Sunday, June 27, 2010

June Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Pavlova's with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse


Just imagine it - a rich creamy pool of vanilla bean infused mascarpone cream. Floating in that pool is a crispy chocolate meringue, topped with a decadent scoop of Caramelized white chocolate mascarpone mouse, further topped with beautiful fresh raspberries. What more could you ask for in a dessert?

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Thanks Dawn for such a great challenge. I have such a love/hate relationship with whipped egg whites, it was good to practice - especially on such a delicious challenge. One thing that is worth mentioning is to use room temperature egg whites. It makes a HUGE difference. Also, I discovered there is a little of a gray area between light peaks and over whipped, and that is the ideal place to take these egg whites.

To further practice my egg white techniques, I made a traditional Aussie Meringue. It was a great experiment, and it tasted like fluffy marshmallows! No picture now because for some reason my add picture feature wasn't working, but look for this in a future post - I have more experimenting to do!

Since I'm still on a caramelized white chocolate obsession, I made it into a Mascarpone Mousse. It was amazing. It even freezes well. I froze some in individual portions, and as long as you thaw in the refrigerator, it tastes just as good as if you hadn't frozen it. Twisting things further, the mascarpone cream makes great ice cream! And, I flavored it all with Frangelico, which was a great choice!

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):

1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped (or the same amount of Caramelized white chocolate)
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or frangelico)

Directions:

  1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):

1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional - I used frangelico)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

Directions:


  1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, or 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Assembly:
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chicken Salad


In an effort to try to encourage the summer sun to peak through all these clouds, I decided to eat some salads. Yes, I am still going through my I hate lettuce phase, but that doesn't include romaine and butter lettuces.

Fawn requested that I make a chicken salad recipe, and it sounded really good. Now, she wanted to make it together and I was going to call her...but...well, I made this at 10pm one night, and thought she would think I was totally nuts if I called her at 10 pm and said - come over, I'm making chicken salad...

This is the first of a few chicken salads I eat. It's the easiest by far, but it did hit the spot. It has a lot of fruit and vegetables, and is good on a sandwich or on top a nice salad. I wrapped mine in romaine lettuce leaves, and topped that with some cucumber and tomatoes.

I use granulated garlic in this recipe because fresh garlic is a bit too harsh. But, the salad needed a bit of something, and granulated garlic was perfect. If you have roasted garlic, that is really nice in this salad as well, but I don't recommend you use fresh garlic. I like my chicken salad a bit less creamy than most people. If you like yours creamier, you can always add more mayonaise. If you don't like mayonaise, you can substitute plain yogurt and omit the lemon juice.

Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts, skin removed, and cut into cubes
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
1 granny smith apple, chopped
1/2 c. toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. granulated garlic
1 scallion, chopped
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. mayonnaise

In a bowl, combine lemon juice, pepper, salt, mayonnaise and garlic. Mix to combine. Add remaining ingredients and gently combine until well mixed. Serve over lettuce or on a salad.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

3 strawberry tarts


Aren't these cute? I think so. I realize that we are about in the middle of strawberry season, so it's about time I post some strawberry recipes. I have a few strawberry recipes, but since they are in season, I think now is the perfect time to enjoy them as close to natural as possible.

What does this mean? To me, this means not cooked. I love strawberries - except when they are cooked. I'm not a huge fan of strawberry jam, or cooked strawberry pie, but when they are raw, I just love them by themselves or in a fancy dessert.

I have wanted to make strawberry tarts for quite some time. I have been thinking what would be the best flavors to pair with strawberries - ones that would compliment fresh, ripe strawberries.

Since I am a fan of Wimbeldon, I thought I would do a take on strawberries and clotted cream - of course, with a twist. I have been experimenting a lot with mascarpone cheese lately, so one of my ideas was a Strawberry Mascarpone Tart. The results are the first one on the left. It turned out just fantastic. The vanilla mascarpone filling was a perfect accompaniment to the strawberries and the lightly sweet tart shell.

I also wanted to experiment with lemons and strawberries. Yes, I realize that lemons aren't very much in season - at least on the west coast, but I had an idea that I wanted to test. I made a batch of lemon curd like I had to fill Ryan's cupcakes, and used that as one base for the tart on the far right. This one was good, but the lemon was super tart, and it wasn't my favorite one - that is coming.

The one in the middle is really the best of both worlds. I combined the lemon curd and the mascarpone filling for a lemon mascarpone cream. It perfectly complimented the strawberries, and was my favorite by far. It tastes light on your tongue, and lets you taste the slight sweetness of the tart shell. Although all three tarts were very tasty, this one was definitely my favorite.

I found the tart shell recipe on JoyofBaking.com, and slightly modified it. The mascarpone cream I created as I was going, and the I have made the lemon curd so many times, I think I could make it in my sleep! I hope you enjoy some or all of these little recipes and put them together at your whim.

The tart dough was pretty easy to work with, and is more forgiving than a pie crust. However, I wouldn't work with the dough too much, or it will get tough.

Lightly sweet tart shells

1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, room temperature

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add salt and egg. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix. Pat into a disk on a floured board and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Once your dough has been well chilled, turn onto a lightly floured board and roll to 1/4" thick. If you are using mini tart shells, this should make 6, so you can divide the dough into 6 pieces and work each piece individually. Gently place in the tart shells, and pat into the sides, being careful to not stretch the dough. Bake individual tarts 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown. Larger tarts will require an additional 5-15 minutes to cook.

Mascarpone Cream

2 cups mascarpone cream
1/3 c. whipped cream
2 t. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and whip until slightly fluffy, 1-3 minutes. Adjust powdered sugar to taste.

Lemon Mascarpone Cream

1 cup mascarpone cream
3/4 c. lemon curd

Stir cream and curd together until well combined.

Assembly:

Cut strawberries in 1/2 or 3-4 pieces, depending on the size. Place desired filling into tart crust, leaving 1/4" from the top for the strawberries. Place the strawberries in a decorative position around the tarts. Serve immediately, or store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June Daring Cooks Challenge - Pate with freshly baked bread!


Another fun daring cooks challenge! I was a total overachiever for this one, I think. Sometimes, it's impossible for me to not be. Others...it's hard to achieve anything.

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

I first chose the Trout and Shrimp terrine. Since I had some left over salmon, I substituted salmon for the trout. So the top picture is of a salmon and shrimp terrine. The verdict? I enjoyed this. It was great with the light rye bread I chose to make. However, I don't think I would make this again. It just had too much seafood for me, and triggered a mild allergic reaction. I did really enjoy it at the time even though I was reminded why I don't eat much seafood.

My second creation was the vegetable terrine. This one was fun. I substituted goat cheese in the red pepper layer, and used some spinach and basil pesto I had in the freezer. I also added asparagus. I really enjoyed this terrine, and would make again, but would make in significantly smaller portions. It does freeze well, though, and would be a great addition to any table as a vegetarian option or a vegetable side dish!

My final challenge was Julia Child's pate recipe and some french bread. What can I say? The bread was great. I just don't think I'm very much of a pate type of person. It was spiced well, seasoned well, and I could tell it tasted good, it was just not something I would eat again. I don't know if it was a texture thing, or I made it in the middle of my I don't feel like eating any meat phase. Mom enjoyed it, and s0 did Kramer...yea, Kramer the cat.

I loved making the breads though!

Tricolor Vegetable Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan

Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer

2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
4 roasted garlic cloves

Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.

Red Pepper Layer
7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled goat cheese (about 4 ounces)

Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish. Lay roasted asparagus spears on this layer, if desired.

Pesto Layer
2 garlic cloves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh basil leaves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup / 60 ml toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp / 45 ml olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 ml ricotta

Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.


Trout and Shrimp Pâté
Yields one 6x3 inch (15x7,5 cm) terrine or loaf pan

1 tbsp / 15 ml butter
1/4 lb / 4 oz / 120g medium raw shrimp, deveined, shelled and tailed (about 12 medium shrimp)
1/8 cup / 30ml Grand Marnier (or cognac, or another strong liqueur of your choice) (optional)
1/2 lb / 8 oz / 240g salmon filet, skinned and cut into thick chunks
1/4 lb / 4 oz / 110g raw shrimp, deveined, shelled and tailed (any size)
3/4 cup / 180ml heavy cream
Salt, to taste
Green peppercorn, coarsely ground, to taste
Chives, for garnish

1 t. fresh dill

Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC).

In a heavy, flameproof frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the 1/4 pound of medium shrimp, stirring often, until pink and cooked through. Remove the pan from heat. (NOTE: These shrimp will be used to form layers within your pâté. If you feel they are too thick – like the ones in the photograph, you might want to slice them in half lengthwise.)

Pour the Grand Marnier over the cooked shrimp. Light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol, to flambé the shrimp. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring. Set aside.

Put the salmon and the remaining raw shrimp in a food processor and pulse. Gradually pour in the cream and keep pulsing until you obtain a smooth mixture that is easy to spread, but not too liquid (you may not need to use all the cream). Season with salt and green pepper and dill.

Butter a 6x3 inch (15x7,5 cm) loaf pan or terrine, then line it with parchment paper. Spoon in half the trout mixture, and spread it evenly. Place the flambéed shrimp on top, in an even layer, reserving 3 or 4 shrimp for decorating. Top with the remaining trout mixture.

Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.

Put the water bath and terrine in the oven, and bake for 35 minutes. The pâté should be cooked through and firm in the center.

Remove the pan from the water bath and let cool. Carefully unmold onto a serving platter. Decorate with the reserved shrimp, and sprinkle with chopped chives. Cut into thick slices and serve at room temperature, with crusty bread.


French Baguette
yield: Three 16" baguettes

Starter
1/2 cup / 120 ml cool water
1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup / 240 ml flour

Dough
1 tsp / 5 ml active dry yeast
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups / 240 ml to 300 ml lukewarm water*
all of the starter
3 1/2 cups / 840 ml flour
1 1/2 tsp / 7 ml salt

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Make the starter by mixing the yeast with the water, then mixing in the flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight works well. The starter should have risen and become bubbly.

Mix active dry yeast with the water and then combine with the starter, flour, and salt. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. Knead for about 5 minutes on speed 2 of a stand mixer.

Place the dough in a lightly greased medium-size bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 15" log. Place the logs seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan or pans.

Cover them with a cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they've become very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450ºF (240ºC).

Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8" vertical slashes in each baguette. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.

Bake the baguettes until they're a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack. Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2", and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup..cakes!

Before I start, I know the photo looks a little whacky...my first photoshop effort. I knew I should have waited to take the pic until the morning, since I was tired and impatient...but I think it's cute.

Caleb asked me to create something for world cup. Why, I don't know. I don't watch it, and even if I did, I wouldn't root for the US. Not sure who I would root for, though. Since I don't really watch, and don't have a favorite team, creating something was a bit of a challenge.

My original idea was to make sugar cookies and pipe on an outfit for each team. But, I was hungry for cupcakes, and a little less intricate idea. Since a lot of the things I had been doing lately have been many components and many steps, I wanted something a little simpler.

I am still toying with the sugar cookie idea, maybe when there are less teams involved, if that even happens. I chose cupcakes because they sounded really good on Friday when I made them (and they were!), and I liked the idea of each team having their own mini cupcake and represented by a flag. I was able to find some embellishments at a local party store - gold cupcake liners, soccer regular size cupcake liners, soccer ball chocolates, and soccer ball napkins.

The rest was quite easy. I made the flags in PowerPoint. After cutting each one out, I simply attached each flag to a toothpick. I was pretty happy with the results. I guess I like multi-media projects. Maybe I should look into buying one of those edible sheet printers.

One of the things I struggled with on these cupcakes are how to make them rather international. What flavor crosses cultures. I chose vanilla bean because I felt this was the most universal flavor. I don't know of a cuisine that wouldn't really like vanilla, to be honest. I could very well be wrong, though.

The cupcake recipe is the same one I used for Mandy's birthday cupcakes. I simply substituted vanilla bean paste for the vanilla extract. I really love vanilla bean paste, it tastes so good in things. The frosting is made of flour paste frosting. I normally use this frosting on chocolate cake, or for my home-made oreo's/whoopie pies (post coming soon, I promise). I really like this frosting because it just tastes different than normal powdered sugar frosting, and I felt like something different.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes (From Taste of Home recipe book, modified)
2/3 c. room temperature butter
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla bean paste
2 1/2 c. flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. milk


Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla bean paste, salt, and baking powder. Add milk and flour, alternating and mixing well after each addition. Batter will be thick, but be careful to not overmix. Place in mini-cupcake tins and bake 13-18 minutes for the mini, and 23-28 minutes for the normal size cupcakes. Cool thoroughly while you make the frosting.

Vanilla Bean frosting
5 T. flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup softened butter
2 t. vanilla bean paste

In a small saucepan, mix flour and milk and heat until very thick, stirring frequently to prevent lumps. Take off heat, cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper, and refrigerate until cold.

In a large bowl, whip butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add chilled flour paste and vanilla bean paste and whip mixture until light and fluffy and you can no longer feel the sugar granules between your fingers.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

Overly ambitious? probably...completely delicious? Definitely! Yes, this is a 3 day project. But, it's something I have been wanting to see if I could make for a long time. And, the results are great. I loved them, mom loved them, even Brian loved them! I'm so happy these were a success!

I love loved the dough to this recipe. I'm already pondering all the potential fillings, and I can't believe how, well, shiny brown they turned out. The dough was soft and slightly sweet, and the filling was rich, salty and very flavorful. Overall a great experiment.

I kind of cobbled this recipe together, after talking to quite a few people and searching and searching the internet. Most of the recipes I found had red food coloring and/or five spice, and I didn't want either in my finished product, so I chose an amalgamation of about 5 different recipes that looked like they had potential. The big surprise was the pork cooking method. I had heard about it a few times, but never considered it would really work. But, try it, it does work.

Baked Pork Buns - Char Siu Bao

For the pork:

2 lbs pork shoulder roast with large pieces of fat removed
1/3 c. hoisin sauce
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. honey
3 T. brown sugar
1 cup rice wine vinegar
2 T. wine or sherry (optional)

Combine all the marinade ingredients and set aside. Cut pork into medium pieces, and marinade for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. If the marinade doesn't completely cover the pork, turn a few times while marinading.

Heat the oven to 375. Pour some water in a large roasting pan and place in the oven. Place the pork on a metal roasting rack and place above the water. The water should not touch the meat. Cook for 10-15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 and cook for 40-45 minutes. Half way through the cooking process, turn the pork and rub with additional marinade.

Serve as is, or cool and use for barbecue pork filling

Barbecue Pork Filling

Makes 24

2 cups barbecue pork, minced finely
2 green onions, finely sliced
1 T. honey
2 T. dark brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 T. oil
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. oyster sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. cornstarch mixed with 3 T. cold water

Heat a skillet or wok on medium high heat. Saute green onions until softened, add garlic and barbecue pork and saute 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients except corn starch, and stir until well combined. Once mixture starts to bubble, add cornstarch mixture. Remove from heat and allow to cool for filling.

Dough

1 T. yeast
2/3 c. warm water
1/2 c. sugar
3 to 3 1/2 c. bread flour
1 egg
1/3 c. vegetable oil
24 5x5 squares of parchment paper (these little suckers stick, so be prepared!)
2 T. honey

Mix the yeast, sugar, and water in a mixing bowl. Set aside for 10minutes. The yeast should become foamy and bubbly. If it does not, start over.

Combine the yeast mixture with the egg, oil, and 2 cups flour. Stir until flour is incorporated. Add additional flour, 1/3 c. at a time until dough isn't sticky but is still soft consistency. Knead for 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 15 minutes by hand.

Place in a large bowl and lightly oil surface. Let rise at least 2 hours, until triple in size. When you are ready, turn dough out onto work surface and divide into 24 pieces.

For each bun, roll each piece into a round with a rolling pin. I've discovered that if you make the center of the round thicker, and the edges a little thinner, you will get a more even bun. Place 1-2 T. filling in the center of the dough, and bring the edges around and pinch in place. Place the finished bun seam side down on a square of parchment paper.

Place the buns in a warm place and let rest 30-45 minutes. While they are resting, preheat the oven to 350. When the buns look puffy and ready to go in the oven, heat the honey in the microwave for 15 seconds and brush over each of the pastries. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. When removed from the oven, brush again with the warmed honey. Great served both hot and warm.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Caramelized White Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

I am at a loss for words with this one. It is the best cheesecake I have ever made, or ever tasted. For someone that is known for her cheesecakes, that's saying something right there.

I have been fascinated with the notion of caramelized white chocolate ever since I saw the last Top Chef finale, when Bryan Voltaggio put it in a cheesecake. I didn't want to copy that recipe, yet I felt the need to think about it for a while, I guess.

Last month, I bought some hazelnuts, and wanted to try a few things with them. I wanted to make a cheesecake, but I felt that there needed to be something more than just hazelnuts. One night, it just hit me - now was the time to experiment with caramelizing white chocolate. I was lucky enough to be successful at caramelizing white chocolate my first attempt. I could have eaten the whole pound as soon as it was cool enough to not burn my tongue. That stuff is amazing!

Caramelizing the white chocolate is fairly easy. I followed the details on this blog, and it worked very well. It's great as a ganache, or a sauce, or just with a spoon. I had meant to reserve a bit and make a light ganache with it, but I discovered it was great on vanilla wafers.

Caramelized White Chocolate Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
2/3 c. finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
5 T. melted butter

Filling:

2 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
10 oz. white chocolate, caramelized and cooled to room temperature
4 eggs
1/4 c. frangelico or other hazelnut liquor
1 cup sour cream
2 T. frangelico or other hazelnut liquor

Preheat oven to 350. Mix crust ingredients together and press into a 9" springform pan, pressing up the sides about 2". Bake for 10 minutes while you make the filling.

Put cream cheese in a mixing bowl, and mix for a minute or two to soften. Add sugar, and mix for 2 minutes. Slowly add eggs, one at a time, making sure mixture is well mixed. Add white chocolate and 1/4 c. frangelico. Pour over crust and bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes, until top is browned and cheesecake only jiggles slightly when moved.

Remove from oven. Mix sour cream and remaining frangelico and pour over cheesecake. Place back in oven and bake for 10 more minutes. Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour. Then put in refrigerator.

Serve with caramel sauce and toasted hazelnuts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Twisted Risotto

Remember my risotto? Well, I had a bit leftover, and I really hate to waste leftovers. I will admit, sometimes I do waste food, but I don't like to, and it's one of my goals this year to use as much as possible and not waste.

Have you ever cooked something and deliberately cooked more for the leftovers? I do that too. Mainly with rice, although never before with risotto. I really love fried rice, so that is a staple in my house. But, I do this with chicken a lot. I love roast chicken, but I also like all the leftover chicken I can put in a ton of things.

But, for today, we are talking about the risotto cakes. I had intended to post them last week, but with the cupcakes and the daring bakers challenge, I held off on the post for a while. These risotto cakes were awesome, by the way. I will be making them again. They were a little bit sticky to put together, but I sprayed one of my hands with cooking spray and that helped a lot. I did end up slicing the asparagus smaller for the cakes, since my asparagus was a bit larger the first time.

This is a great side dish recipe! I would happily serve this to guests, even. Of course, I wouldn't tell them they were being served leftovers, but it's good enough that they would never know.

And, I promise my pictures will get better. I am doing some new things that will help. Baking is a bit easier for me to photograph, since I can set aside the good ones (as long as I don't forget), and photograph them later. As long as it's not an entire cake that I'm taking somewhere else, that is.

The food, well, that's a little more difficult. Since I am either cooking for one or two (and leftovers), or giving the food to my brothers, my schedule is kind of crazy. When I am cooking it for myself, I usually wait until I'm hungry unless I'm cooking something that takes multiple steps. I am trying to do some things (like cook an extra for pic, eat, then take the pic, etc.) and we will see the results. Anyway, onward to the recipe!

Risotto Cakes

2 cups left over risotto, cooled
1/3 c. parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 c. panko
1/4 c. peas or asparagus slices (optional)
1 T. oil

Heat pan over medium to medium high heat. In a bowl, combine leftover risotto, cheese, egg, and optional vegetables. Stir to combine, and divide into 5 equal portions. Pat each portion out into a cake in one hand, then dip in the bread crumbs, coating both sides.

Put oil in your pan, and place risotto cakes in the pan, cooking on each side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.