Rhubarb Big Crumb Coffee Cake (from the New York Times)

Rhubarb filling
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 3/4 cups cake flour

Coffee cake
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.
2. To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.
3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.
4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NYT chocolate chip cookies

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to making the NYT chocolate chip cookies. These cookies were the ultimate test of will power--waiting thirty-six hours to bake them? That is way too long. But I managed to hold out until thirty-four, and the results were fantastic. I didn't roll mine in salt before baking because the dough tasted salty enough to me. I did put the dough back in the fridge between rolling each batch to keep the butter as cool as possible. And I was glad that I spent the extra money to use the chocolate disks (I used Guittard). These cookies were delicious, and I will totally make them again . . . as soon as I can stand to wait another day and a half to satisfy a cookie craving.

Friday, May 15, 2009

chocolate fudge cake with chocolate buttercream and peanut butter mousse

I made this cake for my brother's birthday. This was the first time I'd tried any of Beranbaum's recipes. The chocolate cake was every bit as good as she'd promised. I don't usually care for buttercreams but decided to try the milk chocolate buttercream she recommends to go with the chocolate fudge cake. Unfortunately, I still didn't like it, and it didn't go well with Cafe Johnsonia's tasty peanut butter mousse. I filled the cake with the buttercream and mousse, used some buttercream for a crumb coat, and covered the whole thing in faux buttercream.

I have to say, this is by far the ugliest cake I've ever made. It was fun to put together, though, and I learned some interesting things for next time. (For instance, I didn't know that the frosting color would continue to darken with exposure to air. By the time I got the cake to my brother, it was much darker than in these pictures.)

naked seal

crumb coat

chocolate fudge cake (from The Cake Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum)
3 oz. unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-processed) (3/4 C + 3 TB) or 1 C nonalkalized cocoa (e.g. Hershey's)
12.5 oz boiling water (1.5 C)
3 large eggs
1.5 tsp vanilla
10.5 oz sifted cake flour (3 C)
15.25 oz light brown sugar (2 C, firmly packed)
2.25 tsp baking powder (if using nonalkalized cocoa, eliminate baking powder and use 1.25 tsp baking soda)
.75 tsp baking soda
.75 tsp salt
8 oz unsalted butter (1 C)

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1.5 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Gradually add the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 20-30 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 0 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that tops are up and cool cfompletely before wrapping airtight.

Grease two 9 x 1.5" cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper, and then regrease and flour. (If you only have 2"-high pans, either do 2/3 the recipe for 1 layer or 1 1/3 the recipe for 2 layers.)

milk chocolate buttercream (from The Cake Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum)
1 lb milk chocolate
8 oz dark chocolate
12 oz unsalted butter (softened)

Break the chocolate into squares and place in the top of a double boiler. Set over hot but not simmering water on low heat. The water must not touch the bottom of the double boiler insert. Remove the double boiler from the heat and sitr until the chocolate begins to melt. Return to the heat if the water cools, but be careful that it does not get too hot. Stir until smooth, and cool until no longer warm to the touch. (The chocolate may be melted in a microwave oven if stirred every 15 seconds. Remove before fully melted and stir, using residual heat to complete the melting.)

In a bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixture at medium speed and beat in the cooled chocolate until uniform in color.

peanut butter mousse (from Cafe Johnsonia)
2 cups peanut butter (not natural)
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, chilled

Using an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined.

Beat the cream to soft peaks; fold into the peanut butter in two additions.

Monday, February 9, 2009

ganache-filled raspberries

I made these for fun a few months ago, when I was giving a chocolate dipping demonstration. (I'm not sure how I ended up doing that when my chocolate tempering skills are still more miss than hit, but it was a lot of fun.) They take way too long, but they're really cute. Just make your favorite ganace recipe and pipe it into a bunch of raspberries. (You're not supposed to wash raspberries, I think, but I just had to. Getting the water back out of them was a hassle.)

bittersweet ganache
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 C heavy cream
Break the chocolate into pieces. Bring the cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. When ganache has cooled but is still pipeable, fill the raspberries.