Friday, January 23, 2015

Chocolate Hazelnut Madeleines

I decided to make this one a small(er) batch. While it can be a good thing to have something sweet around, it can also be a bad idea when they end up staring at you.
Better to have someone (or two) over to tea or coffee and share.
And besides, they're nicer within a day or two- another good reason not to make a huge batch.

When I first worked on this chocolate and hazelnut madeleine concept,  I only had one madeleine pan, which can be a bit of a nuisance when you have enough batter for 24 or more cakes. The pan is hot, you need to re-butter and dust the indentations...
They end up tasting great, sure, but the finish isn't quite as sharp on the lovely little shells.

I have since been (extremely) happily gifted a few madeleine pans from someone else who was going through their baking arsenal. She asked if I would like them, of course not knowing I was contemplating a purchase. The great thing about these is that they're used. They have a bit of character and a finish.

Well... I've made many variations of these over the past year or so.
Egg whites vs. whole eggs, with and without baking powder, increase some of this, decrease that, etc., etc.

Not to say that this will officially be 'IT'- I truly cannot promise that.
However, these aren't bad (and I don't think anyone would know they were gluten free, which certainly is a goal... and besides, it's kind of fun to experiment with different flours).

Chocolate Hazelnut Madeleines
Makes 12-18 (depending on the size of the moulds)

8 T (114 g) salted butter (or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
2 oz (57g) dark chocolate
1 T (15 ml) honey
1/4 c (20 g) hazelnut flour
2 T (18 g) tapioca flour
1 T (12 g) rice flour
1 T (8 g) corn starch
1 T (8 g) cocoa powder (plus extra for dusting the moulds)
1/4 t (2 g) baking powder
2/3 c (77 g) confectioner's sugar
2 large eggs 
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Melt butter, chocolate, and honey together over low heat, or in a bain marie until just melted. Mix well to blend and set aside to cool until just warm.
In a bowl, blend together the hazelnut flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Set aside. 
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the vanilla seeds until frothy and slowly add the confectioner's sugar. Continue beating over medium-high speed several minutes until thick and pale. 
With the mixer running on low speed, steam in the warm chocolate mixture. Increase the speed and beat just until blended. 
Carefully fold in the flour mixture until the batter is uniform. 
Cover and refrigerate the batter 1 hour. 

Remove the batter from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
While the oven is heating, brush a madeleine mould with softened butter and dust with cocoa powder. Divide the batter among the prepared madeleine indentations. 
Bake the madeleines 10-15 minutes, or until the tops spring back when poked lightly.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes, then turn the madeleines out onto a rack to cool completely. 
Store any extras in an airtight container. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hot Toddies and Such

I wanted to go over a few more "fortified" cold-weather beverages here, beverages that can warm you from the inside in more ways than one (Irish Coffee has been covered).

A simple, Hot Toddy base has just a few ingredients, and you can dress it up from there to taste.

a shot of whiskey or bourbon= 1 oz = 2T = 30 ml
1T (15 ml) honey (or to taste)
boiling water

In a glass, mix the whiskey and honey, just to dissolve the honey a bit.
Top off with boiling water (6-8 oz or 177-236 ml) and stir to combine.

Add spices and citrus as desired:
Lemon slice
Orange slice
Cinnamon stick
A piece of fresh peeled ginger
A few whole cloves
A couple allspice berries

Let the mixture infuse with the spices a couple minutes prior to drinking. 

Hot toddies can be especially nice when you're feeling a bit under the weather.

Some other ideas:

Make it a Whiskey or Bourbon Cider- omit the honey and add hot cider to the bourbon along with spices as desired.

Hot Buttered Rum:
Now, I have no clue where the idea to add butter to a warm drink came from.
I'm hoping there was never anyone who said to themselves. "Gosh, a nice mug of warm butter sounds good right about now."
It has the potential to become a very slippery slope. One mug of butter leads to another, and then...?

Anyway, to make an individual hot buttered rum, blend 1 T (14 g) softened butter with 2 T (36 g) packed brown sugar along with a nice dash of cinnamon, a grating of nutmeg, and a touch of ground cloves if desired (plus a bit of salt if you're using unsalted butter here).
Place the compound butter in a mug, add about 4 T (60 ml) rum, and top off with boiling water. 
Stir and enjoy!

Granted, it's a little more decadent, more like dessert in a glass than a hot toddy, but sometimes that's what you need.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Prune-Cognac Chocolate Cake

Once upon a time I was thoughtfully gifted rolled chocolate truffles set in tiny prunes.

Prunes soaked in Armagnac are a classic, and nice either alone or served alongside chocolate cake.
I thought I'd go ahead and put them all together in some fudgy goodness.

Armagnac vs. Cognac vs. brandy.... well, it can be your preference here (or, of course, whatever you have available if you're going that route).
I will not attempt to pretend to be an expert on any of the above, though I can say that there's a difference in how Armagnac and Cognac are produced and distilled, as well as the regions of France where the two hail from.

The cake is dense, fudgy, somewhat boozy, deep and dark- a masculine chocolate cake if I may say so.
The booziness intensifies a bit as the cake sits, the flavors meld and the Cognac permeates the cake.

 If a piece is around to "test" the next day, you will likely be able to taste a difference.

And besides, who doesn't need a deep, dark, rich dessert as the weather gets colder?

Prune-Cognac Chocolate Cake
serves 12

1/3 c (80 ml) Cognac (or Armagnac or brandy)
2/3 c (100 g) prunes (dried plums), chopped
12 oz (340 g) dark chocolate (60-70%)
5 oz/10 T (142 g) unsalted butter
5 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 c (150 g) granulated sugar
1/2 t (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/4 t (2 g) salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 175 C. 
Prepare a 10 inch (26 cm) springform pan by buttering the bottom and sides of the pan and wrapping a piece of large aluminum foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If you do not have a large enough roll of foil, pleat two pieces of foil together to create a wider piece. 

Put a kettle or a pot of water on to boil as preparation for later baking the cake.

Chop the prunes into 6 pieces or so (roughly raisin-sized pieces) and place them in a small bowl. 
Pour the Cognac over the prunes and let them sit at least 30 minutes, stirring every now and then. 

While the prunes infuse, place the butter and chopped chocolate in a large heatproof glass or stainless steel bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, you only need an inch or two of water to melt everything. 

Once everything is melted, whisk the mixture together so that the butter and chocolate are emulsified. 
Remove the pan from over the top of the pan of water. 

In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt to combine.
Whisk the egg mixture into the melted chocolate mixture until everything is well-combined.
Fold in the soaked prunes and any extra liquid using a rubber spatula so that everything is blended throughout the cake batter.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and place the pan inside a large roasting pan that will easily accommodate it.
Pour boiling water halfway up the side of the cake pan and cover the top of the cake pan with foil. 
Place the roasting pan in the preheated oven and bake about 50 minutes, until the cake is set. 

Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and remove the foiled cake pan from the roasting pan and onto a cooling rack. Remove the foil from the top of the pan as well as from around the bottom of the pan, being careful to remember that everything is still hot. 
Let the cake cool completely, remove the ring from the pan, and slice with a very sharp knife- making sure to rinse the knife in hot water between slices and wiping the knife dry before proceeding for clean cuts. 

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Everything Halva

If you've eaten more traditional halva, this version will likely be a bit different for you.
It's sort of like a power bar, chock full of nuts and protein. Compared to what it could be, this "everything" halva is not too sweet- the sugar comes from a small handful of dates and a bit of honey.

Though I do like picking up halva on occasion at the store, I find I'm usually somewhat disappointed at how overly sweet it is. I guess I'm always surprised and don't remember it being quite so tooth-achingly saccharine.

Nut-based halva is usually made of ground nuts and seeds mixed with lots of sugar syrup.

It's not the case with this version here.
And besides, with all that's in it, I think this halva tastes better and is much more interesting to eat than what I can buy at the store.
Plus, if using appropriate oats, it's free from gluten in addition to eggs and milk if those are allergens you watch for.
Though caution- there are nuts.

Though not completely necessary, goji berries add a nice pop of color, along with some different texture and flavor.
(I always think it's quite strange that as berries they taste like graham crackers- well, they do to me, anyway.)

Everything halva is a nice sit-down treat with black coffee or tea, or great as a pick-me-up on it's own when you need a little something for a snack.

I like to slice into little fingers, perhaps 36-42 per batch.

Everything Halva
Adapted from The Vibrant Table by Anya Kassoff

6 large medjool dates, pits removed and flesh soaked in water for 1 hour
1 c (150 g) raw hazelnuts
1 c (120 g) raw walnuts
1 c (130 g) raw cashews
1/2 c (56 g) raw pecans
3/4 c (75 g) rolled oats
1/2 c (75 g) roasted sunflower seeds
1 T (15 ml) coconut oil
1/4 c (60 ml) tahini
a pinch of salt
1/4 c plus 1 T (75 ml) honey
1/4 c (38 g) sesame seeds
1/4 c (44 g) chia seeds
1/4 c (38 g) hemp hearts
1/2 c (66 g) pumpkin seeds
1/2 c (70 g) roasted and salted pistachios
1/2 c (55 g) goji berries (optional)

Soak the dates in a bowl of water 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
Prepare a small pan with sides (8x8 inch, 9x9 inch... I like an 11x7) with a layer of parchment paper that extends up the sides of the pan. 

Place the hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, and pecans on a baking sheet, making sure that the hazelnuts take up a section by themselves to facilitate removal of the skin after toasting.
Toast the nuts about 10 minutes, then remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the nuts to cool completely. Rub the hazelnuts between two layers of a towel to remove the skins, trying to keep those bits as separate as possible from the other nuts (though skin really won't hurt anything). 

Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times so that they are mostly broken down. Remove the ground oats to a large bowl. 
Pour all the nuts into the food processor along with the sunflower seeds and process until they resemble chunky breadcrumbs. Drain the dates and add them to the nut mixture with the coconut oil, tahini, and salt. Process the mixture well, until it is combined and smooth as possible. 

Pour the contents of the food processor into the large bowl containing the ground oats. Add the honey, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, and goji berries. 
Knead everything with your hands until everything is well-combined and the mixture is relatively homogenous. The mixture will be sticky and should hold together if your take a bit and compress it in your fist. 

Turn the mixture out into the parchment-lined pan and press it tightly into a single layer. 
Freeze the halva in the pan 1 hour. 
Remove the pan from the freezer and lift the parchment paper and halva from the pan. 
Slice the halva into serving-sized bars using a large sharp knife. 

Halva can be refrigerated 3 weeks stored in an airtight container. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A One-Dish Meal for Fall

This is on of those fairly easy throw-together meals, potentially put together ahead of time and layered in a single dish.
Just toss together a salad, perhaps offer fresh cranberry sauce, and open up some cider for a warm and homey fall dinner.
Maybe pull out some grainy mustard, too...

In this instance, since I've made the dish in an open pan and everything is cooked at a high heat, the sausages are roasted.

If you would like them instead braised, just bury them under everything else. That or cook the meal in a covered pot, such as a Dutch oven, to keep all that moisture completely contained.

There's a hint of maple syrup included. If you're not a maple fan, you're more than welcome to exclude it, but it only adds a hint of sweetness to the juices of the finished dish.
And if you're one who happens to love a maple-y flavor, add a bit more.

Sausage with Apples and Butternut Squash
serves 6 or more 

3 lb. (1.36 kg) butternut squash
1 t (5 g) salt
several good grinds fresh black pepper
3-4 apples (I prefer Honeycrisp or Braeburn)
3/4 t (scant 1 g) dried thyme
1/2 t (2 g) cinnamon
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
1 T (15 ml) good maple syrup
1 large yellow onion 
8-10 bratwurst

Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
Halve and peel the squash. Scoop out the seeds and cut the squash into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces. 
Place the squash in a 9x13 inch (or so) pan with sides (or a Dutch oven). Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper.
Peel the apples and cut into eight slices, then cut each slice in half so that the apple pieces are roughly the size of the pieces of squash. Scatter the apples over the squash, sprinkle with the dried thyme and dust with the cinnamon. 
In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil and maple syrup. Drizzle the mixture over the top of everything. 
Cut the onion in half, pole to pole, and slice into 1 cm thick half moons. Layer pieces of onion over the apples. 
If a teetering pile, carefully place the sausages on top of everything (things will cook down a bit and slump). 
Place the dish in the oven and bake 35-40 minutes, or until the squash and sausages are fully cooked. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Salted Caramel Pot de Crème

It's amazing sometimes how a few simple ingredients can create something wonderful. If put together in the correct way, a combination of cream, sugar, vanilla, and eggs, plus gentle heat will yield a creamy caramel dessert. 

Rich caramel flavors are so appropriate for the fall. Well, richer things are better in general as the weather becomes cooler, but caramel pairs well with fall fruits such as apples and pears as well as nuts.
However, this is just caramel on it's own.  

Salted Caramel Pot de Crème
serves 5

1 c (240 ml) heavy cream
1 c (240 ml) half and half (light cream)
1/2 vanilla bean (or 2 t vanilla extract)
1/3 c (66 g) plus 2 T sugar (24 g), separated
1 1/2 T (25 ml) water
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 t (2 g) salt

Heat oven to 300 F/150 C.
Warm the cream and half and half over low heat in a medium saucepan.

Place 1/3 c sugar and the water in a separate medium saucepan and heat over medium. Swirl the pan occasionally to dissolve the sugar and so that the mixture caramelizes evenly. Cook until the sugar syrup is dark amber.

Carefully pour the warm cream into the hot sugar syrup- be careful, as it will boil and steam. Stir the mixture to dissolve the syrup into the cream. Bring the mixture to a boil and set aside to cool 10 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the remaining sugar and the salt. Carefully whisk the warm caramel cream into the egg yolks. Strain the mixture into a bowl or large measuring cup. Divide the mixture among 5, 5-oz ramekins and place them in a 9x13 inch or so baking dish with sides.

Pour boiling water into the dish so that it comes about an inch up the sides of the ramekins.
Place the pan in the oven and bake 50-60 minutes, or until the custards are completely set, but slightly jiggly.

Remove the ramekins from the pan and let cool on a rack. Refrigerate several hours until completely cold before serving.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Red Lentil Soup

In cool weather (with and without rain) I crave soup- all kinds of soup.
Over here we tend to eat a lot of soup on Fridays.
Soup makes an easy meal.
As the main, it can be a very casual and warming, light yet filling meal.

Lentil soups are similar to split pea soups, but don't let that deter you if you're not a fan of split peas. This is not the traditional version one might imagine, and I, for one, like this much better.

I'm aware that the finished product does not look particularly red (as the title would suggest). However, I promise it's made with red lentils.
Curiously, red lentils (or masoor dal if you go with the Indian name) are more salmon-colored than red and become a golden color when cooked. Well then, that cheery shade is magnified a bit by the addition of turmeric in this particular soup.

Keep in mind that you are certainly able to adjust seasonings to your taste. If you hate something in particular, maybe tone it down, leave it out or substitute something else. The recipe as written turns out to have a nice curry flavor (and you've just mixed up your own curry without using a pre-made blend, folks). Depending on how spicy you like things, you may want extra cayenne. I originally made it with 1/2 t cayenne, which had some really nice warmth, but thought it might be too much for some people.  If you want the greater intensity, add that 1/2 t cayenne. If you prefer just a hint of heat, maybe use just a pinch instead.

Red Lentil Soup
serves 6 or more

1 large onion, diced
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 T (20 g) fresh ginger, finely grated
1 t (2 g) turmeric
1 t (3 g) cumin
1/2 t (1 g) coriander
1/4 t (1 g) cayenne pepper
1/4 t (1 g) cardamom
1/2 t (2 g) black pepper
6 c (1.4 L) chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
2 c (396 g) red lentils
1- 1 1/2 t (6-9 g) Kosher or sea salt (depending on the salinity of your broth)
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot, add the onion and saute several minutes until translucent.
Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, and black pepper.  Saute the mixture about 30 seconds or so so that the onions are coated in spices and the texture becomes pasty.
Pour in the broth and add the dry lentils. Stir the mixture, scraping the bottom of the pan a bit to release the onion and incorporate all the spices
Bring the soup to a simmer and cook about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally (more so towards the end of the cooking time). The soup will become much thicker as the lentils cook and break down. 
At the end of the cooking time, add the coconut milk and stir though. Remove the pan from the heat
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Alternatively, carefully puree the soup in batches in a standard blender.
Adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne) to taste.
The soup will thicken slightly to a nice creamy consistency as it sits a bit. 
I don't find it gets too incredibly thick after refrigeration, but thin if desired with a little extra broth or water.