Thursday, January 29, 2009

January Daring Bakers - Tuiles

This month's challenge is 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.

I've never made tuiles before and was excited to see how simple they seemed. As Karen and Zorra explain: "Traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are gently molded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they're named. The Dutch angle: traditionally this batter was used to bake flat round cookies on 31st December, representing the year unfold. On New Years day however, the same batter was used but this day they were presented to well-wishers shaped as cigars and filled with whipped cream, symbolizing the New Year that's about to roll on. And of course the batter is sometimes called tulip-paste."

Our directions were to choose one of three tuile recipes provided, shape it prior and/or after baking, and pair it with something light. They made stunning butterfly shapes as an example, and mine came out nowhere near as elegant.

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time: batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

I served mine with passionfruit sorbet and greek style rasberry frozen yogurt. My shapes melted together on the baking sheet a bit, but once I was able to peel them off I could form them. They were quite tasty, with the flavor of sugar cookies but much lighter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Whole Wheat Penne with Sausage and Lacinato Kale

Kale and sausage always seems like a warm hearty, winter combo for winter. This simple weeknight meal was super tasty.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Remove 1-2 pounds sausage from their casings and heat over medium-high heat. Break up with a spatula as you cook. You can use whatever sausage you like - I used half garlic-herb and half hot Italian sausage.

Meanwhile, cook pasta so it is al dente and drain. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent from sticking until you are ready to add it to the sausage.

Prepare the lacinato kale by washing and removing the ribs. This kale is easily identified by it's bumpy skin.

Add some sliced onions and the kale to the sausage and saute until the kale is just wilted. Add the pasta and toss. Mix in freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper.

Serve in large bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper.

Chocolate Mousse

Evan loves chocolate mousse. I had all of the ingredients handy, so I gave it a shot (specifically, we had extra heavy cream from the carbonara). It came out pretty well. A little grainy, but very tasty. After it has chilled, I recommend letting it sit for a little bit before serving, to let it mellow slightly. I served it with homemade whipped cream.

Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Gourmet Cookbook (2004)

2 cups very cold heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Heat 3/4 cup cream in a 1-quart heavy saucepan until hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat.

Whisk together yolks, sugar and salt in a metal bowl until well combined, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking until combined.

Transfer to a saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until it registers 160 F on a thermometer. Pour custard through fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl and stir in vanilla.

Melt chocolate in a large metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water stirring frequently (or melt the chocolate in the microwave). Whisk custard into chocolate until smooth. Let cool. Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups cream in a large bowl with an electric until it just holds stiff peaks.

Whisk one quarter of the cream into the chocolate custard to lighten it, then gently but thoroughly fold in remaining cream.

Spoon mousse into eight 6-ounce stemmed glasses or ramekins. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 6 hours.

Meanwhile, make the whipped cream. Simply beat heavy cream and sugar together until it is a desired consistency. Add sugar to suit your tastes.

When the mousse has set, let it sit out for a few minutes. Top with whipped cream and serve.

Spaghetti Carbonara

For some, comfort food means fried chicken, for others it is macaroni and cheese. While I love these foods, and indeed find them comforting, spaghetti carbonara is one of my old standbys of comfort food. It is rich and creamy, easy to prepare yet not something one eats every day. Mario Batali's recipe in Simple Italian Food: Recipes from my Two Villages (1998) is my go-to formula, which I have tweaked over time. As Batali describes it, carbonara is actually a "classic 'breakfast' pasta eaten after a night on the town." For those nervous about raw eggs, never fear: the heat from the spaghetti cooks the eggs. I promise.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1/2 medium onio, finely chopped (this can be increased to your taste, or substituted with shallots)
4 ounces guanciale, pancetta, or bacon, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 eggs (I often use less)
1 pound thick spaghetti
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add about 2 tablespoons of salt.

In a 12- to 14-inch saute pan, cook the onion and guanciale over medium heat until both onion and guanciale are translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cream and cook for 1 minute.

Separate the eggs, being careful to keep the yolks whole. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, until tender but still al dente, and drain. Add the hot pasta to the saute pan and toss over medium heat until coated. Add 1/4 cup of the cheese and stir through. Remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the egg whites (the vigorously is key here - otherwise you end up with scrambled eggs in your pasta).

Divide the pasta among four plates (we like large bowls) and top each serving with 1 yolk. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup grated cheese and the black pepper and serve.

Topping each serving with the egg yolk is a great effect for guests, but lately we've been skipping that part and just mixing in the egg whites and yolk in the pan. We've also cut it from 4 to 2 eggs. We've used both pancetta and bacon in this recipe, and both work very well. Pancetta has a subtler flavor, while bacon imparts a distinct smokiness. Trim the bacon of fat. We generally use a whole package. You can really tailor this dish to your individual tastes - play with the amount of cream, eggs, meat, and cheese.

Vegetarians, never fear. This is also an excellent dish without the bacon. I've also made a vegetarian version with veggie bacon that was awesome.

Ginger Chicken Stir Fry with Cous Cous

For the last two weeks I've been feeling under the weather. When that happens, you get sick of soup pretty quickly. Instead of the normal chicken noodle and tea, I was craving some serious ginger and garlic. This quick stir fry was the perfect immune booster (or so I convinced myself). Simply slice red peppers, onions, mushrooms, and chicken breast into thin strips. Chop ginger and garlic. Heat some oil in a wok. Saute the ginger, garlic, and vegetables until softened, but still retaining some bite. I removed them at this point, then sauteed the chicken, adding the vegetables back in at the end.

I served this with whole wheat cous cous, for a quick, delicious, healthy meal.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Save the Date: Chili Fest 2009!

That's right, Evan and I have decided that we haven't had enough chili this winter. To celebrate this perennial warm-weather favorite we will be hosting a chili fest! Part cook-off, part celebration of meat 'n' beans, it's going to be awesome!

When: Saturday February 21 (Time TBD)
Where: Our place, in the Bronx

Let us know if you want to participate, be a judge, or just hang out and eat delicious chili!

Out on the Town: Patsy's Pizzeria

Evan and I, having both been raised in the Village, were both raised on John's Pizza. Although my father always complained that the crust was burnt, for me John's Pizza remained the thin-crust no-slices lexicon of what New York pizza is. The bottom may be slightly charred from the brick oven, but a single bite reveals a chewy crust, at once light and fulfilling. Although we've sampled and enjoyed more pizza in New York than I can even calculate, somehow we'd never stopped by Patsy's Pizzeria on University and 12th Street.

We ordered a large pizza with meatball and onion. The crust, like John's, was thin and crisp yet chewy. The toppings were fresh and not overpowering. Basil leaves were a nice addition. The beer selection was slim and overpriced, but otherwise we deemed this a damn good thin crust pizza. They also seemed to have a nice selection of family-style pasta dishes that were large enough to serve four. So, when the line outside John's is too long, head over to Patsy's.

Biscotti Take Two

Once again, this is very late. For Christmas I made a big batch of biscotti for my family gifts. I didn't have the recipe I'd used previously handy, so I tried a new one! Although I prefer my first attempt, these biscotti also turned out delicious.

'Nonna's' Biscotti
Adapted from


1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons brandy (I used Grand Marnier)
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole almonds with skin, lightly toasted , cooled, and coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


Stir together sugar, butter, brandy, and extracts in a large bowl, then stir in almonds and eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.

Chill dough, covered, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Using moistened hands, halve dough and form 2 (16-by 2-inch) loaves on an ungreased large baking sheet.

Bake until pale golden, about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer loaves to a rack and cool 15 minutes.

Cut loaves into 3/4-inch slices with a serrated knife.

Arrange biscotti, with a cut side down, on a clean baking sheet and bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Year's Brunch

On New Year's day we had Manissa, Keegan, and Beth over for Brunch. They had done so much cooking the day before that I wanted to do return the favor. I decided on using my Aunt Etta's pancake recipe (see my December 5, 2008 entry for the recipe). I used half vanilla and half plain yogurt, and also split the flour between all-purpose and whole wheat. Just like when my aunt made them, the pancakes were moist and fluffy. To complement the meal we served coffee and mimosas (for those of us not too hungover to enjoy them).

We topped the pancakes with yogurt and strawberry and black cherry compote. A perfect start to the new year!

We hung out for the remainder of the day, loafing, playing Rock Band, watching TV. We ate macaroni and cheese. Julia and Greg joined us from Hartford. For dinner I made a ton of pasta with sauteed spinach, cannellini beans, tomatoes and parmesan - pretty much what I had around. I later learned that eating beans on new years is a tradition meant to bring good luck, so there you go.

And, because I couldn't get enough time in the kitchen, I also made Keegan a birthday cake. I tried to recreate the birthday cake I had made for Evan, since Manissa and Keegan didn't get to sample it. I didn't get the cake part perfectly right, but the icing was still good. Happy New Year! Happy Birthday!

Super belated New Year's Eve!

Well, continuing in my effort to post my backdated material, here comes New Year's Eve! I had to work from 7-10, but meanwhile everyone was assembled at Manissa and Keegan's house for a feast. Manissa, Keegan, and Beth were cooking up a storm all day, creating delicious Indian dishes such as cucumber raita and peas pulao. There was so much food that even when I showed up at 11, after 25 people and four hours, there was still plenty of food.

Beth, visiting from her new home in Michigan, made a special New Year's orange and brandy cake. This traditional Greek cake has a coin inside; whoever finds the coin first is supposed to have good luck and wealth for the new year. Beth explained that, "While we're not Greek, it was always my family's tradition to bake a new years cake with a coin inside. This was the first time I used this orange brandy recipe and I definitely think I'll do it again. I especially like the detail of spelling out the year on top in almonds." (Note that this picture is upside-down, and that the almonds spell out 2009 on top). The cake was light and airy, with a powerful but not overwhelming orange flavor. Too bad it's only made once a year!

New Year's Orange Brandy Cake

Adapted from

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, or a combination of butter and margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Whole blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 10-inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light yellow and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the butter or butter and margarine and beat for 1 minute more. Beat in the orange juice and brandy.

Whisk together the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and the zests in another large bowl. Add to the yolk mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until incorporated.

In a large clean bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the pan and shake gently to even the top. Decorate the top with almonds.

Bake the cake for about 1 hour, or until it is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack before removing from the pan and serving.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Family Christmas 2008

I have so many entries to post! I'm such a blog slacker! The blog may not be updated as often now that I am working 70 hours a week, but I'll try! Anyway, I've been meaning to put this one up forever - my family's Christmas! We spend the whole day eating, drinking and enjoying each other's company. We started out with just my mom, dad, sister, Evan, and myself. We opened presents (lots of great foodie books this year!) and then had breakfast. My dad always keeps a big pot of sausage and peppers on the stove on Christmas, which we devour throughout the day. This year he served some with eggs for breakfast.

My aunt, uncle, and cousins came over in the afternoon and we continued munching while playing with the Wii Evan and I got my parents. Virtual bowling anyone? There was the usual assortment of antipasti and cheeses (I am officially obsessed with pesto brie from Murray's). For dinner we had our traditional Christmas dinner - beef tenderloin with gravy, mashed potatoes, string beans and salad. Yum! Merry belated Christmas!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Recipes to Rival: Cheese Gougeres + Crostini

The December Recipes to Rival Challenge was a lot of fun, although I only completed half of it (does that count??). We were given three appetizer options and had to choose two. One was Galatoire’s Oysters en Brochette, which sounded great but was definitely the most involved of the three. Another choice was Blue Cheese, Pear and Walnut Crostini, which sounds delicious and easy (even though I'm not a blue cheese fan) but I had literally none of the ingredients on hand when I went to complete the challenge this morning. I hope to complete a version (sans blue cheese) soon, but the holidays and New Years really distracted me this time around.

The one that I did complete, however, was simple and delicious. The recipe was for Gruyère Cheese Gougères, but I only had sharp cheddar on hand. Still, the result was a light, airy, savory bite of goodness.

Gruyère Cheese Gougères
Copyright 'The French Laundry Cookbook' By Thomas Keller, November, 1999
Makes about 4 dozen gougères

Gougères are a classical preparation often served at wine tastings in France. The puffs are made from a savory pâte á choux, or cream puff dough-flavored here with Gruyère. They are best served hot out of the oven, offering that creamy-dough gratification. Don't add the cheese, and the puff is a base for a dessert.

1 cup water
7 tablespoons (3-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Pinch of sugar
1-1/4 cups (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
1-1/4 cups grated Gruyère (5 ounces) (I used sharp cheddar cheese)
Freshly ground white pepper (I used black pepper)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated (if the ball forms more quickly, continue to cook and stir for a full 2 minutes).

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle and beat for about 30 seconds at medium speed to cool slightly. Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth, silky texture. Stop the machine and lift up the beater to check the consistency of the batter. The batter in the mixing bowl should form a peak with a tip that falls over. If it is too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg. Check again and, if necessary, add the yolk. Finally, mix in 3/4 cup of the cheese and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch plain pastry tip with the gougère batter. Pipe the batter into 1-tablespoon mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the gougères as the mixture will spread during baking. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with about 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining grated cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until they puff and hold their shape.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. And bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. When the gougères are done, they should be a light golden brown color. When you break one open, it should be hollow; the inside should be cooked but still slightly moist. Remove the pans from the oven and serve the gougères while hot.