Last weekend, I went to a social at church. We were asked to bring a "dessert for one" wrapped as a gift. I spent about a week debating what to make. I had originally thought I'd make some kind of sponge cake with mousse filling, but I wasn't sure how long something would be sitting out and I didn't want the mousse to melt all over the place. That would have been a disaster! Well, I decided to make a croquembouche, which is a fancy word for cream puffs stacked all pretty like in a pyramid shape and draped with spun sugar.
Don't be intimidated by the picture. This is a very IMPRESSIVE, do-able dessert that makes a statement for parties, or even for intimate dinners. You can make the cream puffs bigger, or smaller, just make sure you keep the sizes consistent otherwise it'll look strange.
I filled the cream puffs with a lemon cream that brought these babies into a whole new dimension. The contrast of the tart with the sweetness of the spun sugar and caramel "glue" is pure perfection. I know you'll enjoy this if you make the recipe.
First, make the lemon cream filling.
Juice 2 small lemons or 1 large. You need 4 Tablespoons lemon juice. Zest the lemons too. You need 1 Tablespoon zest. Set aside.
In a bowl whisk 9 egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, the lemon juice, and 1/2 cup flour.
After whisking, pour it through a mesh sieve to remove any lumps or egg particles.
Put 2 cups cream in a saucepan and bring to a scald. Do not let it boil.
While whisking, pour some of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture. This is called tempering the yolks. If you had added the egg mixture directly to the hot cream, it would have instantly cooked the eggs and made scrambled eggs. Ick. After whisking in some of the cream into the yolk mixture, add the yolk mixture back into the saucepan and put back on a burner and kick up the heat. Whisk constantly while this cooks so it doesn't burn on the bottom. It will start thickening up quickly.
As soon as it's thick, remove from the heat and add 1 Tablespoon butter and the lemon zest. Set the pan in a shallow bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and cool the filing down.
To store, put in an airtight container and keep in the fridge until ready to use.
This filling can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.
For croquembouche, I use my basic cream puff recipe. Pipe small little dollops on a buttered cookie sheet and touch the pointy tips with a wet finger.
Bake at 375* until nice and golden brown. It's safer to overbake these a little so they don't collapse on themselves. We need them to stay firm.
When the cream puffs are baked and cooled, poke the bottom of each puff with a chop stick or any other tool that's similar.
Fill a piping bag with the lemon cream and stick the tip of the piping bag into the bottom and squeeze. Don't overfill.
I made a little cone out of cardstock and wrapped with foil. Since I was taking this somewhere, I needed a disposable base so I cut a piece of cardboard from an old box and wrapped that with foil too. To adhere the cone to the base, dip into the pan of caramel sugar and then press down. It cools quickly so you won't have to hold it down long.
If you're using a plate, use the same method.
For the caramel/sugar for spinning, put in a saucepan:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
Put the pan over medium heat on the stove until the sugar dissolves. Let this cook until a candy thermometer reaches 110*.
Carefully dip part of each filled cream puff into the sugar and start stacking around the cone. There will be some gaps between each puff. That's okay. We'll camoflauge with the spun sugar.
This part is FUN but so messy. Make sure you put a towel down on the floor and put paper under the pans.
I put two saucepans down and sprayed the handles with Pam. Dip a fork into the sugar and drizzle it back and forth from the handles. Do this until you have a good buildup of thin strands of sugar.
This cools almost immediately so you don't have to let it stay for long. Remove from the handles and repeat until you have as much spun sugar as needed.
I put a silpat down on a cookie sheet and poured some of the caramel/sugar to create some designs. Break them apart when they cool and harden.
Carefully wrap the croquembouche with the spun sugar so that it spirals down the cone. Stick pieces of the broken sugar pieces around the cake, and at the top. Serve immediately!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I had a meeting the other morning for church and I thought I would take a little treat for us to enjoy. When I got there, I discovered my friend, Leesa also made a coffee cake! Hers was cinnamon sugar... mine was a really moist raspberry coffee cake. Absolutely delicious. Rather funny that we both had coffee cake on the brain though!
You can use any berry you want. I had raspberries in the freezer and wanted to use them up. The perfect choice, in my opinion!
There are three steps to making this cake: Batter. Berries. Crumb topping.
Put 1 lb of berries in a bowl and add 1/3 cup sugar.
In a mixing bowl, put 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.
In another bowl, mix together 2/3 cup sour cream, 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks, and 3 tsp vanilla. Set aside.
Cut up 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter into 12 pieces
and set aside.
With your mixer on low, alternate adding some of the egg/sour cream mixture and 1-2 pieces of butter until it's all combined.
For the topping, put in a bowl: 2/3 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 cup melted butter. Mix it well together.
Butter a 9x13 baking dish and spread out 1/2 of the cake batter. Sprinkle the berries over the top evenly so that the entire surface has berries. Dollop the rest of the cake batter on top of the berries. Don't worry about spreading it out.
Spread out the crumb mixture over the entire top. Bake in a 325* oven for about an hour. I had to cook a little longer because the center was a little jiggly. If your center is jiggly, then keep on baking! When the center is set, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Make sure it's completely cool before serving.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I was in Seattle this summer for most of July with the girls. When we got back, I went right to work helping my friend plan and cater her son's wedding reception. Four days before the reception, I got a call from my sister telling me my oldest brother passed away. He was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer at the end of July (just days before I came home from my vacation) and we thought he would have more time. Apparently we were wrong.
When I got back to New York from this latest trip to Seattle, we were running low on funds and my husband put me on a pretty strict grocery budget. I'm not used to budgeting! One meal that's very economical and something we all love to eat is spaghetti. If you've never made your own spaghetti sauce, you really should try because it's EASY and usually tastes a whole lot better than what you get in a pre-made jar. Here's what you need.
1 large can tomato puree
2 cans petite diced tomatoes
1 lb hamburger
2-3 italian sausage links, removed from the casing
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
salt, pepper, and sugar
extra virgin olive oil
herbs (oregano, marjoram, basil)
When I make my sauce, I let it simmer all day long. This is one of the times I pull out my crock pot because I love for all of the flavors to merry together. You can't get that in an hour or two.
I use tomato puree versus tomato sauce because it's slightly thicker. I don't like watery spaghetti sauce! This helps to cut down on the liquid.
In a skillet, heat a little drizzle of olive oil. Brown the hamburger and sausage and break it into fine pieces by chopping it up with the blade of a spatula. When the meat is almost cooked through, add the garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. When the aroma from the garlic and onion intensifies, dump it all into your crock pot.
Add the tomato puree, diced tomato, some salt, pepper, and about 1/2 tsp sugar. If you don't have fresh herbs, it's okay! I use a lot of herbs to season my sauce so dump in a generous amount of basil and oregano, then a little marjoram. Marjoram is a sister to oregano and has a gentle sweet flavor that is a great compliment to the sauce.
My oldest sister, Ronda, likes to add a splash of burgundy to her spaghetti sauce. I don't normally have burgundy on hand, but if you do, add a little!
Turn your crock pot on and let this cook all day long. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles and top with some fresh grated parmesan cheese. We love spaghetti with fresh homemade french bread and a vegetable packed garden salad.
(NOTE: I usually have a lot of sauce leftover so I put it in a ziploc and freeze. This way, I have extra sauce for the future for a quick meal, or to make lasagna with.)
Next time you're looking for a cost efficient meal that your whole family will love, don't open a jar. Make this sauce and you'll save on the pocketbook and put smiles on your family's faces!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Thursday was Jim's birthday so the girls and I decided to have a small party for him. One of his most favorite foods is bbq ribs. He loves them! I always make the same sauce and thought I would try something different this time.
In my cookbook "Top Secret Recipes", there's a recipe in there for Hard Rock Cafe's Watermelon Ribs. The recipe looked incomplete to me so I changed it up and made it my own. Here's what I did.
You're going to need 2 cups watermelon pulp, so cut the rind off of the watermelon, leaving a lot of the white you don't usually eat. Cube and put in a blender. Puree. It doesn't need to be completely smooth. In fact, if you leave it slightly chunky you'll have tiny sweet chunks caramelized to your ribs. Delicious! Set the pulp aside.
Mince 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 of a small onion. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and garlic for a minute, until fragrant.
Dump in the watermelon pulp, 3/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup molasses, a couple shakes liquid smoke, 3 Tbsp white vinegar, 1 cup honey, and a shake or two of crushed red pepper flakes.
This is all you need for the bbq sauce! How easy is that? Now let this simmer on low for at least an hour. The sauce needs to reduce down and let some of that water evaporate out. You should be left with a nice rich and sweet bbq sauce after that time.
Now the sauce can be made days in advance if you need and kept in the fridge. You need to make it at *least* the day before because we're going to marinate the ribs in the fridge overnight.
Normally I use pork loin ribs that are practically boneless and super meaty. I decided to use racks of ribs. They came in this big pack so I cut the ribs into groups of 5 or 6 and put in large ziplocs. Pour in some of the bbq sauce (once cooled) and put in the fridge. Make sure you leave some bbq sauce for grilling!
To make: Heat an oven to 300*. Remove the ribs from the ziplocs and put in a baking dish. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil to lock in all the moisture. Bake for 2 hours.
Prepare your BBQ grill. To finish the ribs, throw them on the grill on medium heat (you don't want the coals too hot). Brush on some bbq sauce. Put the lid on the grill and let that bbq sauce caramelize on the skin of those ribs. Check periodically to turn them and glaze with more sauce. When they're nice and coated and have grill marks, pull from the bbq and serve.
To finish off Jim's birthday dinner I made smashed potatoes, corn on the cob, fresh slices of watermelon, and baked beans. Pun intended - he was HOG happy! LOL
These ribs were delicious. Sweet and tangy with a little kick from the pepper flakes. I'll be making these again!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I know what you're thinking. The title is very wordy. But hey! You can't leave anything out, right?
The newest season of Hell's Kitchen is on again and it always seems to inspire me to cook something uber impressive. Maybe one day I will actually cook something like this for Mr. Gordon Ramsay himself! And maybe... just maybe he won't spit it into the trash on the first bite. I can wish!!!
Do you find yourself making the same kind of pork chop recipe over and over? Do you take the easy way out and use Shake n' Bake? If you want to try something new, that's delicious and impressive (and not too difficult!), I really suggest you try this recipe.
****NOTE: If you haven't noticed, I haven't taken many step by step photos because it's very time consuming. If the recipe is more complicated where you need visuals, I will take more pictures.****
Here are the directions to make this dish-----
Heat a skillet over medium to medium high heat.
Season your pork chops with a little sea salt and fresh black pepper. I bought about 1 1/2" thick chops because the thin ones cook too fast, have less flavor, and are easy to overcook... and when you overcook them, they get really dry. Not what we want. So make sure you get those thick babies!
Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil in the skillet and carefully place each chop in. Sear for 3 minutes on each side. Searing is really important because not only does it give the meat more flavor and color, but it seals in all of the juices. If you don't hear a sizzle when you put the chops in, your pan wasn't hot enough.
When the chops have been seared on all sides, transfer to a baking sheet or baking dish and pop into a 350* oven for 15 minutes. When you remove the chops from the oven, they should be perfectly cooked inside with a slightly pink center. If it's too pink, put back in the oven for 5 minutes more.
Don't freak out. The FDA has come a long way in how they handle and process pork so you don't have to cook it to well done anymore. You will find that the chop is so juicy and moist when you do this. Trust me... it's all good.
Let the chops rest for 5 minutes before plating.
Now for the cream sauce ---
When the pork chops are resting, we're going to make the sauce. Heat the same skillet back up on the burner. Make sure you don't clean the pan because we want all of those little stuck on bits to be in our sauce.
When it's hot, add a pat of butter and melt. Saute a clove of garlic, about 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes (halved), and a small handful of chopped maitaki mushroom. (I used maitaki because that's what I bought at the Farmer's Market this past weekend -- delicious mushroom!!). If you don't have maitaki, use cremini or shitaki. Saute for a 2-3 minutes.
Add 1 cup white wine and whisk, scraping the bottom of the skillet to bring up all of the stuck on pieces. Let the wine reduce in half. Add 1 cup heavy cream. You can use half and half if you wish to cut the fat. Let simmer for a couple of minutes. If the sauce is a little thick, add some chicken tock to thin down a little. Taste and season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Add a pat of butter and whisk in. Make sure you whisk as it melts so it doesn't separate with the cream.
I served this with risotto (I threw some maitaki mushrooms into the risotto, otherwise, it's the same recipe linked). Put a spoonful of risotto in the center of the plate. Place a pork chop on top of the rice, then spoon some cream sauce over the top of that! Garnish with fried sage leaves.
**To make the sage leaves, heat a little oil in a pan. Drop in fresh sage leaves (about 4-5 per person) and fry until they stop bubbling. Pull from the oil and drain on paper towel.
Monday, August 3, 2009
My sister, Ronda, sent me an email the other day with a bunch of links. When I clicked on each of the links, I was taken to various sites that have been making mini pies! Well, that got me hankering for pie and decided to make some that night for dessert.
The instructions on one of the sites required 4oz Ball canning jars but I don't have any so I used my ramekins instead. Nothing like having your very own pie to put a smile on my face.
Before I get ahead of myself, I'll share the link. Not Martha
I made a butter pastry. 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar mixed together in a bowl. Cut in 1 cup cold butter until the mix is crumbly. Spoon in some ice water until the dough pulls together. Divide into 8 balls. Roll each ball out and carefully line the inside of the ramekin, or ball jar.
Fill the pie up 3/4 of the way with the filling. Since I was in a hurry and didn't have fresh or frozen blackberries on hand, I used a jar of pie filling I had in my cupboard. Blackberry cobbler filling from Cracker Barrel. Mmmmm...
Thursday, July 30, 2009
While visiting my family in Seattle, we had many dinners and bbqs. Two days after our arrival, we went to Music in the Park and the plan was for us to bring a dish or two to share. I've been wanting to try fennel slaw for some time now. In fact, I had been planning on doing a big 4th of July segment here on my blog with summer/bbq type recipes, but it never happened.
We'll put the past behind us and move forward, shall we?
So for Music in the Park, I made peach cobbler, a roasted beet salad, and this... apple fennel slaw. I know it sounds like a strange combination but holy cow it was SO good. I encouraged my skeptical family members to try the slaw and they loved it, even though they took that first bite with much trepidation. (Suzanne would never steer you wrong!!!!!!)
Not only is this salad delicious and refreshing, it's very very quick to make. Here's how it's done.
In a large bowl, put:
2 fennel bulbs, finely sliced
2 granny smith apples, cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, grated
In another bowl, put:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
a shake of garlic powder
a shake of celery seed
2 Tbsp rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
the juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
and 1 Tbsp sugar
Mix all the dressing ingredients together and taste. It should be slightly sweet so if it's not, add a little more sugar to balance the acidity of the vinegar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing on top of the slaw and mix together well. If you want to get fancy with it, garnish the top with some of the fennel frond. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
The perfect side dish for a summer bbq! Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Happy Summer! I have been so bad about updating and will try to keep posting new things as often as I possibly can. I haven't posted this yet, but guess what? I'M GOING TO CULINARY SCHOOL! I was accepted to The Culinary Institute of America and will start classes October 20th! I should have some awesome things to post once I start. I can't WAIT!
The girls and I were in Seattle visiting my family most of July. We just got back a few days ago and are slowly trying to re-adjust to East Coast time. Not easy my friends.. not easy. Thankfully, we have no commitments so we can sleep late. While I was there, I made crazy amounts of food for my family. I think they're going to miss my cooking more than me! (Okay, maybe not.)
A few days before we flew back East, my oldest sister, with whom I was staying, made cheese blintzes. They were *SO* good with some fresh berries and a yummy cream cheese/cottage cheese filling. She found the recipe here, but I will post it on my blog for convenience sake. I'm definitely going to make these... probably for my husband's birthday next week! He'll love that.
Keep your eyes peeled for some new things coming your way! Hope you all have a wonderful summer.
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 cups cottage cheese
3 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
- Sift the flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients. Mix together until everything is smooth and there are no lumps. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. It can be held in the fridge for up to 12 hours.
- Heat a crepe pan or small skillet over medium heat. You don't want the heat too hot. Brush the pan with melted butter (or use Pam spray). pour a cup of batter into the crepe pan and swirl around to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the first side until it's set (about 2 minutes, then using a rubber spatula, loosen the edges and flip it over. Cook the other side for another minute. Remove from pan and repeat until all the batter has been cooked up.
- Spoon some filling down the center of the crepe, roll up, and top with fresh whipped cream and fruit. You can use whatever fruit you like. We had blueberries and strawberries on hand but you can use cherries, peaches, or apples. Yummy!
Thanks Ronda for such a great time and for letting the girls and I stay at your place. Love you!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
First, you want to begin by making your pizza dough. If you don't have time to make dough, you can always buy it from the store, but it's not going to be nearly as good because they have to pump so many preservatives in those things... and you lose that fresh, homemade flavor and sometimes texture. So do yourself a favor and give yourself an extra hour, hour and half to make the dough. You will not regret it.
Season a strip of skirt steak with salt and pepper. Pop on a bbq or grill pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Skirt steak is very very thin and cooks rather quickly. I like my steak around medium rare and only kept it on the grill about 10 minutes. If you want your meat more cooked, keep it on longer. Give it another minute or two on each side.
Use a rolling pin to stretch out each piece. You want them in a rectangular shape because once they're loaded with stuff, you flip half over the top to create the sandwich.
When that steak is done on the grill, make sure you let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing into it. Slice against the grain into very thin pieces. I have to tell you, this was so so SOOOOOO tender and delicious. I love me some steak!
Put some of the herbed mayo on the entire length of the flatbread. Put some steak down (as much as you want), and then some of the mushrooms and onion.
Add some chopped lettuce (I used romaine), and sliced tomato. Now flip the top and tack down with a large toothpick, or do as I did and use a bamboo skewer.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
In a saucepan, add a little olive oil and saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno for a minute taking care not to burn the garlic.
Thinly slice the steak. Remember, this is an appetizer. You don't want to have big honkin pieces of meat on the skewer because it will make it more difficult to eat.
I'm using my grill pan but you can use your bbq grill. In fact, the bbq grill will give it some awesome smoky flavor. If you use the bbq grill, please make sure you soak the skewers well. You don't want them to burn to a crisp.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The other night we had appetizer night, which I do when I'm craving multiple things at the same time. I usually do this on Friday as a kind of "celebration" for surviving the week. Normally I don't fix this kind of fancy food, but I was in the mood to try new things.
On the menu: Brie puffs (I used my profiteroles recipe and added grated Brie cheese to the dough before piping), Grilled Steak Kabobs with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, Crab Cakes with Chipotle Lime Aioli, and Italian Stuffed Mushrooms. For dessert I made Coconut Parfaits using toasted coconut pound cake and coconut whipped cream.
Today's blog entry shows how I made the mushrooms.
In a skillet, put a little olive oil and cook some mild italian sausage (1 cup) with 1/2 cup finely diced onion. Saute until the sausage is cooked through.
Transfer the onion and sausage to a bowl and add 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs, 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and one egg.
Mix everything together well using a fork.
Remove the stems from all of the mushrooms, leaving only the caps. You can dice up the mushroom stems and add to the filling if you wish. I chose not to this time.
Place the mushrooms in a baking dish.
Fill the mushroom caps with the stuffing. Make sure they mound up nice and high because you want to have enough filling so when you bite in it should be 50/50 in flavor.
Cut up 1/4 stick of butter and place strategically around the mushrooms. It will melt as the mushrooms bake and keep them from sticking to the baking dish. Put in a 350* oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.