Thursday, May 28, 2009

Craving Ellie in My Belly - Crispy Fish Fingers

After this week's browniepalooza, a little light eating was definitely in order. That's one of the reasons I love being part of Craving Ellie in My Belly. We're cooking and blogging through Ellie Krieger's book The Foods You Crave.

Our host this week was Anne of Rainforest Recipes. Anne blogs from the jungles of Guatemala! How cool is that? First off, I had a fit of giggles over the term fish fingers. I don't know what made me think "Fish don't have fingers!", but after I did, I was giggling off and on.

This recipe is one that isn't in the book but you can find it on the Food Network site here. I was excited about this one as I love fried food but it doesn't love me. I used half a pound of halibut for the fish fingers but made the sauce recipe as written.

Because I used an extra sturdy whole grain bread, the crumbs were pretty large, and took a while to crisp up. The larger crumb size was a disadvantage in the breading process as the fish fingers (giggle) ended up with little bald spots where the crumb coating didn't adhere to the egg coating. I took Sara's suggestion (inspired by Aggie) and baked them on a rack. I had a fleeting thought that perhaps I should spray the rack with cooking spray, but I decided if it baked onto the rack, I didn't want to have to deal with getting it off. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The Fleeting Thought is a close relation of the Little Voice that whispers to you when you're tempted not to strain custards. Honor the Fleeting Thought, or be punished. Witness my punishment...

This recipe was pretty simple to assemble. I baked my fish fingers about an hour before we ended up having dinner, and they don't taste better when they cool off. My suggestion is to make them right before you serve them. The dipping sauce was good, but next time I would nix the Worcestershire and add maple syrup or honey. Quite honestly, I think the sauce suffered from using fresh from Paris unpasteurized Maille mustard, which is MUCH more potent than the stuff I'm used to from Trader Joe's. That was my bad and was in no way a reflection on the recipe.

All in all, we liked these. Next time I think I would nix the bread crumbs in favor of panko (check out Anne's post, she did some of the bread crumbs and some with panko), and I would play around with the sauce.

Many thanks to Anne for picking such a good and healthy recipe for us this week. Check back next week when the CEiMBs make Ellie's White Gazpacho.

Barefoot Bloggers - Outrageous Brownies and Tuna Salad (a catch up post!)

This week's Barefoot Bloggers recipe was Ina's Outrageous Brownies, selected by Eva of I'm Boring (which she definitely isn't!). They could be outrageous because you start with a pound of butter, add over two pounds of chocolate, a small amount of flour for the amount of butter and chocolate, a half dozen EXTRA LARGE eggs, some walnuts and other ingredients, and bake them in a half sheet pan. I've never in my life made brownies in a sheet pan, but I've never owned a successful catering business, been a policy wonk in the White House, driven a BMW (now a Mercedes) or been married to someone who was a Dean at Yale. Maybe baking brownies in a sheet pan is something one does after achieving these other things in life. Me, I work for a not-for-profit affiliated with a university, am a CPA, drive a Prius, and am joined at the hip with a romantic yet pragmatic electrical engineer. So my brownies are baked in 9 x 13 or 8 x 8 pans. Until I made these.

It's always a joy to make a recipe where one needn't worry about how to utilize the remaining sticks of butter. This recipe dispatches with the whole pound right off the bat, so I don't have to worry about them going bad in my refrigerator. Nor will I be tempted to spread some on toast or make grilled cheese. My hips thank you, Ina!

I didn't get why Food Network considers this recipe "difficult." Maybe they knew I'd be making them at the same time as my Tuesdays with Dorie Chipster-Topped Brownies. I briefly considered chopping chocolate for these, until I came to my senses and realized if chocolate chips were good enough for Ina with her up-market taste, they were certainly good enough for me and my Toyota-bean counter-non-profit-mad scientist life. So I pulled out my best chocolate chips (Ghirardelli) and forged on. Instead of instant coffee, I added the instant espresso powder, even though some commenters on Food Network said it was overpowering (we love chocolate and coffee, so it seemed like a no-brainer).

I wasn't up for buttering and flouring the pan, so I used my secret pal, Baker's Joy. I evenly spread the batter in the sheet pan and put it in the oven for 30 minutes, only realizing after 27 minutes that I was supposed to rap the pan on the oven rack at the halfway point. I didn't do that until 27 minutes in, so I'm blaming everything (including my hip size and falling real estate values in California) on my failure to rap on time. My brownies baked 33 minutes before they tested done. I let them cool on a rack before bypassing the refrigeration part and slicing into the corner. 

They were...OK. Seriously, these aren't going to lead to world peace (there's a cookie for that) or even a cure for cancer, though they are tasty and chocolaty. I found the espresso flavor to be too prominent, and the texture was meh, but again, I assume that's due to my delinquent rapping and lack of refrigeration. This fact alone did not prevent me from sampling a couple more small slices from the pan...I was trying to be sure, just for your sake. I have a brownie that I believe is more ethereal than these, one which I've never shared with you but will have to in the future.

Thanks, Eva, for a wonderful pick!

I also made Ina's Tuna Salad (selected by Kate of Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails) this week. This one was supposed to be posted while we were on vacation, and I'm just now getting around to making and writing about it. We loved the dressing (though next time I would cut back on the salt and add more wasabi). I grilled the fish instead of sautéing it). I was doing three other things at the same time, so I sort of overcooked the tuna. It wasn't rare at all. I served it over lettuce from last week's CSA. It was phenomenal, and I would definitely make it again. Especially since this one gives the cows a day off--no butter or cream required!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

TWD - Chipster Topped Brownies

Love brownies? Love chocolate chip cookies? Can't decide which to make? These tasty and unusual bar cookies may be the answer.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Beth at Supplicious. After numerous chocolate recipes in the last couple of months, this one is our only chocolate recipe in May (and with none in June, it might be a while before the TWD'ers reach chocolate overload again).

It was fun to put together this recipe, but since you are essentially making two recipes at one time, you have to be on top of your game and have all the ingredients prepped and ready. But, since I am intermittently insane, that wasn't enough of a challenge, so I chose to make these and another brownie recipe (check back later in the week for that one) at the same time. 

Remember I just said that you need to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready? That's one of those "do as I say, not as I do" statements. I was mostly ready, but finished the prep while the eggs were beating with the sugar for the brownie base. I probably beat the eggs and sugar for, oh, five minutes, while I finished measuring, weighing and generally making sure I had everything laid out. At this point, I could have scrapped this recipe and made a genoise with these eggs (or used them as a new piece of furniture). But I continued, and added the chocolate (which was melted with butter) slowly, then added the flour and finally the nuts. I spread the brownie mixture in the pan (which I lined with parchment paper as Dorie recommended. The brownie mixture was so thick and sturdy, I was afraid I had made industrial strength brownies that would suffer texture wise.

The cookie layer came together very easily (though I found it extremely sweet when I tasted the batter.) Following Clivia's suggestion, I didn't obsess with spreading the cookie layer over the brownie layer. She mentioned in the P&Q that she had dropped tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough on top of the brownie layer, and they had melted into a cohesive layer. 

I tested them at the 50 minute mark, and they tested done. I was very wary of taking them out since numerous TWD bakers reported uncooked middles in the P&Q. But I also didn't want to burn the top, which was nice and golden brown, as Dorie said it should be. The doneness test was a tease as these were definitely not fully cooked. 

(Proof! Really, they tested done!)

They look done...

Then, after an hour sitting out...

OK, maybe not! Where did that ooze come from?!?

The verdict? Truthfully, they weren't my favorite thing. There wasn't enough crispy cookie layer for my taste, and what was there was too sweet. The doneness issues were a bit annoying, but I think that could be mastered by baking them longer and refrigerating the pan and slicing them while cold. But I'm glad I tried them because the technique was interesting and fun. Many thanks to Beth for picking something that was fun and unusual (and chocolate!)

Speaking of chocolate, have you entered my first-ever giveaway yet? You have until 9:00 PM Pacific time tonight (May 26th) to do so if you haven't. I'm giving away a box of chocolates I brought back from Paris. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me where you'd love to vacation, if cost wasn't a consideration. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Curried cauliflower and chickpea stew

I had some cauliflower, spring onion and sugar snap peas in my CSA box, and some leftover coconut milk in the freezer from our Tuesdays with Dorie Mango Bread. I had torn this recipe out of Bon Appetit after seeing Teanna at Spork or Foon? post on it. I boosted the curry powder and added garlic and sugar snap peas, though this recipe is basically a blank canvas, so you can add whatever vegetables you have available. It's also versatile, since I used significantly less coconut milk than the recipe called for since that was what I had on hand. I served it over brown rice, and it was fantastic. We had huge servings, and didn't even put a dent in it. I don't know how Bon Appetit calculates how many servings are in their recipes. I can see where this might serve 4 linebackers but not 4 normal sized people with office jobs. I mean, if I just add up the solid ingredients, it checks in at almost 30 ounces per person...that's practically 4 cups, before serving it over rice! I can't even eat 4 cups of watermelon.

This was so good, it's going into the rotation. When I was thinking about that earlier today, I realized there is no such thing. I say it all the time here on my blog, but truly, I don't have a list of go-to recipes that are versatile, tasty and don't fail me. So I'm making one! Stay tuned for that. I think it will be an eye opener for me (how does one justify the frequent use of popcorn as a "go-to" dinner??)

Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew (adapted from Bon Appetit via Spork or Foon?)
Serves 4 linebackers, 6-8 normal people

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 /1/2 cups chopped red onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons hot curry powder
6 cups cauliflower florets (from 1 medium head)
2 cups sugar snap peas
2 15 1/2 ounce cans garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
2 10 ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chiles (I used Ro-Tel)
10 ounces lite coconut milk (the recipe called for 14 ounces, but I only had 10; it worked out fine)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Lime wedges

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir for 1 minute. Add the cauliflower, garbanzo beans, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Stir to combine. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover (I didn't, but you may have a cover that fits your large saute pan) and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 10-15 minutes (depends on how al dente you like your cauliflower). Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over hot rice and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

Have you entered my first-ever giveaway? I brought back a box of chocolates from Paris for my first give away. Check it out here and leave a comment on the original post to be entered.

Chocolates from Paris - my first giveaway!

I meant to mention this in last night's mega post on our Paris trip, but I brought back something to share with the winner of my first ever giveaway...

This 14 piece assortment is from our very favorite chocolatier, La Maison du Chocolat. I believe they are dark chocolates based on the ribbon color, but the pamphlet gives descriptions of all of the chocolates.

If you'd like to enter, please leave a comment telling me where you would like to vacation (if money wasn't a consideration) and why. The winner will be randomly chosen from all comments received by 9:00 (Pacific time) Tuesday, May 26th. Valid in the US and Canada only (sorry!)

I'm so excited to read about your vacation dreams!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our trip to Paris

Bon jour mes amis.

I'm still mentally in Paris, so this post is a joy to create for you. Here are some random images to share...

The birds eat the crumbs at this cafe.

Paris has a rental bike program. We didn't take advantage of it, but we saw a lot of people on these bikes all over town. There are frequent pick up and drop off stations like these...

I didn't realize how behind I was on the current styles until I saw this lamp. Marked 725 Euros (over $1,000), it wasn't on my wish list.

The pyramid at the Louvre, at night (obviously!)
And by day

We visited the panoramic terrace on the top of the Printemps department store. They had these rabbits up there that they were placing throughout the store.

We picnicked on the tip of the Île de la Cité.

The Arc De Triomphe by day...

And with the sun setting through the arch.

We did some of this...

And this...

And thanks to Dorie Greenspan's recommendations, a lot of this...

As predicted, we spent a lot of time plotting our next macaron, walked off the map (literally) and slept a ridiculous amount (we were both very tired). We strolled through and got completely lost in the Bois de Bologne (a HUGE parkland on the west side of Paris, hunting grounds of royal families past). We walked from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Élysées, past the Louvre and down the Seine, to the Bastille, almost on a daily basis. We discovered new (to us) parks and gardens. Paris is our favorite city, and we've been fortunate that M.'s work has taken him to France a couple of times a year. I sometimes go with him, but it's been a while since we've gone together. This trip allowed us to rediscover the things we love, and discover new favorites.

One day was M's surprise day, and it was filled with chocolate. After doing excessive research, I selected a couple (okay, eight) of the top chocolatiers for us to visit and purchase some chocolates to do a side by side tasting. M. was delighted to find we would be spending the day tasting, buying and hoarding chocolate. We have been devoted to La Maison du Chocolat for many years, and we wanted to find out if they still had the best chocolates (in our opinion).

We started at Debauve & Gallais, one of if not the oldest chocolatier in Paris. The chocolates are old fashioned, without the flavor inventiveness that one frequently finds in chocolates these days (chocolate with cheese, anyone?)

We hit the biggie, Pierre Herme, next. We weren't huge fans of his chocolates, but his pastries and macarons are the ultimate. I would simply run out of gushing adjectives if I had to describe the buttery croissants, the velvety caramel pastry cream in the 2000 feuilles. The perfection of the chocolate macarons. The rose macarons. You have no idea how hard it was not to park myself outside his door and eat three meals a day there. We were there on a weekday, but when we passed by on Saturday, the line was out the door.

After Pierre Herme, we visited Christian Constant. His shop was very inviting with grand displays of candied fruits in the windows. We purchased about a dozen bon bons and moved on.

Next, we visited Jean-Charles Rochoux, with his chocolate alligators in the window. His creations were amazingly inventive, and the aroma walking into the door was intoxicating. They must have made the fleur de sel caramels the day we visited, because the air was redolent with caramelized sugar.

It was hard to tear ourselves away and move on, but we regretfully left and walked a short distance to Jean-Paul Hevin. His chocolates were beautiful and modern and we had a hard time making our choices.

Next, we headed to Patrick Roger. The skies were darkening and we hadn't brought the umbrella, but all was forgotten when we entered Roger's shop. We made a selection of chocolates and macarons and stepped outside to plot our next move.

We still had two shops left, Michel Chaudun and La Maison du Chocolat, but we were tiring and a light rain was starting to fall. We hurried in the direction of the Métro, but it quickly became clear that the raindrops were becoming rainfall. We grabbed seats under cover at a cafe and ordered Cokes to nurse while we rode out the rain.

M. guarded our shopping bag of chocolate to prevent it from getting wet, and after it started hailing, we decided to move inside as our jeans were getting wet from the spray. After spending 45 minutes there, hitting Chaudun was out of the question as they were now closed. We thought we could make La Maison du Chocolat, but we would have to hurry. We arrived there two minutes before closing, and selected just a few of our favorite pralines and ganaches. Then it was back to the hotel for the tasting.

We tasted ganaches side by side, and the flavor differences were very pronounced. Here is a photo of our "tasting notes" (that sounds way too grand for the rudimentary numbering system we used.) The results:

1. La Maison du Chocolat
2. Patrick Roger
3. Jean-Charles Rochoix
4. (tie) Pierre Herme, Jean-Paul Hevin
5. Christian Constant
6. Debauve & Gallais

These were just our preferences, and none of these chocolates were bad, they were just different degrees of great.

We ate dinner one night at Laduree. We love Laduree and always have great meals there. I had an appetizer (called an "entree" in France) of a floating island with gazpacho. It was out of this world good. My main course (called a "plate") was salmon over pain perdu with melted fresh mozzarella and reduced balsamic vinegar and a few other things that escape me now. WOW! That meal reminded me of the connection between good food and the pleasure center of our brain. So many times we eat a lot of food but don't feel satisfied; I believe what we are looking for is taste satisfaction, not quantity, in order to feel satiated. My taste buds were dancing and my entire body felt like there was a mild electric charge running through it.

On our last night, we strolled from our hotel to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées, through the Tuileries, past the Louvre, along the Seine, into St. Germain and then the Latin Quarter for dinner. As we slowly walked back, we tried to drink in the sights, smells and feeling of being in the most beautiful city, to save and nurture it after we returned home. We're still under its spell, and I hope we will be for a long time to come.

CEiMB - Thai Style Halibut with Coconut Curry Broth

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly selection was chosen by Liz of The Not So Skinny Kitchen. We love Thai food, and I had a jar of red curry paste in the pantry that's been calling to me. I picked up a pound of halibut at Trader Joe's, and modified the vegetable selection to utilize the sugar snap peas and zucchini that came in this week's CSA box. I also used some homemade chicken stock from the freezer. I nestled the veggies in with the halibut so they could cook in the wonderfully spicy broth. It almost took longer to chop the shallots than it did to put together this dish. Served with brown rice, it was a delicious and satisfying weeknight dinner. I wasn't together enough to get a photo of this one when it was fully cooked or plated, but hopefully you get the idea. It was a huge hit! Even though I used less fish, I made the same amount of broth so I could stretch out the sauce and serve it with other proteins.

Be sure you check out Liz's blog for the recipe, or better yet, bring home the book we're cooking from, The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger. It's jam packed with great, healthier recipes like this one. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TWD - Fresh Mango Madeleines

We're back! I'm working on a post to share some of the wonderful things we saw and ate on our trip. Internet access was SOOO expensive at the hotel (about $32 per day!) so I wasn't able to update from Paris or respond to your comments (but I will!). We got home Sunday night, and yesterday was a haze of jet lag and laundry. I'm so glad I'm taking an extra week of vacation!

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Kelly of Baking with the Boys. I bought my mangoes for this recipe yesterday, and was fortunate to find a couple that weren't rock hard. I'm so glad this one was an easy recipe, and I was able to throw it together in between grocery shopping and picking the cat up from the vet (she had her teeth cleaned, and had to have three teeth extracted--ouch!)

I knew as soon as I read the recipe that I had to make madeleines using the silicone madeleine pan I bought in Paris. I cut the recipe in half, replaced the raisins with chopped walnuts, doubled the lime zest, reduced the ginger and added cardamom. My madeleines baked in 20 minutes, with no over browning issues. Because I was using a silicone pan, there was no buttering/flouring, and the madeleines came out so easily. This is my first silicone baking pan, and if I had to choose only one, it would be for madeleines. I rarely make them because of the obsessive buttering and flouring required. This pan will make baking madeleines a breeze.

I tasted one of the madeleines still warm and oh my. I can't imagine they could taste any better after sitting a day (and will they even last that long??) The spices warmed the flavor of the mango, and the walnuts added a great textural crunch.

Thanks, Kelly. This was a terrific pick and one that I know I'll make again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cocoa Nib Shortbread

It should surprise you not at all that I am a fan of chocolate, so when a friend told me about the rapture that is the chocolate cocoa nib bars baked at the Rustic Bakery in Larkspur, I ordered some online. Immediately. 

Eight itty bitty bars come in the pack, and I'm embarrassed to say I ate them all over a two day period. Alone. Fortunately, I had the forethought to order some other scrumptious Rustic Bakery favorites, and I ate them too. Alone.

I'm usually not such a human vacuum cleaner with packaged cookies. But these were like no other cookies I'd ever had. And I wanted more. But at $5.95 for eight of them, I figured I'd better learn to make them myself. So I did.

I found a recipe that sounded very close on I made them as written, except I used Dorie Greenspan's technique of putting the dough in a Ziploc bag and rolling it out to the desired thickness. I had bought a fancy shortbread cutter, but it was being temperamental, so I sliced them up into rectanglish shapes and baked them, lurking by the oven, sniffing madly. 

When they had cooled on the baking sheet for the required 5 minutes, I sampled one warm. It was lush, crunchy with cocoa nibs and redolent of good cocoa with a teaser of salt at the end. With a generous supply at the ready, I only ate three. And I shared. Now that's growth!

Chocolate Shortbread With Cacao Nibs and Sea Salt
Adapted from The Washington Post, December 12, 2007
Makes about 36 small cookies

1 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons cacao nibs, crushed or chopped very fine in a food processor
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Combine the flour and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Combine the nibs and sea salt in a separate small bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low; add about 1/2 of the flour-cocoa mixture and mix well, then add the remaining flour-cocoa mixture, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Stop the motor and add the nibs-salt mixture. Beat for 1 minute. The dough will be sandy and fairly stiff. Put the dough in a gallon size ziptop bag, and with a rolling pin, roll out until uniformly 1/4". Refrigerate dough until needed, up to one week.

Slit open the sides of the bag and cut the dough into even rectangles. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, spacing 1" apart, and bake for 7 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back; bake for 8 minutes or until their aroma is apparent and the cookie bottoms are crisp. Let them cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gianduja Truffles, Or Make This Into Something Before I Eat the Whole Bar

15 years ago, I was an internal auditor just hired by a media company. I had previously worked in indentured servitude public accounting, and spent a couple of years slaving away while my idiot boss took credit for my ideas working for a beverage company. Regrettably, the media company I worked for no longer exists (dinosaurs are extinct, and so are a lot of newspaper companies). 

This was a Great Company. I got a paycheck on my very first day (they paid in advance). I also got on a plane the very first day, but I had a check in my hand and a big grin on my face. After just six short months, the audit schedule had me going to Switzerland. Three months after that, London. The following year I was supposed to go to Australia, but we sold that division and that was the end of my foreign travel at the company's expense.

After our month in London was done, a coworker and I took off on a European vacation. After Switzerland, I had set out for Paris alone so it was great to have a kindred spirit to explore with. We went to Belgium, Luxembourg and Paris, and it was all one big chocolate eating extravaganza as far as I was concerned.

In Brussels, I discovered Gianduja. Gianduja is a combination of chocolate and hazelnut, sort of like Nutella, but not as sweet and solid at room temperature. At Leonidas (an "affordable" Belgian chocolatier), the Gianduja was wrapped in gold foil. I brought it back as gifts ( for you, two for me...). In the years since, I have pined away for Gianduja, occasionally finding it in a states-side Leonidas store (my friend almost wrecked the car when I shouted out "LEONIDAS!!!" as we were driving through Los Gatos a few years back.)

Last month, when I was placing my tide-me-over-the-summer chocolate order from, I noticed they have Gianduja. So I ordered a 2 pound bar, figuring I'd find some recipes to use it in and wouldn't that be swell. Well, it would have been if M. and I didn't eat the whole bar over the next couple of weeks. So I ordered more, and then I made these.

Yes, Gianduja truffles. These totally top the Nutella truffles. I hope you make them. Soon.

Gianduja Truffles (adapted from The Chocolate Gourmand)

1 1/2 pounds Gianduja, chopped in large pieces
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream

Heat the cream until it feels warm to the touch. Melt the chocolate and Gianduja in a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water). Remove the bowl from the double boiler, add the heated cream and stir until well combined. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until firm. Scoop out truffle sized pieces and, working quickly, form them into roundish shapes. 

You can dust them with cocoa powder (not Dutched), but I like to roll them in tempered chocolate. An excellent resource for how to temper chocolate is here. A good rule of thumb is to work with a pound of chocolate or more, as it's harder to keep smaller quantities at the correct temperature. And if you don't plan to serve them to chocolate snobs, you can just melt the chocolate and not temper it at all. Make sure you let it cool before rolling the truffle centers in the chocolate. And if you don't temper, your truffles may show some "bloom," but they will taste every bit as good as those rolled in tempered chocolate. You can also carefully melt a few ounces of Gianduja in the microwave and drizzle it over the finished truffles for a nice effect.


I made these a while back for my kitchen party. When I was rounding up the leftover cakes, cookies and chocolates to take to work, M. put out a protective hand, claiming the Gianduja truffles.

Yup, that's my man.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lethally Delicious is on Vacation

Lethally Delicious is closing the kitchen and taking a little R&R in our favorite city.

We'll be walking by the Seine, making picnics and eating a ridiculous amount of pastry, chocolate and bread. I'll take you all with me in my heart and try to share some of the journey from the road.

I tried, but I just couldn't crank out the Garden Risotto (chosen by Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen) for Craving Ellie in My Belly and the Tartest Lemon Tart (chosen by Babette of Babette Feasts) for Tuesdays with Dorie. That's a real shame as they both look like great recipes from a couple of my favorite bloggers. I do have some sweet treats lined up for you to enjoy while the kitchen is closed.

We'll be back in the kitchen before you know it, maybe with a French accent, but still cooking and baking away, making a ridiculous mess and loving every minute.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

TWD - Tiramisu Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen for us by Megan of My Baking Adventures. I love tiramisu and I love cake, but I wasn't visualizing what this cake would look/taste like. I was also feeling a little stress as our vacation is just days away and I'm at the crossroads of getting work done/prepping for an Audit Committee meeting/accounting for M.'s business so I can leave and not worry about things at home. I almost skipped this, rationalizing that it would be OK with our vacation days away.

As you can see, I didn't, and am I ever glad. First of all, Dorie made it easy to fit the making of this cake into all of the things I was working on. I got the layers in the oven in about 15 minutes. They cooled overnight, and I made the extract, the syrup and the frosting before work, and assembled the cake in time to start this post before I had to get in the shower to go to work. THAT'S a quick and easy dessert. Really!

I stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home from work to pick up the mascarpone and whipping cream. Once home, I ate dinner, caught up on my Google Reader, and then at 9:00, kicked myself for not starting it earlier and went to get the layers in the oven. I deliberately did not buy buttermilk at TJ's since I knew I could make sour milk as a substitution, and didn't want to buy a quart of buttermilk when I only needed 3/4 of a cup. When I checked the fridge, I had some whipping cream that was a few days past its expire date and was definitely smelling...tangy. I decided to use it instead of "making" sour milk. Big risk. The batter smelled funky to me, the baking layers smelled funky. The baked layers smelled funky. I went to bed not sure if I had screwed this one up or not.

The next morning, I woke up at the normal time (don't scream but I naturally wake up at about 5:20), had my coffee, checked the weather, and got to work on finishing the cake. One of the layers baked freakishly uneven, so I sawed off a goodly portion and tasted it.

It was fine, no funky taste, although it was sort of dry. I made the espresso extract and syrup (these components were part of my initial confusion about this cake--I just couldn't picture how they would fit in--maybe I should have read the recipe!)

I whipped the cream a little too long so it had that choppy look to it, so I beat it more cream to soften it up. You can see on the left it looks smooth while on the right it's just a few moments away from becoming butter.

Gently mix the whipped cream into the Mascarpone.

I didn't use alcohol in any of the components of the cake and truly, I don't think it made a bit of difference. I love the flavor of coffee, and it had an opportunity to shine in the frosting. After assembling the cake, I realized I forgot to put the chopped chocolate between the layers.

Problem solved.

I took this to work where it quickly disappeared. Tiramisu lovers found it to be tasty, and I did too. It was dry, so I think it may have overbaked (it was a little past done at 18 minutes). Next time, I'll check it earlier and that should help maintain the moisture. It's possible that leaving it out uncovered overnight also impacted the moisture of the layers. This one was delicious if you're a coffee lover, and I think it lends itself well to some fun experimentation. I think glazing this with a pourable ganache would look and taste amazing. Or maybe serving it in a puddle of caramel sauce.

The cake scraps, espresso syrup and frosting made a yummy breakfast. It has dairy and, umm, coffee!