Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When one chapter closes...

I have finally finished my journey towards my Bachelors in Hospitality, and it wasn't an entirely happy one to be honest. Many times I wanted to quit, other times I wanted to switch majors, and especially now with the economic state of not only the country but my city I wished I did something that would have proved more profitable to me instantly. On the other side of my brain I do love to bake and cook but not so much for a restaurant because cooking under pressure takes away all the fun for me. I hate the repetitiveness of cooking for a restaurant also but I can definitely do it if it will bring home the bacon. With 2010 coming to a close and my degree in hand I started thinking about the next chapter of my life and what I should be doing. Ideally I would love to play lotto and be a couple millions richer so I could open my guesthouses in the Caribbean but since that is far fetched I need a plan B. I do love to bake and make sweet things so I have been devising a plan for a confections business in the new year. I took  restaurant management class this past semester that taught me the basics that I need to get the business going but I need to figure out my concept first. I have already began to think this out wholeheartedly and ask advice from some of my friends considering similar ventures. Along with the prospects of being an entrepreneur I have a list of goals for 2011 such as:

1 -  Finishing my Driving Lessons
2 - Getting my NYS Food Handlers Certificate
3 -  Learning to sew
4 -  Continue working out at the gym 
5 - Clear old debts
6 - Move out
7 - Become a better gardener and overall crafty person

I will work my hardest to achieve all of these by the end of 2011 and even some other things. I truly believe life is about steady progression so I will strive to achieve these goals in the oncoming chapter so that I can reach my happily ever after that much sooner.

Citrus Shrimp

I love General Tso's Shrimp from my favorite chinese food takeout place here in Brooklyn. I was never able to copy their style of frying shrimp but I think I have found out.  I recently tried out and put my own spin on an orange marmalade shrimp recipe I found at serious eats. I didnt have all the necessary ingredients on hand so I had to substitute. This recipe calls for all orange flavors but I had to use some lemon zest and juice instead of orange. I When I first made the recipe it tasted a little to tangy but then after it sat five minutes the sweetness of the marinade and the shrimp blended beautfully with the lemons tartness. I will try the original recipe one day but today Im posting my substitutions. I served this shrimp along with my other cristmas dinner fare and it was one of the most popular dishes on the table.

Citrus Shrimp 
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup canola oil 
2 cloves garlic, grated 
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the angle, plus extra for garnish 
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1/4 cup orange marmalade 
2 teaspoons of honey 
1/4 cup soy sauce 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, plus 6 tablespoons 
Kosher Salt 
2 pounds 11-15 count shrimp, peeled and deveined, dried on a paper towel 

- Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in small skillet over medium heat. When oil just shimmers, add garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest and cook until fragrant, less than a minute.
- Immediately add marmalade, honey, and soy sauce to skillet. Allow to bubble for 1 minutes.
- Meanwhile, use small whisk to combine the fresh lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch in small bowl. Add slurry to skillet and whisk continuously for 1 final minute until sauce is thick. Set aside.
- Toss dry shrimp with remaining cornstarch and pinch of salt. Heat remaining canola oil in wok over medium heat until lightly smoking. Fry shrimp six at a time until orange, curled, and slightly crisp, about 2 minutes, turning once half way through cooking. Drain on paper towel. Repeat for all 4 batches. Add more oil if necessary.
- Toss shrimp with orange sauce. Garnish with fresh scallions and orange zest.

Christmas Cupcakes

A tasty winter wonderland.

Cupcakes always means theres a celebration...even if the celebration is just the fact that they turned out well. My reason for making cupcakes last week was to celebrate the holiday and the fact that I graduated from college with my bachelors in Hospitality Management. It has been a a long journey and I fell down a couple times and almost quit but I'm happy that I had people around me to inspire me to keep going and to even take my education further after this chapter closed. Ok enough of the soft stuff...on to the cupcakes, so I made two types of cupcakes and two types of icing. One of the recipes I made were vanilla bean cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and then peppermint jo jo cupcakes with Italian meringue buttercream. All the recipes except the cream cheese frosting are from other websites and then tweaked by me. The swiss meringue is from Baking 911, the vanilla bean cupcakes are from thespicedlife, the chocolate cupcakes are a tweaked cake recipe from, and the cheesecake frosting is actually the Kraft no bake cheesecake filling. I especially loved using the cheesecake filling for frosting it was extremely easy but its not shelf stable so it can only be out for a short time and refrigerated the majority of the time. The vanilla bean cupcakes definitely weren't my favorite, the cake had a nice flavor but it was too heavy and mealy. The author suggested to spray the cupcake liners but it is a totally unnecessary step.  The chocolate cake and Italian meringue buttercreams are old faves.
Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
2 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup (160 g) full fat sour cream
seeds from 3 Tahitian vanilla beans
1 T Tahitian vanilla extract
1 t lemon zest (to amp the vanilla--I was not going for a lemon flavor here)
2 cups (200 g) cake flour
1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
1/2 t baking powder'1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 T, 170 g) unsalted butter, between 65-75 F 
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, the vanilla seeds and extract, the lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons of the sour cream. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with hand mixer), mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt with the flat beater for 30 seconds on low. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to the dry ingredients; mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened and a higher speed will not cause the flour to fly out of the bowl. Then mix on medium speed (high for hand mixer, 4 for Kitchen Aid) for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Then add the egg mixture in 2 additions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl in between. Finish by hand if any parts have not incorporated so as to not overbeat.
- Fill each cupcake 3/4 full (or use a #30 disher--which I did not have). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8oz container cool whip topping, softened
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
- Place cream cheese in mixing bowl with whip attachment and whip until soft and spreadable
- Add in cool whip and sugar and whip until combined. 
- Ice cake immediately or store in a container until ready to use.

Chocolate Jo Jo Cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz unsweetened chocolate squares, melted and slightly cooled
24 peppermint Jo Jo's or other peppermint sandwich cookies.

-Prepare cupcake pans and liners and set to the side.
- Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, beat eggs for about 3 minutes, until they have thickened slightly and are lemon-coloured. Add buttermilk, coffee, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate. Mix  until well blended.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until batter is smooth. 
- With liners in place in cupcake pans scoop in about a tablespoon of cake batter and then place a cookie on top of it then finish fill liners with cake batter. Divide batter equally among cupcakes liners.
-  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F, until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cupcake from pans and cool completely before frosting.

Italian Meringue Buttercream from Baking 911
1 pound (4 sticks or 2 cups) unsalted butter (65 degrees F - slightly softened and cool - not runny, greasy or soupy)
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (60 grams) water
5 large (150 grams) egg whites, room temperature
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

- In a mixing bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy and set aside in a cool place. 
- In a small heavy saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar and the 1/4 cup water. Under medium-high, boil sugar and water mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Stop stirring and reduce the heat to low. 
-  Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Fitted with a WHISK attachment, beat the egg whites with a stand mixer on medium until foamy for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Beat for 3 more minutes on medium-high or until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. 
- Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, taking 3 more minutes. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Simply turn off the mixer.
- Increase the heat of the stove and boil the syrup until you get bubbles all over the surface. The syrup starts to look thicker and the Candy Thermometer registers 248 degrees F to 250 degrees F.
- Immediately remove syrup from the stove and prepare to drizzle it into the egg whites
- Fit the mixer with a PADDLE attachment (not a whisk attachment.) Turn the mixer on high, and start drizzling the sugar syrup, in a thin stream, into the contents of the bowl. Keep beating until the mixture cools completely, taking about 5 to 10 minutes. 
- Beat in the butter at medium speed 1 tablespoon at a time. After the first few tablespoons have been added, the mixture will seem thinner, but keep adding in butter slowly and beating because the meringue will thicken beautifully by the time all the butter is added. Keep the mixer speed on medium and drizzle in the liquor. Don't use more than 1 teaspoon or the recipe's emulsion will break. Place in an airtight bowl. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jingle Bell Cake!

Sooo.... I'm pretty late on the Christmas post but that's because I was too busy enjoying the holiday to write! This was one of my best Christmases in recent memory, it was filled with family, friends, and delicious food. The gifts weren't to bad either. Like every other year I baked and baked 'till I couldn't bake no more! I had a kitchenaid pro mixer finally so finally I was able to try so many recipes that I previously could not. For this post I will tell you all about the cake I called Jingle Bell cake. Its my personal take on the blog post over at Love and Olive oil. The recipe consist of the Cooks Illustrated white cake and the Martha Stewart White Chocolate Buttercream. The cake was fairly easy to make and it definitely was moist. I think next time I will experiment with the flavors a bit and the colors. The next recommendation would be to reduce the amount of butter in the buttercream, it was just too buttery for my taste and it made the cake unbearably rich...even for the holidays. My friends and family said it was a really good cake but no one could easily finish an entire slice in one sitting, especially the frosting. I used cheapo brand liquid food coloring from the supermarket and it did a wonderful job so theres no need to make a major investment in the dye you will use, I also want to note that I used 9 inch pans for the cake recipe and it had enough for the four layers without problem.
The 9in layers before I finished frosting.

 Making the icing wasn't as hard as I thought it would be but I can tell you that it took about 15 minutes for my baby(my red kitchenaid pro) to cool down the meringue. Everything else was fine but I would like to note again that it was just too much butter in the recipe. When I was frosting my cake there was extra chunks of butter in the frosting. I'm not new to buttercreams, and this was just too much...I'll definitely cut back next time because the extra butter chunks I took out wasn't even missed.
Overall I really loved this cake, it is such a showstopper and I will make again for a next occasion with some modifications.
The finished cake

A yummy slice

White Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
the recipe says it serves 12 but this rich recipe can easy serve about 18-20 persons
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool
Red and Green Food coloring

- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour. 
- Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended. 
- Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining. 
- Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer. 
- Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. 
- Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely.

 White Chocolate Buttercream
2 1/2 cups sugar
10 large egg whites
2 pounds (8 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound best-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
- Put sugar and egg whites in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
- Transfer bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter by the tablespoon, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and white chocolate. If not using immediately, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before using; beat on low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

White Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Bean Blondies

Such a long name right?? Well I wanted to incorporate all the leading ingredients into the title. These blondie's were an experiment on one of my favorites brownie recipes. I wanted to achieve the same dense chewy texture the brownies had in a blondie. To be honest this was my third experiment. The first one where I used butterscotch was a total disaster and so was the second one where I used white chocolate chips, they were too sugary...something like bite sized diabetes. I realized this recipe needed tweaking badly. The texture was achieved somewhat but there was an over abundance of sugar and the graininess that came along with it.  Anytime I make these brownies using semi sweet chocolate they are perfect and when I used the butterscotch or white chocolate they were over the top sweet. This third time I started making some changes on paper and rolled up my sleeves for the last time testing this recipe hoping that third time would be the charm...and it was! The white chocolate chips and butterscotch contain more sugar so I had to reduce and even change some of the sugar and that helped tremendously. For these white chocolate brownies I wanted play with the flavor and added in some Tahitian vanilla beans that i had on hand. The result of this last try was a dense, chewy, blondies with rich vanilla and white chocolate flavor. I also want to say that I didn't use any high end white chocolate just some regular nestle white chips that my sister bought for me. As for the vanilla created such a floral-y vanilla scent and taste for these bite and I felt like i was strolling through Paris in the spring. I will definitely say these are a must try...hope you enjoy.

White Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Bean Blondies
Makes 24 bars

12 oz white chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 sticks of unsalted butter
3/4 cup ganulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean scraped
4 large eggs
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line 17in brownie/bar pan with parchment and spray with cooking spray,
- On the stove or in a microwave melt butter, chocolate, and sugar. Whisk until smooth. 
- Whisk in vanilla extract, vanilla bean pulp, and salt.
- Begin to whisk in eggs one at a time until combined.
- Stir in flour until smooth.
-  Pour mixture into prepared pan.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until crust is entirely set.
-  On a sheet pan that is larger than the brownie pan spread ice in it.
- When brownies are set, remove from oven and place brownie pan onto ice.
- After 15 minutes allow brownies to cool for an additional 10-15 minutes in the refridgerator or freezer.
- Remove from the fridge or freezer, remove from baking pan, and cut into bars.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lemon Pappardelle and pan seared snapper.

I go to school downtown Brooklyn not far from the only trader joes for the borough. Its not uncommon for me to take a cool walk down court street to visit my favorite markets...Sahadi's, A Cooks Companion, and Trader Joes. When I visited Trader Joes a couple weeks ago I picked up their lemon pepper pappardelle pasta to try out. The day that I thought of cooking it I had no idea how to prepare it but the packaging said its so flavorful that it just needed a little olive oil and salt so I decided to work around that. I chopped up some shallots, garlic and fresh herbs from my garden such as basil, parsley, and oregano and placed them to the side. After I put the pasta to boil I strained it and ran it under some cold water to shock it and placed it to the side as well. I also had some fish defrosting that was seasoned with green seasoning so I planned to let that accompany my pasta. I wasn't entirely sure how this would all come out but I was just hoping for a yummy filling meal.  I heated my saute pan and made all my herbs and aromatics sizzle and tossed in the pasta with some olive oil and Voila!!...the pasta was a palatable success! The fish I decided to keep simple and sear in grapeseed oil and that was another success. Lunch was ready in about a half hour and my tummy was thankful. If your ever in trader joes check out that lemon pappardelle in the pasta aisle and I can promise that you wont be disappointed.

Lemon Pepper Pappardelle with Pan Seared Snapper

Half package of pappardelle, about 4oz, boiled and shocked
1 shallot, small diced
4 cloves garlic, small diced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped
1tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano, chopped
2 pieces snapper, steak cut
2 tbsp green seasoning, fresh or store bought
1 1/2 tbsp grapseed oil
salt and pepper to taste

- Place large saute pan under medium/high heat, add 1tbsp of olive oil 
- When oil is hot but not smoking add in garlic and shallots and saute until clear
- Add in pasta to garlic and shallots, toss for 1 minute
- Add in fresh herbs and remaining olive oil and cook until hot.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, cover and set aside
- In a next saute pan under medium/high heat add in grapeseed oil. 
- Rub in green seasoning to fish steaks
- By this time oil should be extremely hot so proceed to add steaks to the pan carefully to avoid getting burned.
- Leave steaks to brown on one side about 2-3 minutes then flip them and let the other side brown for the same time.
- Turn off heat from under fish.
- Serve immediately

Pot Bread

The inside of the second loaf.

Have you all ever heard of pot bread? I know I hadn't until I was perusing through one of my favorite blogs and happened upon the recipe. I'm a visual person and just by the looks of the bread in the photo I decided that It was a must try, it was also a great way to use the Rachel Ray cast iron casserole dish that was begging to come off the kitchen bench. I made this recipe twice trying out the different fermenting times that were suggested. This recipe said that the dough would need to ferment between 12 to 18 hours  and then after a final addition of butter it would need to sit for another 2 hours or so. I decided to follow the exact measurements (outside of letting my bread sit in a about 1/2 cup olive oil while it fermented) and use a 12 hour fermenting period the first time and see what my results would be. The bread from the first batch was absolutely wonderful. The crust was crispy and buttery and the inside was just a chewy goodness. The bread was so flavorful that it didn't need any butter or cheese in my opinion. I gave my first batch 2 thumbs up! I have a pretty large oval cast iron pot to put the bread in but it did not fill the pot enough to give me the height I would like my loaves to have, so for my second try I decided to do one and a half times the recipe and I also let it sit for the full 18 hours. When I checked the bread in the morning to mix in the butter it was bubbling like swamp thing but it smelled fine. After it rose a second time and the dough was placed in the oven I noticed the scent of great bread still filled the house so I assumed everything was fine. When I took the bread out it had the same wonderful crust and color but after my first taste I realized that my dough was reminiscent of sourdough. I am a fan of sourdough but that s not what I was going for and it was a hit or miss amongst the family whereas the first one was a absolute hit. I would recommend letting this dough sit only for 12 hours and I would like to tell everyone that I didn't use all purpose flour but bread flour. When making breads where you want to achieve a chewy texture bread flour/high gluten flour is the way to go.
The first loaf

The inside of the first loaf.

The outside of the second loaf.

No-Knead White Bread (

4 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1 3⁄4 cups + 2 tbsp ice water
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, yeast and ice water until well combined. Dough should be thick and slightly sticky. Add a few tablespoons more flour if dough is too soft; add a bit more water if it is too dry and the flour is not incorporating well. Brush top of dough with some vegetable oil to prevent sticking, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 12-18 hours.
Pour melted butter into risen dough and stir vigorously, until well incorporated. Cover bowl again and let dough rise for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450F. Place a dutch oven inside for about 20 minutes, until both it and the oven are hot.
Remove dutch oven from oven and, working carefully, pour bread dough into the dutch oven, trying to deflate it as little as possible. Sprinkle with water and put the lid on the oven.
Lower oven temperature to 425F. Bake bread for 50 minutes with the lid on. Check the bread to see if it is browning. If not, remove the lid at this point. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Check the bread with an instant-read thermometer and when it has reached about 207F it is done.
Turn bread out onto a wire rack to cool before slicing.
Makes 1 large loaf

Saltfish Buljol

Saltfish buljol is one of those dishes that I have come to love after I gave up meat. I have always had it in some form throughout my life but mostly in the form of fishcakes or accra's. From the stories I heard growing up Saltfish, smoked herring, and other smoked or salted forms of meat and fish were perceived to be food for the poor. They were considered so because they were relatively cheap and able to be stored outside of an icebox. I guess this would be similar to traditional black southern foods like chitterlings and collard greens which were entrails and weeds given to the slaves to eat.  I am no historian so I cannot say this is the absolute truth but it doesn't seem far fetched at all but either way to me I find it extremely tasty. Every household has their own method for making saltfish some people boil it some soak it, some serve it with rice, some like it with ground provision but anyway you get some it shouldn't be anything less than satisfying. I like to boil my saltfish twice to remove the majority of the salt but not too much that I need to add salt in the final cooking, and then I like to cook it with lots of onion, garlic, some carrot, and fresh tomatoes. In my home I serve my saltfish with anything from fry bake to me its all good. Depending on the area you live satfish or salted cod can be bought in an Asian market or the Caribbean/Latin section of your supermarket. Before I go I want to leave you with one last tip for frying up your saltfish...if you have any leftover oil from frying fish its a great way to get the most out of your oil and it adds some extra fishy flavor to your saltfish and when you serve it everyone will be saying "how yuh hand sweet so!!" Enjoy!

Saltfish Buljol

1lb Salted cod
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 small hot pepper(I used a habenero)
4 Tbsp oil
1 medium tomato, diced
- Boil saltfish to remove enough salt until its your taste
- when saltfish is ready, drain, and set aside.
- Put a large saucepan on the stove with oil under medium to high heat.
- when the oil is hot place onion, garlic, carrot, and hot pepper in the pot, saute for 2 minutes.
- Add in saltfish to the pot and saute for 5 minutes
- After 5 minutes add in tomato's and saute for 1-2 minutes more, turn off the stove and add salt or more pepper to taste. 
- Serve with rice, fried bake, or ground provision

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mail Order Petit Fours

Christmas is right around the corner and I have started planning my Christmas menu. I usually make everything from scratch but one thing that is a tradition is ordering petit fours for the holidays. I remember being a little girl and waiting for that big box full of goodies to arrive right before the big day. My mom and grandma usually ordered from Figi's catalog and along with the petit fours we would get cheese, candies, and sausages. My palette was in holiday bliss after consuming so many yummy treats. My late teens through early twenties we didn't order them but a few years ago I missed the tradition of petit fours and while planning the menu for a Holiday party we threw at home I remembered those little squares of frosted goodness and decided to order them. Now for someone used to exceptional pastries you may be wondering why I insist on ordering these pre-baked figi petit fours...well it is because they flood my mind with nostalgia. Christmases from my childhood were wonderful occasions filled with family, warmth, laughter, and togetherness. People that know me know that I love to relive the good times from my childhood so these treats were like a time machine of sorts. The petit fours from Figi's were good definitely not great. My favorite were the vanilla frosted ones but some of the chocolate ones were on the dry side. This year for my Christmas dinner I would like to order petit fours    again but I am weighing my options. Who to order from, Figi's catalogue, Swiss Colony,, Williams Sonoma, etc? There are many options on different price scales but I would like to get a decent quality and quantity for a reasonable price. I haven't had a major problem with Figi's but I need an option for their petit fours where I can get ore vanilla cakes opposed to chocolate. I am considering Swiss colony because of the amount you are getting for the price but the reviews I read online seemed mixed. In short there are so many options but whichever one I order I will definitely post a review to let you all know.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snickerdoodle Blondies

This time around I was going to make something my mom could cocoa filled brownies this week since mom doesn't like chocolate. I decide to check out one of my favorite blogs to see if I could find something. I saw she had a snickerdoodle brownie recipe and I thought to myself that should work. My mom loves the snickerdoodle cookies I make so I was hoping she would love these just as much. Since the recipes here are pretty much no fail I didn't have any doubts about wasting ingredients. This recipe is just to easy and would recommend for anyone from a novice baker to an accomplished chef who just wants some comforting spicy goodness. The recipe has a great texture, thick and chewy like a brownie I loved it and so did the family. I would like to try making this recipe with real Ceylon cinnamon instead of the widely available cassia kind and taste the difference.  I totally recommend this to my readers, just bake a batch of these up quickly and enjoy with a nice cup of tea during the cooler months.

Snickerdoodle Blondies
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar + 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in salt, egg and vanilla extract until well combined. Add in flour and stir until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Pour dough – it will be thick – into prepared baking dish and smooth it into an even layer.
Stir together remaining 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Sprinkle dough evenly with cinnamon sugar mixture.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until bars are set and the edges are just very lightly browned. Cool in the pan before slicing.
Makes 16.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cookie Brownies

This is actually a take on my favorite brownie recipe from Baking Bite. I think this recipe is actually on her blog but I didn't look for it so I just decided to try to make it on my own. It doesn't take anything extra except some sandwich cookies broken up into pieces such as Oreos, Newman's Own, or Joe Joe's.
I used candy cane Joe Joe's from Trader Joe's which contain little pieces of candy canes. While I had the brownie mix preparing on the stove I began crushing the cookies by hand in a separate bowl. When the batter was finished I just mixed in the cookies...baking time. I hoped that everyone would like this deviation since  normally don't mix in anything to my brownies but I said they all love Joe Joe's so it should be a hit. After they cooled and were cut I bit into them and you could definitely taste the mint and the cookies added a slightly crunchier texture to the brownies. I wasn't a big fan of them but my family gobbled up the DOUBLE BATCH in two days! I guess that facts speaks for them more than I ever could.

Peppermint Cookie Brownies
1 cup unsalted butter
8oz unsweetened chocolate
2 1/2 cups sugar
3tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup crushed cookies

- Preheat oven to 400 and line a 17in brownie pan with foil or parchment paper
- melt butter and chocolate in sauce pot
- whisk in sugar, salt, and vanilla
- whisk in eggs one at a time
- whisk in flour
- add in crushed cookies
- pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes 
- while brownies are in the oven prepare a ice bath to put pan in to instantly cool brownies.
- when brownies cool, cut and store.

Punche Creme

December automatically means we are getting into the holiday spirit all around the world. My family celebrates Christmas and not just any Christmas but a Trini Style Christmas. That means sorrel, pastelles, black cake, homemade wine, ginger beer,  massive amounts of food, and punche creme. I never spent an actually Christmas in Trinidad but I always spent Christmas with my Caribbean family in NY.  I don't think I missed too much not being in Trinidad because ex patriots have a way of hanging on to traditions with a tight grip. Growing up my Christmas was always a Caribbean mix of traditions from Barbados and Trinidad. As a kid I was a picky eater and more focused on my new toys than sampling the array of goodies at the table. Now that I'm older I truly appreciate the rich  traditions of a Caribbean Christmas which focuses and food, drinks, and the warmth that close friends and family brings. Now back to the drink...I don't like punche creme personally since I don't like milk based drinks but its a staple in any Trinidadian house during the holidays. This famous concoction is  sometimes called ponche de creme or punch de creme. Most recipes call for eggs but my mom doesn't fancy that and uses coconut milk instead which makes for a drink where you don't have to worry about icky pieces chalazae (what trini people call the eye) in your cup or ecoli. When making punche creme most people I know sterilize old glass bottles such as those from wine but you can use a Rubbermaid pitcher. Also ideally punche creme should be made at least a day ahead and left to sit so the flavors can really combine, I promise you wouldn't be disappointed if you use this method. Also punche creme can be made virgin but you definitely don't get the same effect and it will definitely have to be refrigerated.  To go the no fail traditional route use rum such as Bacardi which is widely available. I am happy to be sending this recipe from my table to yours and it would be a great addition to any holiday table so I hope you enjoy.

Punche Creme
- 1 13.5oz can of coconut milk
- 2 14oz can of condensed milk
- 2 14oz cans of evaporated milk
- rind of one lime
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 dash of angostura bitters
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups of your favorite rum

- Combine all of the milk together
- Grate rind of lime and add to mixture
- Add rum to mixture and mix vigorously with a whisk or swizzle stick.
- Strain lime out of the milk
- Add bitters, vanilla,  and nutmeg
 - pour into clean glass bottles or covered pitcher.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Soft Pretzel Rolls

I know I know...I have been away for some time but its almost the end of the semester so its crunch time. But I do have a treat for you..some yummy soft pretzel rolls topped with sesame seeds and poppy seeds. I wanted to do a pretzel recipe for some time and when I saw this recipe on I decided I would try it. The recipe calls for all purpose flour but I used bread flour since its high gluten content would give me the chewiness I look for in pretzels. When going through my ingredients I noticed I ran out of kosher salt so substitutions were in top my pretzels I sprinkled some table salt and topped them with sesame seeds and poppy seeds. The pretzels proved easy to make up until it was time to shape them...I have a silpat-esque mat so that was helpful to roll them out but I couldn't really get the hang of shaping them. When I put my pretzels in the baking soda bath they took on another shape and that's how I ended up with twist instead of traditional pretzels...not a problem all yummy nonetheless. The texture and taste of these pretzels were divine. Slight crunch on the outside and chewy buttery goodness on the inside. I already planned to modify this recipe into rolls for Christmas. I hope that you all decide to give this recipe a try and get a taste of NY street cart style pretzels right at home.

Buttery Soft Pretzels
Makes 12


  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
  4. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.

Monday, October 25, 2010

English Roast Potatoes

Growing up I always loved family dinners on Sundays. In my Granny's house there was always an abundance of food, a mix of Caribbean, English, and American. One of my favorite side dishes from Sunday "lunch" as Caribbean people say was English roast potatoes. My aunt used to prepare it and she always had me help her with the preparations. I'm not sure how my aunt came into making this recipe but it more than likely has something to do with her having family in England. Back to the good stuff...when they came out the oven,those little quarters of potatoes bronzed and glistening I couldn't help but sneak a couple before dinner..they were soooo yummy! Today I'm all grown up but still love making these little roasted gems and yes I still sneak a few as soon as they come out the oven.

* this recipe makes alot so cut down if you don't have a large amount to feed.

English Roast Potatoes
5lb bag of red potatoes, quartered and boil till fork tender
1 packet of onion soup mix
1/2 cup olive oil
black pepper to taste

- Heat oven at 400 degrees
- When your potatoes finish boiling, strain them and add into a large bowl
- Pour olive oil over potatoes along with soup mix and black pepper, toss
- Spread on sheet pan and baked until golden about 45 minutes

This is before it bakes

This is how it looks on a dinner plate

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Yogi Skin Detox Tea

It finally that time year where blustery winds have began to blow and the air is much drier, all of this can take a toll on skin and leave it looking dull. I go through this problem every skin is typically oily but around this time it gets very thirsty for moisture and craves the sun to give it that bronzeish glow. I usually resort to sticking with my bronzing powder or a glitter cream to add a little sparkle to my skin tone. Around two weeks ago while walking through Whole Foods I went over to the tea section to see what they had on sale for the week and they actually had my favorite yogi brand of tea 2 for $7 so I bought four boxes and one of them was the skin detox. I am not one to believe that a tea can do much for ones appearance without a healthy diet and exercise regimen but this one made me a believer. I drank the tea as my main liquid along with plain water for about a week and a half and numerous people noted the change in my skins appearance.  Everyone asked if I just came back from the Caribbean or just noted that my skin was glowing. Amazon list the product description as:

"Our skin reflects our diet and lifestyle choices: it's the mirror to internal health. It's just as essential to cleanse from the inside; by reducing internal impurities, you can have clearer, glowing skin. Skin DeTox, a new cosmeceutical tea from Yogi, is specially blended to support a healthy skin care regimen. This special formula combines antioxidant-rich organic green tea, a popular ingredient in topical skin care products, with the time-honored detoxifying herbs used in our other detox teas, including yellow dock, burdock root and dandelion root. Oregon grape root, a powerful detoxifying herb used by herbalists for various skin conditions, helps give the skin a truly healthy boost. Includes fragrant rose petal and hibiscus, used in Ayurveda to cool and soothe the skin, entice the senses with a fresh, floral scent and lend a refreshing, intriguing flavor. Discover beauty from within in a deliciously cleansing brew of Skin DeTox!"
I definitely do not regret using this tea and I encourage you to try it as well..winter is coming and we could all use a little sun even if it comes in the form of a tea bag.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hudson Terrace Wine Tasting

Wine seems to be moving up with Americans as the drink of choice and I couldn't be happier. I am not a self professed wine snob but I do consider myself a oenophile. I wasn't always a wine drinker, but for my degree I am required to take at least one wine class. The intro wine class is what started my love affair with wine. For those who don't drink wine I must tell you that wine has its own culture, something that I find so intriguing. There is a proper way to drink which includes a specific glass, and if your a snob a certain way of holding your glass. Wine requires all your senses to truly enjoy. I loved wine so much  that I took the advance glass as well, and no I cannot name every wine region off the top of my head or the grape varieties but I just enjoyed the experience.  On to Hudson I finished my last wine class in the spring of this year but in an effort to keep up with wine culture I wanted to begin attending tastings. I didn't want to go to the tasting I saw on TV that looked like a room full of old snobby people sipping and spitting, but something more relaxed and fun. The answer to my problem came in the form of an email in May from The email was advertising $12 tickets for an informal tasting at Hudson Terrace, and from the details of the email and the reviews online it seemed like a hip, young, and trendy place to "get your wine on".  I bought three tickets so that I could take my sister and a friend with me. So your probably saying "you bought these tiks since June..why are you now writing about it????" Well...this summer just seemed to fly by and I couldn't get to Hudson Terrace until just before the tickets expired. A few weeks ago  my sister, my friend Simone, and myself made our way out to the wine tasting. The first thing I want to say is that you must go if you have a chance this place is beautiful. Hudson Terrace is a rooftop bar located on West 46th Street and Westside Highway. When I arrived there was no line so I walked right in and was greeted by the staff. There is a list with all reservations where your name has to be checked off to go into the wine tasting. After we checked in the girls and I made our way upstairs. Thankfully we were on the early side so I was able to fully scope the place before the crowd rolled in. I love the decor that makes it look like a rooftop getaway and the fact there is a separate bars for wine and for other beverages. Every wine tasting features six wines and you can choose what you want to drink so you are definitely not obligated to drink in a certain order or even drink every wine. The bartenders also give you a significant amount of wine to drink (no skimping here!) and best of all no spitting buckets! The music added to the great summer afternoon ambiance, the DJ played popular American dance music and the volume wasn't overbearing so that you couldn't talk to people. My only gripe is that there needs to be more unreserved seating. Most booths were reserved for people buying bottles that start at upwards of $300, and the remaining booths were taken early so most people had to have your eagle eye out for a place to sit. Other than the seating issue my company and I had a great time at the wine tasting and would love to attend another one.  If you are in NY it would be a great after work event to check out and and other discount sites usually have half price deals on tickets.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chocolate Surprise Shortbread Cookies

Since I could not think of anything more creative to name the cookies  will stick with chocolate surprise. This is a take on my favorite shortbread cookie, but with the alterations it comes in as a cross between a sugar cookie and butter cookie without all the extra ingredients such as eggs, baking soda, etc. The cookies came about from hours and endless calories of experimentation. These cookies are too yummy for words, they just melt in your mouth and the chocolate is truly a welcomed surprise and if your a coffee drinker I recommend that you sit down with a few and your favorite cup of espresso.

Chocolate Surprise Shortbread Cookies
1lb unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
4oz Ghirardelli semi sweet baking bar

1. Combine sugar and butter in mixer until fluffy, add in vanilla and beat for one more minute
2. add in flour and mix on medium low until combined.
3. Using a cookie scoop or your hand, scoop half of the dough you need for one cookie, add a piece of chocolate to the center then cover with some more dough to finish the cookie.
4. Continue shaping out all your cookies and lay them on a sheet pan to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
5. While the cookies are in the fridge preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your baking pan. (if you have a large enough fridge you can lay you cookie balls to chill on the sheet you will bake it on)
6. After 15 minutes have passed remove your cookies from the fridge and bake in the oven until cookies are browned on the edges, about 15 minutes.
7. remove pan from oven but don't remove cookies right away, allow cookies to sit for about a minute to firm up and then remove with a spatula. 
8. Cool cookies on a rack and then move to cookie jar or container.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Change of plans

Some brown rice, whole grain quinoa, and organic tortillas from whole foods.

Everyone that knows me knows that I am a long time foodie. I've had a passionate love affair with food as long as I can remember. My mom tells me I learned to read at the age of 3 and ventured into cooking soon after. I climbed on my step stool and cooked until I was tall enough to reach the stove, baked cakes for Christmas when I was 7, and made spaghetti bolognese that I still reminisce about even though I don't eat beef. When I cook I sing and it makes me happy, when I'm sad I cook to lift my spirits, when I'm happy I eat, and when I'm sad I eat. I take pleasure in reading my favorite food publications and websites to keep abreast of trends and openings and when money is flowing I take even greater pleasure in sitting down to a good meal at a great restaurant. So now that I have poured out my food lovin' soul to you, I have to confess that I cannot continue in my hungry hungry hippo ways of devouring all goodies in sight. Its not good for me and my waistline and I have a gym regimen to keep up with so too many extra calories are not gonna be conducive to the plan. With that said I have constantly been trying to keep bad food out of my diet ( minus all the sinfully good things I make at home :) and have gradually switched from conventional milk to organic, cage free/organic eggs, wild caught fish when I can afford it, and overall just switching out conventional grocery items in my home for all natural or organic when I can. In an effort to lose some more weight for an upcoming trip to Trinidad W.I for carnival I am considering going partial vegan and gluten free and upping my workout regimen when I can. I do have my doubt about this whole plan that's why it hasn't happen as yet...for instance is this food going to be as yummy as what I'm used to is my main concern for this discerning palette of mine. I have done my research and started going through the vegan and gluten free cooking blogs and have started buying ingredients to try out. I hope this wont be too much of a challenge for me and as I try recipes I will keep you all updated on my successes and failures. Hopefully it wont be too much of the latter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trinidad Smoked Herring

Growing up in a half Trinidadian household I guess it would be considered weird that I actually never ate smoked herring until I was about 19 while on an extended vacation in Trinidad. My mom says she never cooked to many her traditional dishes because she wasn't sure if we would like it, she pretty much stuck to the traditional Sunday lunch and roti. When I was staying in Trinidad for 6 months with my aunt she introduced me to this wonderful dish. Many Trinidadians consider smoked herring, saltfish, dhal, and the like to be "poor people" food...but many of the most satisfying dishes in the world come out of impoverished situations. In the US collard greens, chitterlings, and ham hocks were weeds and entrails given to the slaves to eat and now its considered a southern delicacy. Anyway back to the smoked my aunt use to always offer me smoked herring while I stayed with them but it was unfamiliar to me and I wasn't brave enough to try it. One Sunday after she cooked it she insisted that I try it so I finally took a spoonful and guess what...I LOVED IT! It was like a spicy, fishy stew, And I took a plate to eat immediately. Before I left Trinidad to come back home to NY, my aunt made sure to teach me how to make it and even gave me some of her special ingredients to bring back home. I can definitely say this is now one of my favorite dishes, and I try to enjoy it at regular intervals throughout the year. I really need to thank my aunt and cousins for encouraging me to taste so many good things and teaching me to cook numerous Trinidadian dishes during my stay. Here is the recipe for Trinidad style smoked herring. Smoked herring should be available at Asian or other ethnic markets in your area that may stock Caribbean foods. One ingredient I use is called "rookoo", it is the red coloring that comes from boiling fresh annatto seed. Some Trinidadians are not familiar with rookoo and to my knowledge it is not something that is mass produced to export so you may have to go without it unless you can make your own, but don't worry it wont change the taste of the dish if you don't have it.

Trinidad Smoked Herring
makes 4 servings
2lbs smoked herring
1 medium to large onion, cut medium dice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 hot pepper, seeds removed, and minced
2 tomato's, cut to large  dice
3 tbsp rookoo, if using

- remove smoke herring from package and soak for 45 minutes in boiling water
- while fish is soaking begin to prepare your other ingredients.
- drain smoked herring and search through smoked herring for excess bones and remove ( you will not get all the bones out, but they are small an thin enough to swallow)
- in frying pan put two tbsp of oil or any fat you prefer
- when oil becomes very hot throw in onion, garlic, and pepper. Saute for one minute
- Add in smoked herrings pieces and saute for 3-5 minutes till onions become translucent
- add in tomatoes and rookoo if using, continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes.
- All finished, enjoy with dhal and rice or just rice alone.

** if the smoked herring is too hot a little brown sugar added in will help cool the fire.

Dulce de Leche Ice cream

I recently picked up the book "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz after hearing all the good reviews it has been getting through the blogosphere. As soon as I took the book out of the packaging and flipped thought the pages I fell in love with the recipes on sight. I loved the color scheme, the writing style, and imagery in the book, the photographs just added to it. I picked out a number of recipes to try at once, the first being coffee, then dulce de leche, and finally white chocolate. I was really excited to be making ice cream using the creme anglaise method since I have only used the philly style egg less method thus far. I wanted to note the different textures between the two methods so I got started on this new frozen journey. I did do the coffee first but for this entry I will focus on the dulce de leche. Lebovitz doesn't have an actual recipe but I decided to add dulce de leche to the vanilla ice cream recipe. The vanilla recipe called for a mix of whole mix and cream but I always use half and half AND more cream! I had dulce de leche that I bought in Sahadi's earlier on in the month so there was no need to make any for the ice cream. I followed Lebovitz instructions but as noted earlier I did switch whole milk for half and half, I also added a little more dulce de leche than called for so that I could finish out the bottle. When I put the dulce de leche ice cream base in the ice cream maker I could already note the silkier texture of the cream anglaise based treat. When it was time to scoop a taste test I was delighted by the caramel-y taste of the ice cream and the texture was better than store bought, and best of all...I KNOW ALL WHAT WAS PUT INTO IT! That is truly the best part of making things yourself. I decided to finish the treat by making my own dulce de leche sauce in the oven. Making dulce de leche is very easy to make and is essentially one step. As soon as the dulce de leche cooled I took out the ice cream, scooped it into a bowl, and topped it with the dulce de leche. I gave the bowl of ice cream to my mom before I went out. About an hour after I went out my mom calls me and tells me listen to my voicemail...I did, and it was a VM of her raving about the ice cream and how it was so good! That made my day really because I love when people love my food, their satisfaction is the best payment even more so than money. I also gave my friends a tasting while we hung out that evening and they couldn't believe that I made that ice cream. I definitely want to thank Mr. Lebovitz for putting this book out, it has taken my ice cream making to the next level.

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
Makes 1quart
For a richer custard, you can add up to 3 more egg yolks. For a less-rich custard, substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream, realizing that the final texture won’t be as rich or as smooth as if using cream.
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.
2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Note: Used vanilla beans can be rinsed and dried, then stored in a bin of sugar. That sugar can be used for baking and, of course, for future ice cream making.
* This is the vanilla recipe from David Lebovitz Blog but to make it dulce de leche just add in 1cup Dulce de leche during step 5 after strain the custard into the heavy cream.
Dulce de Leche Sauce

Take one 14oz can of condense milk and put it into a 9in glass or nonreactive pan, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a 425 degree oven for an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half. 
* The book says to stir the sauce at regular intervals while its in the oven but I did not stir it and it was fine.
When you take the sauce out of the oven stir with a whip until cooled and top your dessert. Lebovitz says the sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Zyliss Ice cream scoop

I think any true ice cream lover has been through the wire in the search for a scoop that can scoop through the hardest ice creams and still stay standing. Since I have been making ice cream at home I haven't owned a proper scoop and decided it was time for me to invest in one. I went to the most well stocked cooking supply store in Brooklyn, A Cooks Companion on Atlantic Ave. I actually went for something else but ended up leaving with the Zyliss Ice Cream Scoop. The pink color of the scoop caught my eye (I love pink!) and I decided to pick it up...It had A nice weight to it and I liked how the scoop itself was designed, it reminded me of the scoops I used to scoop Gelato at Whole Foods. I cant remember exactly how much I paid for it but I'm sure its no more than ten dollars. On my last ice cream making binge I gave the Zyliss a test run. It went through the ice cream like butter straight from the freezer...that's a good sign! I tried to scoop perfect balls but didn't get it on the first try but the next day I got alot closer. Overall I give the Zyliss 90%, It didn't scoop perfect balls for be but it came very close and I love the design and colors. I would definitely recommend it and if you are looking to buy has it for $6.99 and free shipping.

Happy Scooping!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella Pizza

When I worked at Whole Foods Markets in Tribeca that's when I learned about a bevy a new foods, I mean I always tried to keep abreast of old and new things to devour in the food world but having a new job in a natural and organic market gave me the chance to learn about new things on a consistent basis and also be able to afford it. My area at work was in the cafe operated by the bakery section and we used to make crepes both sweet and savory. One of my favorites was the tomato, pesto, and smoked mozzarella. From first taste I fell in love with smoked mozzarella from first bite and always bought it when given the chance.
Though I no longer work at whole foods and hardly shop there since Sahadi's in Brooklyn is much cheaper stocking the same specialty items I need. When I went on my last pizza making adventure I decided to try something different and took inspiration from my favorite crepe. I used the same dough recipe from A Year in Bread blog, and my pesto was store bought but you can make your own at home

Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella Pizza

Pizza Dough
bread flour 3 c 700 ml 15 oz 424 g (plus a little more added while kneading the dough)

instant yeast 1 tsp 5 ml 1/8 oz 3 g

salt 2 tsp 10 ml 3/8 oz 10 g

lukewarm water (about 90F, 32C) 1 1/3 c 315 ml 11 1/2 oz 325 g

Place the bread flour in a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until a soft, but not sticky, dough forms.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for 3 minutes, sprinkling with a little flour each time it sticks to your hands or the counter. The dough should be quite soft. (Just knead it by hand. It's easier and faster than getting out your big electric mixer. Yes, Kevin, this means even you.) 

Liberally sprinkle the mixing bowl with flour, place the dough back in it, and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Cover with a damp tea towel or cloth napkin and set in a warm place for two hours.

After about an hour, place a baking stone on the lowest rack in the oven, and set the temperature at 500 degrees. (You never want to put a cold baking stone into a hot oven as it may crack.)

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide it into two or four pieces. (I use a pastry scraper, sometimes called a dough scraper or bench scraper, which is a handly little gizmo that is also great for cleaning off my butcher block countertop). Flatten each piece of dough into a disk and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Pizza Topping
1/2 cup pesto sauce
1 cup of smoked mozzarella, sliced

On prepared pizza dough, spread pesto sauce on dough and top with slices of  smoked mozzarella
Bake until crust is browned.