Thursday, January 25, 2007

chocolate heaven

I love chocolate, so when I heard that David Lebovitz was hosting this month’s Sugar High Friday #27: Chocolate by Brand, I was excited. Because I have been busy lately, the deadline for the post slipped right past me. To see the amazing chocolate goodies that bloggers from around the world created for this event check out David’s chocolate round up!

I prepared a chocolate trio, which consisted of a chocolate ice cream cake, a chocolate crème brûlée tart and a chocolate mousse sandwiched between thin layers of chocolate, with a little too much gold dust. The individual pictures are the actual size of the desserts. Below is a recipe for the chocolate crème brûlée tarts.

chocolate crème brûlée tarts

chocolate tart dough

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup 35% cream
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder

1. Cream butter and confectioner’s sugar.
2. Add in egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
3. Add in cream and mix until combined.
4. Sift in flour and cocoa and beat on low speed until just combined.
5. Wrap and chill dough until firm in the refrigerator, approximately 1 hour.
6. This dough is soft, so you need to work quickly when rolling out the dough and pressing into tart pans. Prick the dough all over with a fork and chill tart shells for 10 minutes before placing into the oven. For more perfect shells you can line the tarts with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights,
7. Bake at 325ºF for approximately 15 minutes.
8. Let the tarts cool before pouring in the chocolate crème brûlée

chocolate crème brûlée

500ml 35% cream
5 egg yolks
75 g. sugar
75 g. good quality dark chocolate (chopped)

1. Scald cream in a pot and add 75g. of dark chocolate.
2. In a seperate bowl mix yolks and sugar.
3. Temper yolk/sugar mix with some of the hot cream mix. Add to the rest of the cream mixture. Take it off the heat.
4. Pour the brûlée through a sieve to remove any small traces of egg.
5. Pour brûlée mixture into tarts shells.
6. Place the tart shells in the oven.
7. Bake at 300°F, between 20-25 minutes, or until custard is set.
8. Top the crème brûlée with a small coating of sugar and caramelize with blowtorch.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

food that really schmecks (tastes good)

I first discovered Edna Staebler when Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict mailed me a package for Canadian Blogging by Post #1. The package included: maple syrup, apple butter, cherry jam, wildflower honey, a small cookbook by Edna Staebler Soups and Salads with Schmecks Appeal, a trio of lovely photographs taken by Jasmine and, last but not least, small bags of black peppercorn, cardamom and homemade candied ginger. A few months later I was in an old bookstore when I came across and bought Edna Staebler’s Desserts with Schmecks Appeal. The appeal of these cookbooks for me is the simplicity in which the recipes are presented, written and made – to me it embodies comfort food. As Edna says, they are “ not elaborate, or exotic, with rare ingredients and mystifying flavours; traditional local cooking is practical: designed to fill up small boys and big men and it is mouth wateringly good.”

Food That Really Schmecks along with the other books Edna has written is a record. It is history of notes and recipes passed on from family and friends in the Mennonite community as well as Edna’s larger community of Waterloo. It is a history that has been preserved and shared thanks to Edna.

“And you will pass on these recipes, not hand written in a little black book, but in a timeless Canadian cookbook.” – Rose Murray

When Jasmine contacted me to make and blog about something from Edna’s book, Food That Really Schmecks, I immediately said yes. After flipping through the book several times, I decided to make a maple syrup cake. There are a few reasons for this. First, I thought what could be more Canadian than maple syrup. Second, I thought I would make use of Jasmine’s maple syrup she bought for me and lastly because Edna represents a part of Canadian food history and culture.

Maple Syrup Cake

Two layers of sweetness and light!

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup maple sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butternuts or walnuts or pecans

Blend the shortening, sugar, syrup, eggs and vanilla. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder, stir in the nuts and add all to the blended mixture. Pour into greased, floured layer pans and bake at 375ºF for 20 minutes. Cool a few minutes, then carefully turn cakes onto racks to become cold. Put together with soft Maple Icing and ice all over.

Soft Maple Icing

1/4 cup soft butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups icing sugar

Blend butter, syrup and vanilla till smooth, then add gradually and blend in the icing sugar. Delicious, easy to spread – and it stays soft.

Both recipes were simple and straight-forward. The cake was a little drier than I expected so I decided to make some whipped cream. Since I had left over pecans I also made some pecan brittle for another texture. The Maple cake is a simple cake, and is definitely not as sweet as it sounds. The cake would go nicely paired with a cup of tea.

Recipes from Food That Really Schmecks, Edna Staebler

Edna Staebler, who in 2006 passed away in her 100th year, was an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Maclean’s, Chatelaine and many other magazines. She is the author of Cape Breton Harbour, Places I’ve Been and People I’ve Known and the Schmecks cookbook series.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

new cookies

Making cookies during the holiday season is something that I have done since I was ten years old; so, it’s like a tradition. Yet, I have noticed that year after year I have tended to make the same standard fare: chocolate chip, peanut butter, shortbread, gingerbread, gingersnaps, sugar cookies, etc. This year, just before the Christmas holidays, I decided to test out some new cookie recipes to broaden my repertoire.

This small project quickly transformed into something much larger than planned. A colleague offered to purchase some of these cookies for the holidays. This rapidly snowballed into a modest, but concentrated, cookie-making venture. During the week leading up to Christmas, I made and sold approximately one hundred dozen cookies. It was a bit insane. Yet, I did in fact test out some new recipes, and I had a number of taste testers to help me critique them. I asked a group of ten testers to rank the cookies on a scale of 1- 5 for taste, appearance and texture. My wonderful testers ranged from seven to seventy years old and, as expected, had varied palates. I thank Hannah, Benjamin, Josh, Debra, Doug, Michael, Karen, Sid, David and Alisa for their valuable input.

I made nine new recipes:

1. Cranberry Orange Cornmeal – Martha Stewart

2. Fig Pinwheels – Martha Stewart

3. Lemon Scented Almond Crisps – Martha Stewart

4. Cinnamon Walnut – Nancy Silverton

5. Brown Sugar Sesame Shortbread – Barbara Tropp

6. Pinenut Biscotti – Karen DeMasco

7. Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries – Claudia Fleming

8. Chocolate Brownie Cookies – Claudia Fleming

9. Butterscotch Cookie – Sherry Yard

The cookie that seemed to stand out was Claudia Fleming’s Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries. I will go out on a limb and say it is the best biscotti that I have made. Since it is so good, I want to share it.

Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries

1 cup dried sour cherries
2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 large eggs
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp coffee extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
7 1/2 oz extra-bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks

1. Place the cherries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn off the heat and let cool. Drain the cherries (this can be done up to 1 week ahead; store the cherries in the refrigerator).

2. Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the pistachio nuts out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they are golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool (keep the oven on).

3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and set on low speed, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the butter and extracts and mix to combine. Stir in the pistachios, chocolate and cherries. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

4. With wet hands, divide the dough and form it into 2 logs, each 2 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment-lined baking tray and bake until firm, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely on rack.

5. Lower the oven temperature to 200F. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti on 3 parchment-lined baking sheets and dry them in the oven until firm and crisp, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack.

Makes approximately 4 1/2 to 5 dozen biscotti

From The Last Course, Claudia Fleming

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