Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tarte crème d'amande et fruits exotiques

I stole this recipe from a cooking podcast I subscribed to when I was in France (Casse-croute). I first made the tarte when my cousin came to visit me after becoming engaged (to her then fiancé, now husband) while traveling in Italy. Mon colocotaire, mon cousin et moi ate the tarte on a balmy evening on our little balcony while drinking champagne and listening to stories of their engagement and their plans for their life and love to come...

It's a little difficult to make as the sweet pastry is a bit of challenge to get it rolled out properly. However, the most difficult part is easily avoided if you want to buy a pre-made shell at a grocery store. But it's fun to do it from scratch.
Bon Chance!

Quantity: makes one 9" circular tarte or about 14-16 cupcake sized tartes
Time: 75mins prep time, 3hrs wait time, 20mins bake time

Sweet pastry crust
(stolen from http://www.joyofbaking.com/FruitTart.html):

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

First, mix flour and salt in a bowl and set aside. Then beat together butter (make sure it's been sitting out for a while so its soft) and sugar until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg just until its incorporated, no more. Add in flour and mix until it forms a ball, but do not overwork or the dough will become tough and difficult to roll. Place in the fridge for about an hour before using.

La creme d'amande (the frangipane)
200g unsalted butter (just less than 1 cup)
200g ground almonds (store bought)
1.5 C icing sugar
3 eggs
50ml white rum (1 airplane bottle)

Second, Mix together the frangipane ingredients starting with the icing sugar and butter. You'll probably have to use your hands as it will just stick to a whisk. Once mixed, add the rum, eggs and almond powder. Mix very well et le mettre dans le frigo pendant 1 hour.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out flat (about 1/8 of an inch thick) and place it into a mold (I used a miniature loaf mold and muffin trays cuz that's what I had). Poke holes at the bottom of your pastry cups once in the mold to allow some air flow to bake evenly. Place your frangipane mix into the pastry mold only about 1/2 full as the mix expands. Place into a preheated oven at 350F for about 20mins.

Remove from oven and let rest for 5mins.

The third step is completely up to you. Select your favorite fruits and dice them up into aesthetically pleasing shapes. Arrange as you please. It's a little difficult to get very pretty designs but its more fun to design it yourself then to use a prettier store bought one I think. You can also glaze your tarts by purchasing store bought glaze packages or make your own by mixing equal parts (1 cup) sugar and water and a tablespoon of pectic or corn starch boiling for a minute in a small pot. Cover the fruit with the glaze and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Before serving remove from the fridge about 20 mins before serving.

Good luck and Enjoy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

banana Banana Cake

Apparently my creative-genius is activated when I'm mired in essays and assignments. Hence with all grad course work done (!), I present a vegan "banana" Banana Cake.

This was my first crack at an artistically built cake, but it turned out pretty well. I had originally intended to make my mom's delectable banana cake recipe, but I was out of eggs and didn't have any shortening. So, I was able to scrape together enough things for a vegan cake. I think it's just as good as my mom's but don't tell her I said that.

(Hi mom! You're on the internet now!)

Ingredients (stolen from: http://www.chooseveg.com/display_recipe.asp?recipe=91)
# 2 cups unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
# 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
# 1/2 teaspoon salt
# 1 1/8 cups sugar (if your banana's are very ripe just do 1 cup sugar)
# 1/3 cup oil
# 4 ripe bananas
# 1/4 cup water
# 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In one bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat sugar and oil together. Beat in bananas then add vanilla and water. Take the dry ingredients and incorporate them in sections into the wet ingredients mixing them well. Place mix into a 9"x9" pan that has either been greased and floured (see Chocolate Zucchini Loaf recipe for instructions on flouring a pan) or that has a piece of wax paper cover the bottom.
Place into a preheated 350F oven for about 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out cleanly. Let cool for 15mins.

Now, the fun part!
1. Create a detailed diagram of your desired banana shape

Ensure all equations are true providing proper proofs at all stages.

But, you do actually have to think out the best way to cut the cake so as to ensure minimal cake-loss.

I trimmed the edges to give it the actual shape of a banana. Also, I took some of the excess trimming to make sure the cake was smooth and flat where I had to hold the banana sections together.

Vanilla Butter Frosting
1/3 C soft margarine
1 1/2 t vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
About 2 T milk

Blend marg & sugar, stir in vanilla and milk. Beat til smooth and spreading consistency (that’s where the about comes in for the quantity of milk).

Fills and frosts 2 – 8” or 9” cake rounds or a 13” x 9” cake

This made extra icing so it should be reduced for this cake recipe.

So, ice the cake as you please, but if all things go to plan, it should turn out as close to a banana as possible!

Good luck and enjoy!

Healthy Cookies

These are a classic at my family gatherings and we call them 'healthy cookies' because the whole wheat flour and molasses makes them slightly healthier than others. I think they are also known as Kitchen Spice or Molasses Cookies. Regardless, they be delish. Great study snack too!

Quantity: 20-25
Time: 25mins prep time 10 mins bake time

1/2 C butter/margarine
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C dark molasses
1 egg yolk
1/2 T lemon juice
2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 C skim or soy milk powder
1 T Brewers yeast*
1/2 T baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

*Brewers yeast can be found at the bulk food store along with all these other ingredients

Cream margarine and sugar - beat til smooth and well blended.
Beat in molasses, egg yolk & lemon juice. Mix flour and other dry ingredients (you can sift them if want to). Work dry ingredients into first mixture, blending well. This last step takes some arm strength and beater strength as well, however, my grandma made these in her 80s, soooo....suck it up.

(That's her on the chair and the rest of us are usually the ones who eat these cookies).

THEN, take small chunks of the mix and roll them with your hands into balls about 2 inches in diameter. This should make somewhere between 20-25 cookies. Place these onto a greased cookie sheet pressing them with a fork to flatten them out to about 3/4 inches thick. Place them into a preheated 350F oven in the middle rack for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 5 minutes and then place them directly into an air-tight container to keep them soft OR let them rest longer if you prefer crunchy cookies (I don't).

Serve with a glass of milk and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles

Since I was unable to make it home for Easter this year, I decided I would make my own Easter chocolates. Although the Easter Bunny has long come and gone, I've been too "busy" to get this recipe up by easter. Better late than never. (P.S. longest post yet!)

Despite the perceived difficulty of truffles, I found them to be relatively easy, though fairly time consuming. So, if you have some spare time one day, don't feel discouraged to give it a shot. Plus, it's lots of fun! I made the truffles before I went to bed one night and then coated them the next day working the various steps in as study breaks.

These truffles are actually slightly healthier than normal ones as they do not contain butter and have coconut milk instead of heavy cream. That being said, if you are a true truffle aficionado, these may be slightly different from more traditional truffles. Nonetheless, they are delicious and very chocolatey!

Quantity: 11-12
Time: about 60-70mins of actual work and 3hrs of wait time

- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1/2 cup heavy* coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* you can get heavy coconut cream from placing a regular can in the fridge an hour or so before opening trying to take only the thicker top layer.

- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
- Dutch coco powder
- salted peanuts and pistachios

The first step is the ganache. Put the cup of semi-sweet choc. chips into a bowl while heating the coconut milk and the peanut butter on the stove. Once the milk and p.b. start to boil, pour them into the bowl of choc. chips stirring the mix well. Add the vanilla extract and continue mixing. The best weapon of choice is a wooden spoon. Mix the chocolate well but do not incorporate too much air by mixing it too vigorously. Cover this bowl with plastic wrap and then place it in the fridge for 10-15mins cooling it to the consistency of peanut butter.

The second step is to take this mixture and create the individual truffles. This can be done two different ways. If you have a pastry bag, you would scoop all the ganache into the bag to then squeeze out balls about the size of a strawberry. However, I didn't have a pastry bag so I used the spoons method.

Taking two spoons, scoop out one spoonful and use the second spoon to then scoop the mix off of the first spoon. This will be repeated (continuously scooping the chocolate off of the other spoon) until a ball begins to form. Do this for all the ganache (should make about 11 or 12). Place these onto wax paper on a baking sheet and into the fridge for about an hour.

Once the truffles have hardened, remove them from the fridge and roll them in your palms to smooth them out. This is a little messy with your palms getting covered in chocolate, so be prepared. Place them back into the fridge for another hour.

The third step is to create the choc. coating for the truffles. Take the remaining 4 oz of bittersweet chocolate and using a strong and sharp knife, dice the chocolate into very small pieces. At the same time, place a glass or metal bowl over a simmering pot of water (the water should not be boiling). Take your diced bittersweet chocolate and place it into the glass bowl. Begin mixing the chocolate with a wooden spoon until it is completely melted. This will be the crunchy coating for your soft truffles.
Remove the truffles from the fridge and prepare an assembly line starting with your frozen truffles, then the bowl of melted chocolate, then your "toppings" (coco powder, crushed peanuts, crushed pistachios or whatever you wish) and then another plate covered in wax paper or tin foil.

The fourth step is the coating of the truffles. Take two forks and take a frozen truffle and place it into the melted chocolate. Cover it completely and then remove with the two forks, pausing to let all excess chocolate drip off. Place it into a bowl/plate of your awaiting coating shaking it around assuring it is completely covered. Place all your finished truffles onto the awaiting plate and place into the fridge for another 30 mins. After the 30mins, remove and place them into an air-tight Tupperware container.

When you do decide to eat your truffle or share it with your sweetie, remove the truffles from the fridge and allow them to warm to room temperature (20-30mins).

The final step: proceed to stuff your face.

Good luck and enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

this time last week.

Edit:  Today I was asked to provide a little explanation for this photo...apparently pictures are not worth 1,000 words. 

This time last week I was home for the easter long weekend.  My family sent me around the house looking for an egg they hid for me and it turned out to be baked into this loaf from the local bakery. very. funny.  im pretty sure they were mocking me cuz my friends and i had an easter egg hunt and technically we're not six years old anymore.  It tasted ok, as you'd expect (had to refrain from writing eggspect - didnt work).  i mostly just posted it because i found it pretty.  cheerio! nas

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Asian Persuasion

I'm not sure if it was because I have been drowning in literature about economic reforms in Laos during their transition from communism to a market-based economy, but when I saw a recipe for an Asian inspired Salmon Udon Soup in the Globe this weekend I immediately decided to make it...with a few modifications of course ;)

Word of warning: You will have to make an extra trip to the store for the stuff in this recipe. But it's cheap, delicious, and worth it!

Alas, I give you Tofu Soba Soup!

It is quite delicious. If you are a meat eater, follow the recipe exactly as directed, but replace the tofu with salmon (this is how it was originally written).

Marinade --
3 tbs low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tsp grated ginger

Tofu (or Salmon) --
1/2 block extra firm tofu, thinly sliced
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 cups baby bok choy, end trimmed and broken into leaves
4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
4oz soba noodles (the original recipe called for udon noodles, so feel free to use those instead - I just used soba because I had some)
handful coriander sprigs
Chili flakes to taste

Combine 2 tbs soy sauce, sugar and 1 tbs ginger in bowl. Brush (or pour) over tofu slices. Set aside.
Heat vegetable stock (or if you are like me, boil your water and add in your veggie boullion cube). Add in remaining 1tbs soy sauce and 1 tbs ginger. Simmer over medium heat.
Add onions and simmer for 1 minute. Add baby bok choy and muchrooms, and cook another minute. Reduce heat to medium, add tofu and cook 30 seconds longer...or whatever.
Garnish with coriander sprigs and a sprinkling of chili flakes.

Oh, and before I forget, this recipe for Maple Sponge Toffee was in the paper the other day, and it looks uber yum.