Thursday, April 28, 2011

Organic Beeswax-Olive Oil Lipbalm

If you're anything like me, you probably have lipbalm tubes in every purse, the center console in your car, in your bathroom drawer, and under the couch. They are everywhere.

My lipbalm of choice is usually Burt's Bees because of its natural product certification, 30% post-industrial content in their containers, and no animal testing; but still, all of those little plastic tubes are weighing on me. I decided: no more.

So, I looked up a do-it-yourself lipbalm recipe, ordered glass jars that I will reuse, tracked down a supplier of organic beeswax, found some organic flavor oils, and I'm doing it. I will make my own lipbalm with organic ingredients in a refillable container!

Years ago my then almost 4-year-old wrote a poem for Mothers' Day. So all you mommy pals of mine, you know what you're getting...grape, cherry, or marshmallow flavored organic lipbalm.

"Mommies are sweet like grapes and smell like cherries.
Mommies give squishy cloud kisses.
Mommies' eyes sparkle like the sun.
Mommies are warm like toasted marshmallows...
And have big hearts to love everyone."
~"Mommies" by Riley

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Camilla's Crêperie

Standardized testing has paid the bills for me at different times in my life. I've written and edited standardized tests. I've taught prep classes for standardized tests. But, with all of that, I don't get the fuss. Maybe it's because of all that that I don't get it. Parents fret over preparation or what they perceive as lack of preparation. Parents get incensed over the results. It's just a test. Chill out.

Still that doesn't stop me from making whatever breakfast the boys want on testing morning. So, as today was the first morning of Riley's STAR tests, I asked him what he wanted for breakfast; his answer: crêpes.

Fine.
"Mom, do you know why I asked for crêpes?"
Because you like them.
"Well, yes, I do like them. But it's because your pancakes aren't very good."
Maybe we should work on the balance between candor and tact.

1 C white whole wheat flour
3 eggs
2 C milk

Whisk everything together to form a thin batter. Heat and butter a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Pour the batter onto the pan. Tip and rotate pan to spread batter as thinly as possible. Brown on both sides and serve hot. This recipe makes between 8-10 crêpes. Once the crêpe is cooked, I smear it lightly with whatever jam I have on hand, roll it up, and dust it with powered sugar.

This morning the fillings of the day, for the boys, were: Trader Joe's mango butter and Bonne Maman's fig preserves. Since I'm more of a savory gal, mine had wilted spinach, caramelized onions, and feta cheese.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rhubarb Pavlovas

I realized, in horror, at about 4 o'clock that I completely forgot to plan a birthday dessert for Jake. Whoops. I wanted something elegant but easy, so I settled on rhubarb pavlovas.

I've never made pavlovas, but in prepping for the class I'm about to teach at the boys' school - Aussie Adventures - this popular Australian dessert entered my culinary radar. In 1935, the chef of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, Herbert Sachse, created the pavlova to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

6 organic large egg whites
pinch pink Himalaya salt
dash of ground ginger
1 t white vinegar
3/4 C plus 2 T organic granulated sugar for the whipped cream
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 C heavy cream
2 C fresh rhubarb, chopped
1/4 C butter, cubed
1/2 organic granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine egg whites, salt, and white vinegar together in a large mixing bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Combine the 3/4 C sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl and add to the egg whites in thirds, whisking each addition in completely. Add the vanilla and ground ginger and beat until stiff peaks form. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon the meringue in 8 big spoonfuls, using a spoon to spread them in a circle, and then make a hollow in each.

Bake for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 200°F, and bake for another hour. Turn off the heat and cool the meringues in the oven with the door propped open. Meanwhile, whip the cream together with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. While the meringues bake, make a rhubarb compote with the last three ingredients on the list. To serve, evenly distribute the cream on the meringues, filling in the hollow. Top with the rhubarb compote and serve.

Happy birthday, my Love!

Tuesday Night Supper Club


*March 30, 2012 UPDATE: One of my photos on this recipe was featured on the TODAY.com's food blog, Bites, as one of the "feast your eyes dessert photos for a sweet fix" features.* Hooray.

Alcatra, Part II

Click here for 'Alcatra, Part I.'

Traditionally the alcatra is cooked for two days; I didn't have two days and thought that a colossal waste of energy anyway. So, after marinating overnight, I roasted the alcatra for three hours in accordance with some more modern recipes.

At 375 degrees, the roast cooked for two hours. Then I added potatoes, reduced the temperature to 325 and cooked for another hour.

To serve I smashed the potatoes, sliced the roast and sausages, and topped it all with the roasted onions. Delicious.

Colomba di Pasqua, Revamped

Because I usually have leftovers and because my boys are notorious food-snobs - I don't know where they get that? (wink, wink) - I revamp my leftovers so that they look a little bit different than when they were served the first time around. Otherwise, my little one will usually make some comment along the lines of "Mommy, didn't we already eat this?!?"

So, this morning I sliced the remaining colomba di pasqua and made French toast with it. Dipped in a beaten egg with a splash of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon, cooked with a pat of butter on the griddle, dusted with powdered sugar, and - voilà! - French toast.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Alcatra, Part I

I decided a traditional beef pot roast dish from Terceira, one of the Portuguese-held Azores Islands, would be a great dish for Jake's real birthday dinner.

Alcatra is a Portuguese recipe for a spicy piece of ass, the perfect dish for my spicy...well, you get the idea.

Traditionally the alcatra beef roast is slow-roasted in a clay pot that's shaped like a flower pot with herbs and spices. The closest thing I have is a large stoneware baking bowl.

Tonight was the first part of alcatra preparation: the marination. From all of my research, a few ingredients are key to the alcatra marinade - cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, onions, garlic, wine, bay leaves. So I placed all of that in the stoneware bowl with the rump roast and two nitrite-free Portuguese sausages. That will all soak overnight.


Look for 'Alcatra, Part II' tomorrow night after we celebrate Jake's 36th birthday.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bear's Head Mushroom Soufflé with a Truffle-Beciamela Sauce

My 'Fungi Feast for My Fun Guy' had some easy dishes - open jar and serve - and some culinary challenges that got me out of my comfort zone. Having never made a soufflé, I thought I'd tackle it for Jake's birthday dinner. It was well worth the effort.

Keep in mind this egg-to-person rule: every egg you use represents a single serving. So, if you are having a soufflé party for 6, use 6 eggs. Simple.

Slice whatever mushrooms you are using – in this case bear's head mushrooms from Far West Fungi were my fungus of choice - toss them into a hot skillet and sauté them until water bubbles out and they brown slightly.

Separate your eggs and stir the mushrooms into the yolks. Whip your egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and fold the mushroom-yolk into the egg whites 1/3 at a time. Butter your soufflé ramekins, and fill them three-quarters of the way up. Put them in the oven - in a baking dish with water coming halfway up the ramekin. Bake for roughly 20 minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned.
While the soufflés are baking, make a beciamela sauce by melting butter with a splash of black truffle oil, stirring in flour to make a roux, and adding milk to make a thick sauce. Sauté more sliced bear's head mushrooms with crushed garlic and add them to the sauce. 

The soufflés will begin to collapse almost as soon as you take it out of the oven, so serve them immediately. I placed them in front of the guests, with a spoon, and had them make a hole in the center of the soufflé. Then I scooped in the sauce. The result? A delightful, delicate creation celebrating the incomparable flavor of a mushroom. Delicious!

Shitake-Fennel Foccacia

Foccacia is such an easy thing to make - there's very little kneading required. The yeast does all the work. But with some toppings, it makes a tasty addition to your table. For the 'Fungi Feast for My Fun Guy', I made a double batch and opted to top foccacia with sauteed shitake mushrooms, sliced fennel, and fresh oregano. I served it with a dipping sauce of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and black truffle oil.

4 C white whole wheat flour
2 t pink Himalaya salt
2 t dry active yeast
2 C warm water
2 C sliced shitake mushrooms
1 C sliced fresh fennel
4 T fresh oregano
olive oil

In a large bowl, stir flour, salt and yeast together until well combined. Saute the mushrooms and fennel in a splash of olive oil till softened. Add warm water and stir well until a sticky dough is formed. Let rise, covered, in a warm place for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil baking pan and then add the dough to it and using your fingertips stretch the dough to fit the baking tin. Top with mushrooms and fennel, sprinkle with fresh oregano. Drizzle the dough with olive oil, sprinkle with pink Himalaya salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.
 
Gabe, Jenn and Mike's almost two-year-old, loved it, gobbling up square after square. Success.

Tonka Bean Hot Milk Sponge Cake

I've made this hot milk sponge cake, from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri, more than a dozen times. It's easy. It's moist. And I figured that it would be a great way to show off the unusual flavor of the tonka bean. [Click here to read more about these illicit legumes.]

Ingredients

  • 8 T butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1-1/2 C white whole wheat flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 t pink Himalaya salt
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
  • half of one tonka bean, grated finely
Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine milk, butter, and grated tonka beans in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat. Stir together the flour and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up, whisk in the salt, whisk in the sugar, and continue whisking till the mixture has lightened in color. Mix in the extracts, then the milk mixture. Gently incorporate the flour mixture, whisking till smooth.

Pour into a parchment-lined baking dish and bake for 20 minutes or till the cake is well-risen, smooth, a deep golden brown, and firm to the touch. Loosen the cake from the pan and invert onto a cooling rack.

I had meant to serve this cake in small, amuse bouche sized squares topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a marzipan mushroom. But Jake cut and served the pieces. When I told him I had intended smaller pieces, Jake and Brian both informed me that "'dessert' and 'amuse bouche sized' do not go together."

Wild Boar Sausage With Truffle Mustard

Because one of my best friends is a hunter, I get gifts of meat, lots of meat. My boys call their Uncle Brian "the best killer in the family." For this fungi dinner Brian gave me some wild boar sausages.

I put Jake to work, manning the grill, despite his protests that it was his party and he shouldn't have to cook. He also grilled some monster-sized portabella mushrooms. Then I topped the grilled sausages with a white truffle mustard that I ordered from gourmet-food.com.

So, technically, I didn't do anything for this dish...Brian killed the boar and had the sausages made; Jake grilled them; but I did open the jar of mustard!

Triple Mushroom Pâté

Due to waaay too much vino on Friday night, I am getting a late start on blogging about the food I served that evening.

We celebrated Jake's 36th birthday with 'A Fungi Feast for My Fun Guy.' 

First up: a triple mushroom pâté. I served this with raisin-rosemary crackers from Trader Joe's.

I started with a recipe from Gourmet magazine from 1997 and tweaked a bit to come up with this version. It's a pretty involved recipe, but it's well worth the effort.

1 1/2 C chicken stock
2 C chopped shitake mushroom
2 C chopped trumpet mushroom
2 C chopped crimini mushroom
1 stick butter
2 minced shallots
4 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup wine
1 C organic heavy cream
4 large eggs
1/4 cup ground almond meal
1/4 C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 t chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1-1/2 T fresh lemon juice
2 t pink Himalaya salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

Butter loaf pan, then line bottom and sides with parchment paper and butter paper.
Bring stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove pan from heat, add shitakes. Bring to a brisk simmer over moderate heat and simmer until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes.

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a blender. Heat 2 more tablespoons butter in skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add one third of the remaining mushrooms and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cook remaining mushrooms in 2 batches, adding 2 more tablespoons butter to skillet for each batch. Add 2 cups sautéed mushrooms to shallot mixture in blender, and add remaining mushrooms to shitake mixture.

Add cream, then eggs and almonds to blender and purée until mixture is very smooth, about 1 minute. Add purée to shitake mixture and stir in parsley, thyme, bread crumbs, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until well combined. Pour mixture into loaf pan and cover with foil.

Put loaf pan in a larger baking pan and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides of loaf pan. Bake until set 1/2 inch from edges, about 50 minutes (pâté will not be completely set in center). Remove loaf pan from baking pan and let cool to room temperature on a rack. Refrigerate pâté in loaf pan, covered, for at least 6 hours. Bring pâté to room temperature before adding topping. 

Topping
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 C canary oyster mushrooms
1/4 C fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/8 t pink Himalaya salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and liquid they give off has evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool, then add parsley, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.

To unmold pâté, run a thin knife between paper and edges of loaf pan. Invert a large plate over loaf pan and invert pâté onto plate (peel off paper). Mound topping on pâté, and spread on toasts and/or crackers.

Tuesday Night Supper Club

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Meyer Lemon-Agave Marshmallow Chicks

Peeps schmeeps. Who needs 'em? But as they are ubiquitous at Easter, I figured I should at least give a Spring-shaped marshmallow a whirl. I even caved and used some colored sugars to jazz them up. Mine don't look quite as nice as the ones in a package, but I guarantee that mine taste a lot better!

canola oil
powdered sugar
1/2 C cold water + 1/2 C freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice, divided
3, 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 C organic raw sugar
2/3 C organic agave nectar
1/4 t pink Himalaya salt

Prepare a 9×13 inch pan by oiling it with canola oil. Dust powdered sugar and colored sugar over the oiled sides of the pan.

Place 1/2 C of water-lemon juice mixture in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow to soften, 5 minutes.

Place remaining water, juice sugar, syrups, and salt into a large saucepan. Melt all of the ingredients together, without stirring, and bring to a boil. Boil until the syrup reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour hot syrup down the side of the bowl, being sure to avoid the whisk as it will splatter the syrup and could possibly burn you. Once all of the syrup is incorporated gradually increase mixer speed and whip on high until the mixuture turns white and become very thick and stiff. Spread the marshmallow into the prepared pan and sprinkle with more colored sugar. Allow to set at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight, if possible.

Use a small cookie cutter of your choice. Roll the edges of the marshmallow in powdered sugar so it doesn't stick.

Kitchen Dyed Easter Eggs



Have you ever wondered why we dye Easter eggs? Oddly, I never have.

As a parent, every Easter, I would purchase one of those dying kits - with its plastic buckets, wire dippers, magical tablets that dissolve in water and vinegar - lay out newspaper, clad the boys in already stained clothing, and create a dozen or so eggs dyed in hues not normally seen in nature.

But I never asked "what's the story behind the dyed eggs?" Why do we do this every year? We don't hide these eggs; these are the ones we dye - just for the experience of dying them - we refrigerate then for a day or two, and then make them into a boatload of egg salad for sandwiches.

I decided two things this year: (1) I wanted to know why we dye eggs at Easter and (2) I was done buying those kits. I remember my mom dying eggs with natural foods. So, I looked up different foods that are used to naturally dye fabrics. That launched me down this culinary adventure - dying our Easter eggs with things found in my kitchen.


From my research, the tradition of dying eggs predates Christianity and, thus, Easter. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Persians dyed eggs to celebrate Spring; green was commonly used to represent the new foliage emerging after the long winter. The tradition, originally pagan, was absorbed by early Christians who dyed their eggs red as a symbol of Christ's blood.


For yellow...in a pot I whisked 1/4 cup of turmeric with water. Then I placed the raw eggs gently into the pot and added water till they were completely submerged. I brought the liquid and eggs to a boil, letting them boil for 10 minutes. Then I cooled them completely in the liquid.

I did the same with a hibiscus tea, hoping for pink eggs. The resulting eggs were more taupe, a tan color with a pinkish hue. Still pretty, but not what I wanted.

I simmered eggs in cold espresso for an earthy brown.

But my favorite kitchen-dyed egg resulted from eggs cooked in leftover wine. Regal syrah colored eggs. Gorgeous.

Colomba di Pasqua II

Annnnd because I can never do anything the same way twice, I did a variation of my first colomba di pasqua...this time with unsweetened cocoa and chocolate chips.

Breads
2 quarter ounce packages of active dry yeast
1/2 C warm water (approx. 110 degrees)
1/2 C butter, room temperature
7 oz. package almond paste (in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
1/2 C organic granulated sugar
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 t pink Himalaya salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg, separated
1/2 C warm milk (approx. 110 degrees)
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C dried cherries
1/2 C raw pistachios
1/2 C semisweet chocolate chips

Glaze
1/2 C organic granulated sugar
1/2 C ground almonds
2 large egg whites
1/4 t almond extract
1 C sliced almonds
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar

1. In a small cup or bowl, stir the yeast into water to soften.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, almond paste and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the softened yeast, vanilla, salt, eggs, egg yolk, milk, unsweetened cocoa, and 3 cups flour to the creamed mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

3. Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Gently stir in dried cherries, pistachios, and chocolate chips.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a tightly woven cloth and let rise about 1 1/2 hours. Due to the almond paste, this recipe doesn't double in size.

5. Divide dough into halves. Place the two dove shaped pans on a large baking sheet, then arrange dough in the pans. Cover with a towel and let rise 45 minutes. Although the dough won't rise as high as other types of yeast dough, it will rise during baking.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat all glaze ingredients except almonds, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar together. Gently mix in almond then spoon over the breads. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes.

7. Remove pans to a cooking rack and cool completely.

Colomba di Pasqua I


Inspired by Rook No. 17's Colomba di Pasqua post a few weeks ago, I candied some kumquats and ordered some colomba di pasqua baking pans. Then I used Jenn's recipe as a starting point, varied the fruits and nuts, and used a slightly different glaze. Today was the day...and what a treat!

Breads
2 quarter ounce packages of active dry yeast
1/2 C warm water (approx. 110 degrees)
1/2 C butter, room temperature
7 oz. package almond paste (in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
1/2 C organic granulated sugar
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 t pink Himalaya salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg, separated
1/2 C warm milk (approx. 110 degrees)
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C dried cherries
1/2 C raw pistachios

Glaze
1/2 C organic granulated sugar
1/2 C ground almonds
2 large egg whites
1/4 t almond extract
1 C sliced almonds
Powdered sugar

1. In a small cup or bowl, stir the yeast into water to soften.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, almond paste and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the softened yeast, candied kumquats, vanilla, salt, eggs, egg yolk, milk, and 3 cups flour to the creamed mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

3. Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Gently stir in dried cherries and pistachios.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a tightly woven cloth and let rise about 1 1/2 hours. Due to the almond paste, this recipe doesn't double in size.

5. Divide dough into halves. Place the two dove shaped pans on a large baking sheet, then arrange dough in the pans. Cover with a towel and let rise 45 minutes. Although the dough won't rise as high as other types of yeast dough, it will rise during baking.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat all glaze ingredients except almonds and powdered sugar together. Gently mix in almond then spoon over the breads. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake for 45 minutes.

7. Remove pans to a cooking rack and cool completely.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bee Pollen Truffles

10 oz high-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

1/2 t fennel pollen

unsweetened cocoa and bee pollen* for rolling

In a small, heavy saucepan bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a separate bowl with fennel pollen. Pour the cream over the chococlate. Let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk till smooth. Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Roll half-teaspoon sized balls in your hands as quickly as you can. Roll in unsweetened cocoa and dip the top into bee pollen. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight before serving.

*Note: about the bee pollen...I ordered mine from the Monterey Bay Spice Company. [Click here for their link.] But I believe the Vitamin Shoppe carries it. I haven't checked WholeFoods, but it shouldn't be too tough to find.

Photobucket

Fabulous, Fresh Fungi

After my failed attempt to purchase mushrooms from Far West Fungi last week - due to a mushroom farmer with integrity - I hauled up to Moss Landing again this morning and purchased three pounds of freshly harvested mushrooms. Straight from their farm to my table in about twelve hours. Thanks, Erik, these will be much better than week-old mushrooms!

I opted for the canary oyster mushrooms, for its vibrant, sunny hue, and the bear's head mushroom, for its fluffy texture.  Look for recipes and photos tonight, but the bear's heads will be featured in my individual mushroom soufflés while the canaries will be served atop a mushroom pâté that I made last night. I know I'm a kitchen geek, but I can not wait to get home and get cooking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marzipan Mushrooms

I love using marzipan to model cake decorations; typically, I make woodland decorations - mushrooms, pinecones, holly berries, and holly leaves - for my bûche de noël.

Pressed for time, I ended up buying a tube of marzipan tonight for these mushrooms that will go on the dessert tray tomorrow night. But I've had homemade marzipan and it is undeniably better than this. Still, these will suffice, especially since these will be plucked from the tray by excited little hands!  Once I formed the mushrooms, I dusted them with a mixture of unsweetened cocoa, cinnamon, and ancho powder.

Homemade marzipan
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
180g (6oz) ground almonds
40g (11/2 oz) icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
pinch of cream of tartar
1 egg white, lightly whisked
5 tbsp water
1\2 tsp vanilla extract

Put the sugar and the water in a heavy based saucepan and cook on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add cream of tarter and bring to the boil until the sugar reaches 116oC (240oF)- soft ball stage. Remove from the heat and mix the mixture until it turns cloudy, then add ground almonds and vanilla extract. Add to the pan the egg white and return to a low heat and stir for a couple of minutes.

Place the icing sugar on to a marble surface and pour over the mixture. Work in the icing sugar with a palate knife. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap until cooled. Once cooled knead the mixture until smooth.

Intriguing and Illegal: Tonka Beans

Clicking around Monterey Bay Spice Company's website - to use my groupon - I wanted to purchase things that were unusual and new to me.

Tonka beans fit the bill perfectly. Described as having an aroma that is a mixture of vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, and tobacco, I thought them a perfect addition to my culinary adventures, especially since I'd never heard of them before.

And while searching for recipes that utilitze the beans, I realized that - sold as a food item - tonka beans are illegal in this country.

How is that possible? They were just delivered to my doorstep! Then I discovered that tonka beans are commonly used and sold for love spells and other witchcraft rituals. That made them all the more intriguing. Thank goodness for witches!

A quick note about the ban, as gleaned from several websites, including Ike DeLorenzo's article "The Tonka Bean: An Ingredient So Good It Has to Be Illegal"...

In this country, all foods that contain the chemical compound coumarin are considered by the FDA to be 'adulterated' and have technically been illegal since 1954. Tonka beans are a major source of coumarin; however, at least 30 entire tonka beans (or 1 gram of coumarin total) would need to be eaten to approach levels reported as toxic. It's interesting to note that coumarin also occurs naturally in cinnamon, lavender, licorice, and a host of other commonly eaten plants—all of which would seem to be illegal under the regulation.

So tonka beans are no more toxic than any other spice that contains coumarin however the FDA is enforcing this old law in regards to tonka beans. Has anyone been busted for tonka bean possession? You bet. In the middle of this past decade, federal regulators got busy tracking down chefs using the tonka bean. Chef Grant Achatz, from Alinea in Chicago, described the warning call from his supplier: "They said, 'Don't be surprised if the FDA shows up soon.' Two days later, they walked in: 'Can we look at your spice cabinet?'"

Wow. I guess I'd better use all my beans as quickly as I can. Or...just claim I'm a witch. That works for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Portuguese Easter Bread

Now I'm not too sure how authentic this recipe is, but I was searching around for Easter breads from around the world. And because Jake's maternal grandfather was Portuguese, I figured it would be both a culinary adventure and an ancestry lesson!

Dylan laughed when I told him the story of his "girl name." Before we knew that we were pregnant with a little boy, Jake and I had picked names for both genders. If Dylan were a girl, we wanted to honor Jake's grandfather by using that surname as our little girl's middle name. So, if Dylan had been a girl, he would have been Thalia Augusta Mann.

This Portuguese recipe appealed to me because of the combination of honey, unsweetened cocoa, and nutmeg. Necessity breeds invention, right?! The original recipe called for more honey, but I ran out and added some plain yogurt instead. With the alacrity at which these little treats disappeared from my cooling rack, I'd call them a hit.

Like the French canelé, these have a thick, almost caramelized crust, with a tender center. I wonder what Grandpa Augusta would think of these...

INGREDIENTS:
3 C white whole wheat flour
1 C organic granulated sugar
3 T unsweetened chocolate
3/4 C honey
1/4 C plain yogurt
1 t ground nutmeg
1 T butter, melted
1 C milk
1 t baking powder

PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a pan. Combine all the ingredients and pour into a buttered baking dish. I opted for mini bundt pans, to look like little baskets. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Strawberry-Lemon Curd Tart

With a tad of leftover ridiculously easy tart crust, I pressed small balls of dough into mini bundt pans and baked to form small tart crusts.  I spooned in lemon curd and topped it all with some sliced fresh strawberries. Simultaneously sweet and tart, this is a perfect treat with a strong cup of espresso.

Lemon Curd

1 C fresh lemon juice
4 t fresh lemon zest
1 cup organic granulated sugar
6 large eggs
12 T butter, cut into cubes

Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.

Photobucket

Black and Blue Tart

I decided to try a berry tart, starting with my ridiculously easy tart crust. I had fresh blackberries and blueberries, hence the name: black and blue tart.

Once the tart crust is baked, spoon in this filling.


4 C mixed berries
1 C organic granulated sugar
2 T butter, thinly sliced
2 T white whole wheat flour

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes. Let cool.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rhubarb Tart

It doesn't take much to make rhubarb shine - just some butter, sugar, and my ridiculously easy tart crust.











Once the tart crust is baked, spoon in this filling.

4 C sliced rhubarb
1 C organic granulated sugar
2 T butter, thinly sliced
2 T white whole wheat flour

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes. Let cool.

Share Buttons