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June 2009

Lily's Lemon Frangipane Tart


One taste of the lemon curd and my mouth started to pucker - albeit in.  Tart and sweet, but not too sweet.  Almost like fresh homemade lemonade from the middle of the summer time, the kind that just is not made anymore.  Extra lemons and extra zest is the key to perfect lemon curd (although I should not leave out the patience that is needed for the continued stirring as the butter, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs come together to form this wonderful treat).  This month the Daring Kitchen (hosted by Jasmine from Canada) posted its June Challenge: "Bakewell Pudding".  The premise was a tart with frangipane (and almond confection of sorts...) and a homemade jam or preserve (which was optional).  I like the idea of the challenge, especially given the fact that I call myself the Queen of Tarts and had yet to post a tart recipe.  Frangipane was new to me, and I was up for the challenge - almonds are a favorite, especially when mixed with butter and sugar.  I chose to take on the optional homemade preserve and make lemon curd.  I had a Waitrose Magazine tucked away with my cookbooks with a curd recipe that I adapted several times over.

The dessert worked its lemony-almond magic when I presented it for several nights ago.  Give it a try - it is worth the effort.  Yes, there is butter in every element of this dessert, and it is by no means a "light" dessert, but a little goes a long way, and it will not disappoint.

Lemon Curd - adapted from Waitrose Magazine, January/February 2006

1/2 C butter softened (unsalted)
Zest and juice of 4 lemons
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs lightly beaten (at room temperature)
1 1/2 C sugar

In a double boiler, heat the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Do not allow the water in the double boiler to get more than a simmer. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Add about 1/4 C of the butter/lemon mixture to the eggs to temper the eggs and mix.  This will slowly increase the temperature of the eggs so when you add them to the butter/lemon mixture they do not cook!  Then, slowly add the egg mixture to the butter/lemon mixture stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (make sure you get the bottom of the pan as well).  You will stir for about 20 minutes until the curd thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.  It might happen that you see pieces of cooked egg in the curd.  If there are only a few pieces, you can rescue the curd.  Once the curd is cooked and thickened, pour into a mesh strainer, and strain.  This will also make for a smoother curd.  If you are going to use it straight away (in recipe below) pour into a bowl, cover, and allow to cool in the refrigerator overnight.  You can also put into a sterilized canning jar if you plan to keep the curd for longer. If you want to put in canning jars, boil a pot of water, place a jar in the water and boil for 15 minutes covered.  When ready to use, CAREFULLY remove the jar from the water (tongs are great for this) and remove excess water from the jar.  Pour curd into the jar, place the top on, and allow to cool completely before placing in fridge.

Crust - adapted from Jasmine's recipe on Daring Kitchen

1 1/4 C all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
2 egg yolks
1/2 almond extract (or vanilla)
2 Tbsp

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Take the frozen butter and grate it into the flour (use a cheese or box grater - use the large hole side).  Using your hands, mix the butter into the flour until the mixture begins to form into a crumb-like texture.  Set this aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks together with the almond extract (or vanilla) and mix into the flour mixture. Slowly add the cold water one tbsp at a time while mixing the dough (I continued to mix with my hands - had more control that way).  Kneed until all the egg yolk is incorporated.  Form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.  When you are ready to use the crust, use a 9" tart pan.  Roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a well-floured surface until it becomes about 1/4 inch thickness and is about 1 1/2 times the size of the tart pan.  (*if the dough is too sticky, add flour 1 tbsp at a time until it is workable.  You should work quickly however since you have butter in the dough, and it is best if the dough does not get too warm).  Drape the dough over the pan and begin to press it into the sides and bottom of the pan.  You will probably have dough left over, which you can use to fill in any imperfections - holes, etc...  Take the tart pan and freeze for 15 minutes.  Remove from freezer and prick the bottom of the pan about 10 times with a fork (spaced apart) to allow for air to escape while baking.  Cover the dough with aluminum foil pressing the foil into the sides and bottom of the dough.   Then, cover the bottom and sides of the aluminum with pie beads or dried beans (16oz).  This will keep the dough to the bottom and sides of the pan when you put it in the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking.  Place tart pan in over for 15 minutes and bake.  Remove from oven, carefully remove the foil - with the beans - and allow to cool.  Now on to the frangipane!

Frangipane: (again...adapted from Jasmine!)

1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
3/4 confectionery sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 ground almonds
2 tbsp all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture will not appear well mixed - this is fine, let it go!  Add the eggs and the almond extract (scrape down the sides as needed) and slowly add in the ground almonds, the salt, and the flour.  Mix well.  The mixture will begin to become incorporated and start to have a wonderful almond smell.  Yes, the eggs are raw, but it also has a fantastic taste (if you care to taste it...).  Pour into the pie tart pan...


and return to the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  The frangipane will rise a bit in the pan and begin to brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  When it is cool, pour the lemon curd on top of the frangipane.  You will probably not need all of the curd - maybe 1 - 1/2 C.  Spread evenly, and place the tart in the refrigerator for 1 hr.  Remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.  Decorate with lemon zest or almonds.


Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies


There is a great satisfaction that comes out of baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie - and even more out of eating one.  I still remember the best chocolate chip cookie I ever had, and that was from Mrs. Fields in 1984 and a friend of my parents gave me this incredible cookie in La Jolla, California.  I had never tasted anything like this cookie before, and even after many attempts to recreate that same flavor and texture, I have not found it.  The cookie was soft, chewy, dense, and full of chocolate and other flavor that even at 12 years old I knew had a level of complexity that went beyond a regular cookie.  Since then, I have not found anything that filled that void.  I suppose that could be a good thing since cookie are the kind of thing that do not last very long if placed in front of me (and they are ones that I tend to like!). 

So a few days ago I started thinking about creating a cookie recipe with items that I had in my kitchen and I had it in my head that I was going to make vegan cookies.  To my surprise, the end was result was reminiscent of the cookies that I had years ago in 1984.  Dense, chewy (but not at all cake-like), rich, and full of chocolate.  Plus, the coconut added a great level of flavor. 

When I started mixing the cookie dough, I was a bit concerned as it seemed a dry and did not come together like dough that contains butter and eggs.  However, I formed the dough with my hands once I mixed it with the stand mixer, and had no problems.  Also, because there is no butter, the cookies will not spread out on the baking sheet.  Remember to put them into the shape/size that you want them to end up in, and this is how they will appear once they are done baking.  The benefit of the cookies not spreading out is that you are able to place more on the sheet than you would if you were making cookies that contained butter.  If you are not a fan of coconut, it can be omitted, and you can simply make chocolate chunk cookies. 

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or butter a baking sheet.  Place the baking sheet in the oven while it is preheating. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

1 1/3 C all purpose flour
2/3 C white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C canola oil
1/2 C light coconut milk
8 oz chopped chocolate (I used 2 different kinds of Ghiradelli:  60% and 70%, use what ever kind you prefer) chop into small chunks that are suitable for the cookies - have fun here, and there is not hard/set rule.  Substitute a more vegan friendly chocolate if that suits your dietary needs.
2/3 C organic unsweetened shredded coconut

Mix the dry ingredients and shredded coconut together.  Add in the oil and the coconut milk and mix on a slow speed with a stand mixer, and then add the chocolate.  The indregients will start to bind together, but will not combine like a cookie dough that contains butter and eggs.  Do not worry.  Use your hands if the lack of cohesion with the dough stresses you out.  When it comes time to form the cookies, use a spoon to form the initial size and then roll the cookie in between your hands to form a ball.  Continue to do this until you do through all of the dough.  Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and place the cookies on the sheet.  Flatten the cookie dough balls down a bit, since they will not do this while cooking.  You might be able to fit more than 12 per sheet (depending on the size of your sheet etc...).  Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove the sheet from the oven, flip the cookies over, and rotate the sheet front to back, place back in the over for 4-5 more minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.  The cookies WILL BE SOFT, but will harden as they continue to cool, however they will not reach the crispy texture that some of you out there might really love.

I hope you enjoy these cookies - comments are welcomed and encouraged!

Two for Tuesday

It is time again, the two for Tuesday, that time when I like to pair up two bloggers who, in my opinion, complement each other.  Now there is almost an overload of social media out there, but with all of the information, I still think that people, no matter who you are, welcome the additional attention directed towards their sites (I would anyway...).

So here goes.  Gesine and Julia.  A cook and a baker both of whom have (or are about to have) a book.  They are also both involved in the film industry.

Gesine left her life under the Hollywood lights to head off to the Green Mountain State to pursue a career as a baker.  She is probably best known for her Macaroons, her fantastic sense of humor, and her Owl icon that appears all over the place - even on the gorgeous birthday cake that she made for herself this past March.  Orange owls that decorated a sky-blue fondant covered a dark chocolate cake.  Want to see how cool the cake looked?  Well check it out for yourself!  Gesine recently closed the doors of her Montpelier bakery to open a bakery down in Austin, TX, and between road trips North and South of the Mason-Dixon line, and she managed to write a book:  Confessions of a Closet Master Baker.  Not only is the name catchy (and again, one of those things that I wish I came up with myself) but you see actually see a preview of the book.  Yes, you heard me correctly, you can SEE IT, right here, right now.  The book comes out this fall, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.  And while you are waiting to eat up all of the pages that I am sure are filled with fabulous bits and pieces of Gesine's life as a pastry chef, you can check out her recipes that she has posted on her blog.

Speaking of films and books, by now you have probably heard of Julie and Julia.  No?  Really?  Are you KIDDING ME???  Well, not that I will do this any justice at all, but there is Julie Powell, who cooks.  In fact, she channeled all thing Julia Child related and cooked, I mean why not?  Why not wake up on a Wednesday morning and cook up Brandade de Morue: A Multi-use Extra, Trout Meuniere, Duchess Potatoes, Duck Pate Baked in its own skin, Rhode Island Johnny Cakes (one of my favorites by the way!) or Gateau Paris-Brest?  Why not try it all?  Well, that is exactly what Julie did, and she wrote a book about it.  She wrote and wrote, and in fact, the book became quite noticed.  So noticed in fact that it is now a movie.  That being said, before you decide to spend your week's savings on heading to the big screen to see the film, buy the book.  Sit down, and read.  Open your mind, and see what Julie did, read about how she spent all those days, weeks, months.  Then, only then go and see the movie.

So there they are.  My two.  My two for Tuesday for this week on this day.  16 June 2009.

Yummy in Boston

I grew up in the food industry, kind of.  My mother had a gourmet food store that opened in the early 1980s.  Before gummy bears were mainstream, she sold them in her store, she took trips to Louisiana to visit the Community Coffee headquarters.  There were sandwiches made from homemade breads - health bread, baguettes, and herb bread - and the bakery cases were full with everything from over-sized cookies to scones to muffins to brownies to cakes.  Growing up with all of this in such close proximity refined my taste buds in such a way that no longer does a cookie from the shelf in a grocery store hold much appeal.  At the time, while I was in grade school, I decidedly did not want the over-sized cookies baked fresh in the kitchen from earlier that morning, and it took a few years for me to understand the greatness of what what mother accomplished.

Several months ago I searched on-line for a gift to send to a friend who recently underwent surgery.  It needed to be something that she and her kids could appreciate, and that is when I found Yummy Mummy Brownies, and noticed that it was a locally-based company.  In fact, the company happened to be supporting a local charity event, which is something that I found attractive.  I clicked on the website and was greeted by what looked to be a rich, thick, fudgey brownie rather reminiscent of what my mother had in her store...
Brownie_chocchip (photo from Yummy Mummy Brownies)

My decision was made, and I ordered 1/2 a dozen and shipped them off to my friend half-way across the country.  However, I was intrigued by the site and the other treats that could be sent as gifts (or simply to oneself) that promoted the Yummy Mummy brand.  The image of the brownie would not leave my mind, and after several e-mail exchanges with Melissa, the company's owner, I soon learned that she would be at the South End Open Markets with her divine desserts.  I had no excuse.  The Markets are merely blocks from my home, so I recently stopped by and found Melissa surrounded by fudge brownies, nut toffee brownies, caramel brownies, toasted walnut brownies, caramel nougat brownies, and mint patty brownies.  These brownies were no joke - about 2 1/2 inches tall and 4 inches wide, each one could easily serve several people.  I had no idea which one to choose.  I went for the toasted walnut, and also got a mint patty thrown in.

Now keep in mind, unless I am making it myself, I do not buy items like brownies.  I err on the healthy side.  I like to know every single ingredient that is in my food down to the teaspoon.  So, it felt a little bit naughty and risky to be buying brownies, and as I walked home with the giant chocolate delights tucked away in a brown paper bag, I felt as if I had confiscated goods by my side.  I had to try them - just a little taste.  I pulled out a sharp serated knife to cut myself a sample.  The top was a bit crispy and cracked when the knife pressed into the rich, dense chocolate.  I started with the mint patty and Melissa was generous with her mint.  It glistened on the top of the brownie and was evenly mixed throughout the brownie.  I started with a small piece knowing that it would be sweet.  Very sweet.  After all it was dense, delectably dense, rich and wonderful looking.  But I was surprised when I took my first bite.  It held up to all my expectation except for one - the sweetness.  It was not as sweet as I thought, and this was a good thing.  The chocolate stood out - not the sugar.  I so appreciated and enjoyed the flavor of the chocolate, the mint, and could not get enough of the rich treat, and the best thing of all was that it did not overwhelm me with sweetness.  The toasted walnut was similar - the chocolate and walnut came through instead of something so sweet that one bite would have you grabbing a gallon of milk and chugging the whole thing down to subdue to the sweetness.

These brownies are scrumptious, luscious, and will make you go back for more.  They are an ideal gift for new mothers, wedding favors, bridal showers, or just because. Check out Melissa's website: Yummy Mummy Brownies or simply stop by the South End Open Markets some Sunday and look for her there... You will discover yet another yummy treat in Boston!

Two for Tuesday

It all began with a brownie recipe gone wrong.  Seven Spoons made a brownie recipe for a party and accidentally doubled the amount of butter.  She sent out a twitter message and suddenly, Lemonpi, Sevenspoons, and I were all a twitter about the brownies and their decadent goodness with the additional butter in the recipe.  Seven Spoons was concerned that the recipe might be ruined, however she soon realized that the brownies had entirely too much goodness.  Very quickly, Lemonpi and I were invited over for a brownie party.  Now as tempting as that sounds, Seven Spoons is in Canada, Lemonpi is in Australia, and I am in America.  However, I would have no problem packing my bags for a brownie party and headed out the door to EITHER ONE of those fab destinations!

So after this lengthy twitter conversation, I decided that I needed to pair up Seven Spoons with Lemonpi for this week's Two for Tuesday!

Seven Spoons...A beautiful 7-spoon icon in the upper right corner of her blog set off by a white background make's Tara's blog clean, neat, and sophisticated.  She is not new to the blogging world.  In fact, her posts date back to 2005, and one of her first posts is a Fig, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese salad.  She also has Irish Soda Bread Pudding with Raisin Jam, and a delectable post on chocolate cake.  If this is not enough for you, check out her Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars!  Her instructions are clear to follow and each recipe is preceded by a fabulous anecdotal story.

Lemonpi...her photos are pieces of art.  The composition, the balance, the colors, and, of course, the food that is at the center of the photos.  Her most recent post is that of a "Frozen liquid poppyseed sable, yuzu curd, vanilla ice-cream, elderflower jelly, meringue".  It is on all accounts incredible.  If you delve deeper into her blog posts, you will stumble across "White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Blondies", a Christmas Yule Log, and "Jill Dupleix's Boil and Bake Fruit Cake".  You should also know that Lemonpi is a member of the Daring Baker's Challenge.  Watch for her entries each month.  I guarantee she will take each recipe to a level higher than you imagined!

Check out their blogs, and looks for them on Twitter! Usernames:  Sevenspoons & Lemonpi!