Friday, December 31, 2010

Crème Brûlée Cupcakes-Happy New Year

Have you started making New Year's resolutions ? Or are you someone who doesn't believe in the habitual list making at the end of the year ? It's easy to start lists with " I will not do this or I will not do that" resolution for this year will be simply " I will ".

I will look at the world with child like wonder
I will love
I will give
I will forgive
I will laugh
I will open myself to all the world has to give
I will surround myself with a positive energy
I will

It will be my mantra for my life-I will-short, sweet, easy to remember, easy to call upon when the world throws that inevitable curve ball,easily adaptable to any situation. It's humming through my thoughts now..I will.

While I'm sitting here thinking and softly chanting my mantra I'm catching up on my favorite blogs. I like to rise early and spend a few moments of quiet time catching up. A few weeks ago the little thumbnail photo from Milk and Honey Cafe caught my eye and I immediately clicked on it. Milk and Honey Cafe is a sweet blog written by Sarah from Toronto. Sarah came up with this incredibly creative cupcake recipe and I immediately bookmarked it knowing I must try it soon! Her photos and description of the recipe process sealed the deal. These look so festive and pretty and if you showed up at a New Year's Eve party with them you will be the one getting all the kisses and hugs at the stroke of midnight. Thank you Sarah for sharing this recipe. For you cupcake lovers , creme brulee lovers and lovers around the world-something sweet to share.

Crème Brûlée Cupcakes
Crème brûlée recipe from joe pastry
Yellow layer cake recipe from smitten kitchen
makes about 12 cupcakes

for cake

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon cake flour (not self-rising)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken

For crème brûlée
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For sugar decoration
1 cup of granulated sugar

Crème brûlée

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, set a small saucepan of water (or a teapot) over low heat.

2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan, along with the vanilla extract and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately remove the cream from the heat and allow it to steep for 10-20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and yolks together in a medium bowl until they're light in color. Add the cream in a steady stream, whisking all the while. Pour the mixture into four 6-ounce ramekins, (OR in my case, in a small pan.) Place the ramekins into a roasting pan or baking dish.

4. When ready to bake, put on an oven mitt and open the oven door. Slide a middle rack half way out and gently place the baking dish containing the ramekins on it. Carefully pour in enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins. Slide the rack back into the oven and close the door.

5. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or (40-45 minutes for a larger pan like mine) until the custard is just set (firm but slightly jiggly in the middle). Cool on a wire rack, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or up to three days.

For just the crème brûlée on its own: Half an hour before you want to serve, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator. Take off the plastic wrap and spread a healthy tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of each custard. Using a salamander or a blow torch, melt and lightly brown the sugar. Let the crème brûlée sit for 5 minutes, and serve.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with cups.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
3. Spread batter evenly in cupcake pan. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely before filling or decorating.

Sugar decoration and assembly of cupcakes

1. In a small sauce pan with a heavy bottom, pour a cup of sugar on medium-high heat. Without using a spatula, simply swirl the pan itself often in order to ensure even heating. Slowly but surely, the sugar will start to caramelize. When the colour starts to darken, and it will smoke just a bit, immediately take off heat. When sugar passes its melting point, it will burn very very quickly. It's also useful to use a sugar thermometer to ensure the perfect amount of melting. (300-310°F for hard candy).

2. Quickly pour onto silpat or non-stick surface and let it spread into a thin layer. After it cools to room temperature, place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Once completely harden, break into funky pieces for decoration.

3. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, make a cone-shaped hole in each cupcake about the size of a loonie (for Canadians) or a silver dollar (for Americans). Fill it up with a tablespoon of cold crème brûlée (I used my small ice-cream scoop for cookies). Place sugar decoration on top and it's ready to serve!

I used a small torch to caramelize the crème brûlée on the top of the cupcakes before I added the sugar decoration.

Happy New Year

Bonne Annee

Felice anno nuovo

Szczesliwego Nowego Roku

S Novim Godom

Stastny Novy rok

Feliz Ano ~Nuevo

Chuc Mung Tan Nien

Xin Nian Kuai Le

Prosit Neujahr

Kenourios Chronos

L'Shannah Tovah

Hauoli Makahiki Hou

Potato Leek Soup - French Fridays with Dorie

It's been very cold and sometimes raining in Seattle. I know I have nothing to complain about with everyone else having to dig out from that horrible storm that hit across the United States. I grew up in Pittsburgh and I remember those storms. What I romanticize about the most is that first snowfall of the season-when it would sneak in during the wee small hours of the morning. We were night owls in those days and as soon as we saw it falling we would bundle up and go out for a midnight walk. It was quieter than I ever remember the world being during those walks. You could barely hear the snow falling. It was that thick steady snow that stuck to your coat and hat so that by the time you walked a block you looked like a little snowman. The tree branches were thick with the snow and fire hydrants wore little snow caps. It was fun to be the first human to make tracks in the snow. Sometimes it was so thick and so steady that by the time we turned back our tracks had disappeared. I miss those midnight snow walks. We knew we could count on everything being shut down the next day.

Snow days were fun even as adults-you could cook up a good pot of soup, make some homemade bread or experiment with some new cookie recipe. Or pull out the cross country skis and blaze trails with the sun shining !

Well I don't have snow here but with the cold chilling my bones I knew it was time for some soup. And not just any ordinary soup-but Dorie Greenspan's Potato and Leek Soup. The Potato Leek Soup was one of the recipe selections for my French Fridays with Dorie Group. I couldn't wait to make this, it sounded like the perfect soup to take the chill off.

As usual, I wasn't disappointed. Dorie gives you the choice of leaving the soup chunky with the luscious bits of leeks and potatoes still intact or whirling it all together in a food processor resulting in a smooth creamy soup. I opted for chunky-I love to have a good hearty chewy soup. Tell me is there anything that Dorie cooks "not so good" ? I don't think so, every recipe I have tried turns out with ohhs and ahhs around the dinner table. I added a nice crisp homemade crouton topped with some fresh shaved Gruyere cheese. Then I remembered I had bought some White Truffle Oil from La Buona Tavala at Pike Place Market. A few drops of that was the perfect finishing touch to this soup.

Each time I cook something from Dorie's latest book Around My French TableI encourage you to go out and buy the book-this recipe is no exception. Buy the book and start enjoying some of the most delicious recipes you will find. Bon Appetit !

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Tart-Chocolate with Francois

Susan over at Baking with Susan selected this month's recipe for our Chocolate with Francois group.  Francois Payard's recipes never seem simple or uncomplicated but this one actually surprised me. 

Candy the pecans, make the tart dough , make the filling and assemble -could this really be one of his recipes or an impostor ?  As I write this, my tart is about 10 minutes from being finished and it looks delicious.  Nothing blowing up, nothing drying out-really this must be an impostor recipe, it was just too simple !  It's like a French version of pecan pie but with chocolate and a sweet tart crust.

This recipe has shocked me, really.  I love his cookbook and I love the results of his recipes, but with a great deal of his recipes you must work, work , and work to get to the end results. And sometimes the results barely resemble his photos in the book.  But that's due to my inexperience I suppose, because no matter how they end up looking they always end up tasting wonderful. Guess I will have to work on my technique.

 If you want to tackle one of these, and I suggest you do, head over to Susan's blog for the recipe. And it really is a simple uncomplicated recipe.  J walked by the oven when I went to check the progress of my tart and said "Is that pecan and chocolate "? with such a sense of urgency and desire I thought I would have to post a sentry at the oven to protect my tart until it was finished !
It's beautiful to look at when it's finished baking-anyone would be ecstatic if you showed up with this as dessert. 

And the taste is divine, imagine pecan pie with a light sweet crust and milk chocolate melted in with the sugared pecans. You get that sweet stickiness of a pecan pie with the smooth chocolaty taste.  Susan added some espresso powder to her filling-I wish I would have thought of that.  I imagine it really enhanced the flavor of the chocolate.  Seriously, you should try this recipe-it's absolutely delicious and hard to eat just one piece.  Bon Appetit.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vanilla Macaron with Fromage Blanc & Ikura-December MacTweets Challenge 14

This month’s Mac Attack Challenge was  Savory Sweet. We were instructed to create a macaron that blends the savory and the sweet, the perfect balance. Invent a macaron to be served on a silver tray as an apératif or hors d’oeuvres with a glass of champagne, as a special snack or part of a festive buffet. This is the season to experiment, to savor, to enjoy and this month you will!

I was extremely excited when I saw the challenge for MacTweets this month.  I didn't hesitate, I knew exactly what I was making or trying to recreate- a vanilla macaron with Citrus Fromage Blanc and Loki Fish Ikura.   I first had one at the Incredible Feast at the University District Farmers Market in August.  It was created by Adam Hoffman of Rover's restaurant. J and I got the last two on the plate. How fortunate for us!

I swear to this day that if there had been more on the plate I wouldn't have left the tent until I finished them off.  Crunchy crisp vanilla almond macaron, sweet citrusy fromage blanc and salty salmon roe-an explosion of flavor in your mouth. This is an excellent dish for a cocktail party-and very festive looking with the red roe. 

But I warn you, make twice as much as you think you will need because they will disappear faster than you can say oh my God that was incredible ! Fromage Blanc is a sweet cream cheese, if your grocery store or cheese shop doesn't carry it you can make your own.  I found a recipe for it by Emeril Lagasse and you will find it at the end of this post.  You can use any Ikura or salmon roe-the fresher the better.  I also made a few with a raspberry chipotle jam for those guests who don't care for salmon roe-can you imagine ?

For the macarons I used my standby recipe that you can find here .  I was fortunate and found fresh fromage blanc at my grocery store.  I took 8 ounces of the cheese and 1/4 cup citrus marmalade and whipped it together until it was a nice piping consistency.  I piped it onto the vanilla macarons and topped it with the fresh salmon roe from Loki Fish.  The taste was a little different than what I remember from the festival but I think I got it pretty close to the original. Enjoy !

Homemade Fromage Blanc
courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

2 quarts whole milk, as fresh as possible
1 cup heavy cream (optional)
2 cups fresh buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
Heavy Cream, for serving

In a large, heavy saucepan, add the milk and the cream for a richer fromage blanc. In a mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk and lemon juice and stir to combine well. Add the buttermilk-lemon juice mixture to the milk and begin to heat the milk, over low heat and very slowly, to 175 degrees F. While the milk is heating, stir only twice, making 2 strokes each time, with a heat-proof spatula or other flat utensil. Check the temperature often. As soon as the temperature reaches 175 degrees F, remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
Line a large colander with 2 layers of fine cheesecloth and set over a large bowl. Gently ladle the curds and whey into the colander and allow to drain until the drips of whey slows, about 2 minutes. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together to form a hanging pouch, and hang pouch over a bowl and allow to drain until the cheese reaches the desired consistency.

Serve as is, with preserves, honey or fresh fruit, or add salt or fresh herbs, to taste, and enjoy as a savory appetizer. If a rich cheese is desired, spoon or pour a bit of heavy cream over the top before serving. Also, if a very smooth product is desired, beat the cheese briefly with an electric mixer before serving.

Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 week. If cheese is marinated in oil with fresh herbs, it will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.

Check out everyone else's results here

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Stollen-Daring Bakers December Challenge

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

A Stollen is a  cake containing dried fruit, and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar. The cake is usually made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Stollen is a traditional German cake, usually eaten during the Christmas season.  Panettone , an Italian bread is similar to Stollen.  I used lemon peel, orange peel,almonds and dried sour cherries in mine along with the raisins soaked in rum.  This is another recipe you cannot throw together in the morning.  The dough needs time to rise and rest and rise and rest.  I started my recipe the morning of December 22nd and was taking it out of the oven the evening of December 23rd. It was well worth the effort. Once it was cut it disappeared quickly.  I'm glad I added the sour cherries,it just added another taste dimension to it.  I can imagine that if I had kept it for a few more days the flavors in it would have developed even more-but I couldn't stop myself from cutting into it. And after all I did make it for Christmas Eve dinner.  We finished off the last piece after dinner on Christmas Day.  Hmm, might have to put together another one.  I hope you enjoyed your holidays with your loved ones. And thanks to Penny at Sweet Sadie's Baking for this challenge.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I  want to wish all of you the happiest of holidays.  Thank you for your friendship and support this year.  Christmas is my favorite holiday-there just is a magic to it that isn't present with any of the other holidays.  It must have something to do with the sparkle and glitter and lights and presents and love.

Every once in a while I will check my horoscope and today was one of those times.  Sometimes I feel the need to seek out a message or a sign of where I should be going.  I know I should just be looking inside myself but sometimes I need a little nudge.  Again that little thing called serendipity snuck up on me when I least expected it. This is a little bit of what I found in my horoscope today-Christmas Eve:
For many children, this is a very special night.  It is a night filled with happiness, magic and mystery.  They've made lists and they've made wishes.  Tomorrow, they believe their dreams will come true.  You are in just such a place now, too.  You should try to be more like a child, holding on to a great sense of wonder and anticipation, and the feeling that something you want very much will appear in your life through some enchanted means.  Don't entertain fear or cynicism. Allow yourself to believe. Something miraculous is about to happen in your life.

What a wonderful reminder for me to believe in magic, hold onto that wonderment at this beautiful life and just believe.  Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, believe in your love and believe that life is as magical and wonderful as you make it. Merry Christmas and love to you all.


I hope Christmas Day finds you tucked in safely and warmly with your loved ones. Now if the magic would just sprinkle a little snow on Seattle for a White Christmas that would be perfect . Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tell Tale Preserve Company's Luscious Bag of Sweetness

A few months ago Alice Q Foodie turned me onto the Tell Tale Preserve Company.  At first I was depressed that I didn't live in San Francisco to be able to stop by the Ferry Building Farmers Market. But that quickly turned to elation when I scrolled down a bit and discovered Chef Werner will ship his sweet little goodie bags to me !

  For  $35 a month subscription, you get a once-a-month delivery of house-made pastries, jams, candies and breads-shipping varies depending upon where you live. Seriously-if you want something indulgent and delicious-check it out and order one for yourself-and trust me on this-don't just order one and think -oh I'll give it to Susie for her birthday-because once you open the bag-it will never make it to Susie's !

My first bag arrived today and it was like opening Christmas presents.  First of all the packaging is beautiful in it's simplicity.  A burlap bag tied with jute.  The little morsels of magic inside are wrapped in simple brown paper so that what stands out is the beauty of what's inside the package.  This is what my bag contained:

Vanilla & Douglas fir confiture au lait

Roasted pumpkin and guanaja chocolate marshmallow

Turron of white chocolate, new crop walnut & yuzu

Pain d'epices laced caramels

Quince and caramelized honey petit gateaux

Hazelnut, frankincense & muscovado toffee

I did not receive any compensation for writing this post-I bought the bag myself because I was enticed by the descriptions and photos on Chef Werner's website.  And I definitely will be returning to buy more ! If you still need convincing read this NY Times review of Tell Tale Preserve Company and Chef Werner.

Be still my heart the caramels are whispering to me, taste me first-but I think the hazelnut, frankincense and muscovado toffee is going to win out. Oh and I think the Vanilla & Douglas fir confiture au lait would be indescribably delicious spread onto one of Boulangerie Poilane's Punitions-sweet little butter cookies.  Time to put on the apron and bake some now.  I'm off to the kitchen while visions of sugar plums dance in your heads.

PS. While taking the photos for this post-the roasted pumpkin and guanaja chocolate marshmallows won the taste test-I had to quickly wrap them up to stop from eating them all-seriously addictive,soft and pillowy with a chocolate crunch-I will be searching for a recipe for these .

If you are lucky enough to be in close proximity to the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco-run out the door and pick up one of these-it would make a fabulous hostess gift over the holidays. Enjoy !