January 29, 2009

Carmelized Banana and Mascarpone Cream Tuiles

After being crippled with fear over last month's Yule Log, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw January's Daring Bakers Challenge- sweet or savory tuiles. Then I promptly forgot about them...until this morning. A quick kitchen inventory yielded enough ingredients for one batch of tuiles and, well, not much else. There were some bananas on their way out, leftover toasted coconut, and an unopened container of mascarpone. With this bounty I give you Tuiles with Caramelized Banana and Mascarpone Cream.

The basic tuile recipe came together very easily. The hearts were made with a stencil cut from a cracker box and the basket were formed wit the back of a tablespoon. I mixed cocoa powder in with a bit of the batter and piped the lines with a zip lock bag. Very high tech, no?

For the filling I whipped together mascarpone, powdered sugar, creme de cacao and a bit of heavy cream which I then piped into each tuile. Bananas caramelized with a bit of butter, brown sugar and more creme de cacao. My fridge isn't well stocked but the bar? Well, we all have our priorities.

This month's challenge was brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

January 27, 2009

Like Knitting With Mittens

When my husband came down with bronchitis, I knew I was in for it. Sickness hit me like a freight train and knocked me flat on my back for close to a week. Finally on the road to recovery, I hauled my self out the me shaped crater that has formed permanently on the couch and dragged myself into the kitchen. Maybe Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread would be just what the doctor ordered.

Luckily, I had all of the ingredients already in the house because every time I go out, people look at me like I'm a leper. Is it that obvious I'm diseased? Anywho, they came came together easily and the end result looked great. And the taste? Well, I'm a little handicapped in the sense of taste and smell department right now so I'll have to wait until my fully recovered husband comes home for the verdict.

Check out the blogroll over at Tuesdays With Dorie to hear reviews from bakers with functioning tastebuds!

January 21, 2009

Oh Baby! Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

One of my best friends, my sister-in-law, is not a huge fan of sweets. While I always need to end a meal with a treat, she was content to satisfy her sugar cravings with alcohol. However, now that she is pregnant, she has had to resign herself to soothing her sweet tooth in a more conventional way. I've been fielding lots of baking tech support calls from her about cookie and cake recipes and our cocktail hours have turned into afternoon baking parties. Yesterday we got together to recreate a cookie she'd been craving, Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.

The recipe comes from Linda Currie, a nurse and baker, and all around great lady. Buttery shortbread filled with creamy melted caramel and topped with chopped pecans, these cookies can tame even the most aggressive pregnancy craving. That and a jar of horseradish pickles!

Linda Currie's Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cup flour
23 Kraft caramels
3 tbsp heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Stir in flour, salt, powdered sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Roll small pieces of dough into balls and make an indentation in the center if each ball with your knuckle or thumb, making sure to smooth out the dough around each crater with your fingers. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. If the thumbprint you made has disappeared while baking, gently press your knuckle into the still warm cookies, then cool on a rack.
While the cookies cool, combine the caramels and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl and cook on high at 30 second intervals until the caramels have melted. Stir well, then using a teaspoon fill each thumbprint with the caramel mixture. Top cookies with a few pecan pieces.

January 20, 2009

New And Improved

I've never been one for the status quo and while I can appreciate the classics, it's best not to rest on our laurels. An appropriate sentiment on a day when we celebrate what will hopefully be a fresh new approach in our country- today an old standby dessert, Strawberry Shortcake is also getting a face lift. With this weeks's TWD, Berry Suprise Cake, I bid farewell to store bought sponge cake and Redi Whip for a fresher better version.

I brushed my mini genoise cakes with creme de cassis syrup then layered them with cream cheese/whipped cream filling and farmers market fresh raspberries. The end result was light and delicious- a great way to celebrate a very special Inauguration Day!

January 14, 2009

Dangling Carrot

Two weeks into January and already things seem to be slowing down at the gym. No more waiting for a treadmill, no more scrounging around dark stinky corners to find hand weights, I guess the resolutioners are beginning to slide back into their old habits. Well, not this girl. I am committed to my exercise regime (makes it sound like torture) because I want to be leaner, meaner, healthier, cookie eating machine! That's right people, I'm in it for the rewards. Yeah, yeah I know its wrong to reward yourself with food but I've got to have something to look forward to after all the sweating and the huffing and the puffing. This weeks' pat on the back comes in the form of Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies. Think carrot cake meets whoopie pie- soft cakey cookies joined together by cream cheese frosting. So good you'll want to work out everyday just to earn one (or three).

Check out the recipe from Sunset Magazine here.

January 13, 2009

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Sweating

I don't mean to brag but, I am hot. In Los Angeles today it is unbelievably, unseasonably 85 degrees and sunny. Not a cloud in the sky. I'm so sorry. I know many of you are bundled up, hunkering down, digging your cars out the driveway and here I am, blazing sunshine on your rainy, snowy parade. It's not my fault, blame global warming.
At any rate, while most of my fellow TWDers are enjoying these fabulous Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins with a bowl of chili, I just couldn't fathom eating a steaming bowl of anything on a day like today. Did I mention how hot it is here (don't hate)? They are delicious on their own in their sweet and spicy way and maybe next time I make them will be chili weather (chili/chilly?). For now I think some Chilled Carrot Soup and a muffin might really hit the spot.

January 9, 2009

This Is No Time For Decaf

Cold and gloomy weather, post holiday blues, the drudgery of getting back to work- the months between January and April can be toughest time of year. Despite what the Easter displays at Target tell you, spring is a hell of a long way away and some mornings a cup (or four) of coffee just isn't going to cut it. Desperate times call for desperate (resolution breaking) measures, so on those dreary winter mornings there is really only one solution, Coffee Crunch Bars. Crumbly cookies chock full of nuts (almonds), chocolate chips, and espresso powder, they smell of these babies in the oven is enough to drag you out of bed even on the chilliest of mornings. Check out Molly's recipe here, or in the February issue of Bon Appetit and get your motor running!

January 7, 2009

For Here Or To Go

Remember all the cheap food you could get in college? We ate Five Star Pizza not for the taste (the cardboard box had almost as much flavor), but because you could get a large pie for $3.99. Then there was Burrito Brothers, CJ's oysters and quarter beer night (what was i thinking eating cheap oysters), and yes, there was even a chinese takeout place called Chinee Takee Outee. And of course if you were really desperate you could eat the Hare Krishna food on the plaza but you could wake up with a shaved head/ponytail type 'do if you didn't watch your back. Annywayyyy... I realize now, that had I had any idea how to cook back then, I could have eaten a lot better and saved even more money (to spend on beer). I could have been enjoying inexpensive and great tasting dishes like this Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry. Flank steak (or chicken or tofu), whatever vegetables you have on hand, and a decently stocked pantry and you are on your way to a easy, healthy, delicious meal thats always "for here."

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
For marinade:
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sherry or mirin
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 to 1lb flank steak, sliced into strips
For Sauce:
6 tbsp chicken broth
2tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar

1 head brocolli, chopped into bit size florets
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 container shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup chicken broth

Combine above ingredients and mix well. Add flank steak and toss well to coat. Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok or large frying pan. Stir fry steak until thoroughly browned and transfer to plate. Heat another 2 tbsp oil and cook all vegetables for 2 - 4 minutes until they are tender/crisp. Add 1 cup of broth, cover and simmer 2 - 3 minutes.
Stir together sauce ingredients, making sure the cornstarch in completely dissolved. Return steak to wok with vegetables and add sauce. Stir together and simmer together until cooked through. Serve over rice.

January 6, 2009

Failure Is Not An Option

I woke up this morning with vague plans- go to the farmers market, go for a walk, start my taxes...holy crap its Tuesday! And not just any Tuesday, Tuesdays With Dorie Tuesday...the Tuesday that Dorie Greenspan herself picked the recipe!! I cannot flake on this one. What is she reads this! What if I FAIL!!!
Ok, ok remain calm. It's only 8:30am, you have plenty of time. Check the fridge- no eggs, no butter, oh geez not off to a very good start. Get dressed, run to the store, ok its 9:10, plenty of time. Pull out the groceries, wait- where's the butter?! Get back in the car, go to a different grocery store (too embarrassing to go back to the same one), buy butter (2 for $6 sweet!) and head straight to the kitchen. 2 hours, 2 tartlettes, and a small sigh of relief later...

Not a total disaster, I daresay even a success. They smell divine (hey get your nose off your computer screen!) and can't wait to share them with my cousin this afternoon. Thank you Dorie for this, and all your wonderful recipes in Baking, and for being an inspiration to us all.

January 4, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons

I may not have a lot of money, or stuff, or natural athletic ability, but I've got lemons. Lots of lemons. When friends know you cook, you got inundated with free produce (see zucchini crisis of '08). Thankfully, this month's issue of Bob Appetit came to my rescue with lovely, light and lemony Meyer Lemon Custard Cakes. If you ever wondered what it would be like to eat a lemon scented cloud (I mean, who among is hasn't), this is the dessert for you. And, with less than a cup of sugar and butter used only to grease the ramekins, they are resolution friendly as well.

Meyer (or any kind of lemon) Lemon Custard Cups
adapted from Bon Appetit February '09
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
2 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp finely grated lemon peel

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter eight ramekin cups. Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine milk, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest; whisk until well blended. Add flour mixture to yolk mixture and whisk custard until blended. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually add in remaining 1/4 sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into custard. Fold in remaining whites in 2 parts. Custard will be runny. Divide equally into prepared ramekins. Place ramekins in large roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up sides of the ramekins. Bake until golden brown and set on top (they will still be soft in the center), approx 25-27 minutes. Remove ramekins from roasting pan and refrigerate uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours.
To serve, run a knife around each custard cake to loosen and invert onto a plate.
Serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.