April 28, 2009

TWD- Chocolate Cream Tart

When I heard Kim was picking for Tuesday with Dorie, I knew that it would be a beautiful recipe. Sure enough, this Chocolate Cream Tart has lots of beauty potential (unlike bread pudding and other desserts we love around here!) As for taste, it has some seriously good reviews from the TWD bakers.

For me, this tart popped the question into my head, "Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?" I immediately thought of the saying, "Too much of a good thing is WONDERFUL." Seriously, pastry cream... whipped cream... tart shell- how could we go wrong? However, I knew when I started making this that I should make the regular tart crust. I keep finding myself modifying recipes, though, without even trying the original. So chocolate crust it was. Sure enough, the crust was delicious! Onto the cream. I used Ghiradelli Bittersweet chocolate for the pastry cream and it came together no problem. When I put it all together (after dinner, in front of company, I even took a couple quick photos while they were there, which I always feel a little embarrassed about? Is that just me?) I spread the cream out, topped it with whipped cream, and even a few mini chocolate chips. The final verdict was that this was yummy, but maybe a little TOO much of a good thing. Next time I'll make this with the plain crust (recipe here), the chocolate cream, and serve it with strawberries and generous portions of whipped cream. Really, with that combination, I don't think it's possible to go wrong! As for the chocolate crust, I'm thinking a revamped strawberry tart with vanilla pastry cream would be amazing. Right now. Seriously, with all of these good things, I don't think you can go wrong.

Recipe Notes to Remember:
-This crust is best made in the food processor. Even if it looks like it's too dry, don't over mix. It will come together. The less you work it, the better (seriously)

-Gently pat the crust into the pan and keep in pretty thin to house all that delicious pastry cream. Any extra cream, though, will taste delicious slathered on bananas or just about anything you have lying around.

-Stick with a chocolate you love to flavor the cream- it will make a big difference in the taste of the final product.

-Maybe it's my cooking technique or just my preference, but I find the pastry cream a little more manageable if I add about 20 percent more milk (I usually use 2 percent, don't waste your money on skim!)

And coming next week... Tiramisu Cake. Any suggestions on making this without coffee and liqueur? Anyone? I'd like to preserve the spirit of the recipe, but I have a feeling it's going to be hard...

April 26, 2009

Ina's Savory Coeur a la Creme

I loved Ina's Coeur a la Creme that we made last year and when I watched Ina make the savory version (another cute episode with Jeffrey) I wanted to try it. I chose it last minute and thought it was due the last week in April. Last weekend I stopped by the barefoot bloggers site and realized I'd missed the deadline for my own choice! I felt like such a slacker so I busted out my dish that I hadn't got to use the first time and got to work. The nice part about this recipe is that it only takes a few minutes of stand mixer effort to get a great result. Deb suggested pesto so I went that route. I loved the spicy taste of the pesto with the cream cheese. I served it with crackers and cucumbers and would love to bring this to a party. You know, the cute kind that Ina has on her back patio. I'd love to go to one of those. Thanks to everyone who cooked along (and my apologies for my tardiness!)

Savory Coeur a la Creme
from Ina Garten
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I subbed neufchatel and added a little Ultra Gel)
1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bottle chutney (recommended: Cross and Blackwell Major Grey's)
Crackers, for serving

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip until it is firm like whipped cream. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick.

Line a 6-inch coeur a la creme mold or 6-inch sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth, allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Pour the cream mixture into the cheesecloth and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Fold the excess cheesecloth over the top of the cream. Place the mold on a plate or suspend the sieve over a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, unmold the creme upside down onto a plate and pour the chutney over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides. Serve chilled with crackers.

April 23, 2009

Croque Monsieur

If I had to list my mom's favorite foods, or maybe foods that remind me most of her, grilled cheese might be number three or four. She makes hers with Colby Jack (pepper jack if the fridge is well stocked) and Roman Meal bread, generously slathered with butter. You see, my mom is a dairy man's daughter. While she might be afraid of too many carbs or million-ounce fountain drinks from QT, she's never shied away from butter. Or cheese. Or milk. Maybe all that Calcium and those vitamins are hiding secrets, though, because my mom looks at least 10 years younger than she is.

Anyways, when I saw the Croque Monsieur was this week's Barefoot Blogger's recipe, I knew I had to make it for my mom, not for my thinks-he's-lactose-intolerant-but-probably-just-loves-meat-and-carbs-most husband. And it was a hit. I went to Sprouts for some yummy, dense Italian bread dotted with chunks of roasted garlic and gruyere (I found Jarlsberg). Of course I spent 50 bucks, but don't worry, there's going to be some good green salsa and sweet pork burritos posted soon. And as for all this dairy? I'll admit it makes me a little nervous, besides the beneficial calcium. Nonetheless, this amazing sandwich is totally worth it. I felt French eating it, and even forgot I hate Swiss Cheese. Yes, Ina Garten has super powers. Kind of like my mom.

I wish I could feed you some right now, since I need to ask forgiveness for the "purse camera photos" (my mom hates when I refer to her camera that way, especially since she bought me my "real camera" and covets it) and for forgetting to post my own choice for Barefoot Bloggers. Yikes. It's scheduled to come up this weekend. I know you're dying in anticipation.

Croque Monsieur
from Ina Garten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread.

Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

April 21, 2009

TWD- White Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding

It's Tuesday again and I'm not quite sure how it snuck up on me so quickly! I've been sick again all week and last night I was laying in bed writing my "sorry, no bread pudding post" mentally when I decided I would just suck it up and make it tomorrow anyways. Well, I'm sure glad I did.

Since my tall man can't have chocolate but can eat white chocolate (I think we need Alton Brown to explain that, he'd do a much better job) I subbed white chocolate in without looking back. I used a whole loaf of day old french bread (16 ounces instead of just 12) and had just the right amount of bread to custard. I also used 2 percent milk since that's what we keep on hand (no excuse for whole milk any more since my baby is 2 now!) I added some frozen raspberries for color last minute and they provided the perfect burst of flavor and freshness. And, I added a squirt of vanilla to the custard just to be safe. I've never regretted extra vanilla. I feel the same way about whipped cream, too- so I served this with heaping dollops of cream melting on top.

This was delicious, easy... and all gone in a few minutes. I'm glad I had guest tasters in the kitchen to keep me from eating it all in a frenzied, starving pregnant moment (you know what I'm talking about... when you get hungry when your pregnant, it hits suddenly and massively!) Thanks for the fun choice, Lauren. Make sure to get the recipe on her blog (or here) and make this for yourself. With any variation it would be a winner. And while you're here, please leave a comment with any suggestions on boosting your immune system. I've been so sick this pregnancy (with non pregnancy stuff) that I'm afraid to even look at raw cookie dough for fear of salmonella!

April 15, 2009

Lemon Curd Marbled Cheesecake

For Easter dinner, my family keeps it pretty simple. We always have a ham (simple and delicious, thank you Costco), "funeral potatoes" (I'm sure half of you know just what those are, for the other half, they're cheesy, buttery, sour-creamy shredded potatoes), green beans, and rolls. We did decide, though, to mix it up with a new dessert. I found this recipe about a month ago and I've been dying to try it- so this was the perfect excuse. I subbed neufchatel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese) for two of the bricks. I added a little Ultra gel to thicken it up a bit. Even so, I had to bake this for almost twice as long as the recipe called for. It is pretty simple, though- no water bath, no foil wrapping, no luxuriating. I'll have to try making Dorie's awesome cheesecake again with the lemon curd for a real taste test. I'm sure my family won't mind, but I'd better find another holiday or something for an excuse. Even with the reduced fat cream cheese, this dessert is a serious caloric investment. And totally worth it. Happy tax day, everyone! Lemon Curd Marbled Cheesecake adapted from Epicurious 1 1/4 Cups (about) Lemon Curd (recipe below and here) For crust 1 1/3 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs or 1 sleeve graham crackers, ground 1/3 cup sugar 3/4 teaspoon salt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted For filling 3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened 1 cup sugar 3 large eggs 3/4 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon vanilla Make and bake crust: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Invert bottom of springform pan (to make it easier to slide cake off bottom), then lock on side. Stir together crust ingredients in a bowl, then press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of springform pan. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan and bake 10 minutes, then cool crust completely in springform pan on a rack. Make filling and bake cheesecake: Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Beat together cream cheese and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in sour cream and vanilla until combined. Pour two thirds of cream cheese filling into crust, then spoon half of lemon curd over filling and swirl curd into filling with a small knife. (Avoid touching crust with knife to prevent crumbs getting into filling.) Repeat with remaining filling and curd. Bake cheesecake until set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center trembles when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes (took about 75 minutes for me- just check every five or ten minutes after 40). (Center of cake will appear very loose but will continue to set as it cools.) Transfer springform pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen. Cool completely, about 2 hours, then chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours. Remove side of springform pan before serving. Cooks' Notes: Lemon curd can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered. Crust (without filling) can be made 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature. Cheesecake can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 2 days. Cheesecake must be completely chilled before covering to prevent condensation on its surface. Lemon Curd from Epicurious *note: Next time I'll pulverize the zest and the sugar in the food processor before starting the cooking so the final product is a little smoother but still flavorful 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest 1/2 cup sugar 3 large eggs 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits 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.

April 14, 2009

TWD- 15 Minute Chocolate Amaretti Torte Trouble

I've never had Amaretti cookies but I've seen Giada use them plenty of times. I went to Safeway (first stop), Trader Joes, and then intended to go to AJ's or World Market, but didn't make it. So, I got ambitious and decided to make them myself, since my son was already asleep and a trip to the store wouldn't work. So, I started on the recipe and had the food processor purring when I realized I didn't have any almond extract. I subbed some Almond Flavored Syrup I use for Italian Sodas. Well, it didn't quite do it. The cookies came out cute but not quite as delicious as I imagined. I ground them up, made the torte, and scooped the batter into mini tart pans to bake. The batter tasted delicious and I set the timer for 20 minutes. When I came in, they were no where near streaky or anything like Dorie described! Unfortunately, too many subs and too much time in the oven ruined these. They were over cooked so I didn't bother to frost them. But, when I find those delicious cookies Dorie describes (and my almond extract... it's with my cake dec stuff somewhere in a box) I'll try again. Be sure to check everyone's beautiful Tortes from Tuesdays with Dorie and keep an eye out for those cookies!

Check back later for my Easter Dessert... Lemon Curd Cheesecake without a water bath or any drama- just deliciousness!

April 9, 2009

Ina's Chinese Chicken Salad

I just got back from a quick trip to Utah and while winter is in full force up there, today was almost ninety back home in Arizona! I do love it here and loved this week's Barefoot Blogger's recipe- perfect for a light spring or summer dinner. This recipe is also open to changes and substitutions- great for whatever veggies you have on hand. You could also sub rotisserie chicken for more convenience and speed, though I couldn't resist the $1.77 a pound skinless chicken breasts. I added peas, eliminated the salt from the dressing, and reduced the peanut butter. Then I served it over a bed of lettuce (or with bread for Mr. Carbohydrate aka My Tall Man). With a squeeze of lime on top, this salad was light and refreshing- perfect! I didn't even feel the need to reduce the butter in this Barefoot recipe, since there wasn't any! :)

Don't forget to stop by McKenzie's blog, this week's host, to see her take on the recipe, as well as what all the other Barefooters did.

Chinese Chicken Salad
adapted from Ina Garten
3 chicken breasts
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, ends removed, and cut in thirds diagonally
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
3 scallions (white and green parts), sliced diagonally
1 cup of snow peas or snap peas
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup good apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/8 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub with the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut the chicken into large bite-sized pieces.

Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain. Cut the peppers in strips about the size of the asparagus pieces. Combine the cut chicken, asparagus, peas, and peppers in a large bowl.

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Add the scallions and sesame seeds and season to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

April 7, 2009

TWD- Banana Cream Pie

If you had a handsome, tall man like I do, that loved this pie... would you have waited for Amy to pick it? It's been over a year people- and this is one of the best pies in the world! So while I was happy to see it chosen finally, I'll admit, I've made this pie at least five times. I've made it with caramel layers, with chopped chocolate sprinkled in, with different crusts, and maybe someday without the cinnamon (for my Uncle Bruce, who loves Banana Cream Pie like a son, but thinks it's "nasty" with cinnamon). By now you probably know I love anything with pastry cream. Thank goodness for this easy and delicious recipe- pleasing my man, my babycakes, and even my Uncle Bruce (sans Cinnamon, my favorite spice in the world, crazy guy!). Don't forget to see all the other versions from the Tuesdays with Dorie gang (I know some are going to be over the top beautiful, and have you reaching for that pastry cutter right away! Yes, I make my crust by hand. It's cathartic.)

Grab the recipe here.