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Lemon Curd

Several moons past I made my version of the royal wedding cake that the uber talented Claire Ptak of Violet Bakery London made. I took the cake to a friends July 4th BBQ and it was a big hit, so much so that now I get requests to make it every year. This year I am making it for Easter dessert, I love the color of lemons, yellow is such a happy color and screams Spring. I used a different recipe for the lemon curd than in my original recipe, honestly its a recipe I posted on Food52 years ago and had forgetten about it, the recipe is a mixed citrus curd but instead I used only lemons. I had forgotten how good this recipe is and how perfectly it works as a filling in layer cakes. The curd is very stable and holds up beautifully. I decided to post this recipe for two reasons really, it’s really good, but I am also forcing myself to get used to this new WordPress and as they say practice makes perfect. I made a change in the recipe, not just using only lemons instead of a variety of citrus but the original recipe calls for 6 egg yolks, I had 5 that I needed to use and added 1 whole egg as well, it really turned out well. I still haven’t figured out how to preview before posting.

Lemon Curd

Makes 3 cups

5 egg yolks plus one whole egg

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

pinch of kosher salt

zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 oz (1 stick) cold unsalted butter cut into tbs size pieces

In mixing bowl add the egg yolks and egg, sugar and salt, beat with a hand held mixer until thick and creamy. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice stirring to combine.

Pour into a non reactive heavy saucepan and cook stirring constantly on medium low until sugar is dissolved and its hot to the touch.

Add the butter a tbs at a time stirring constantly and continue to cook until it registers 175 on thermometer. Pour through a sieve into a lidded container, let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to use.

Cake-Trying Something Different

I am really at a loss at times trying to think outside the box and post something a bit different. I had an idea for a cake with a variety of textures and flavors that I hoped would work out. I am happy to report that it did and its delicious. I love mixing prints, polka dots and stripes, paisley and floral, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t but I love the variety. The art I tend to gravitate to is mixed media, a mix of paint and interesting objects that are artfully placed in the painting and a big plus is if they tell a story. This cake is my food version of mixed media. The cake which I don’t even know what to name is chocolate layers with hazelnut almond Dacquoise ( meringue) layers and its frosted with a mocha Swiss buttercream. You get a layer of moist deeply chocolate cake and crunchy meringue, its a joy to eat. I don’t necessarily trust myself to critique so I delivered some to a friend who always gives me an honest and objective review and she gave the cake a resounding thumbs up! The recipes for the cake layers are already on my blog, I used the Hersheys Chocolate Cake recipe on the can of unsweetened cocoa and a few years ago I posted a recipe for Julia Childs Dacquoise. The buttercream I have posted as well, its my go to buttercream recipe by Stella Parks (Bravetart) but I will post the recipe with the changes I made to turn it into a luscious creamy mocha frosting.

The Buttercream

6 ounces egg whites (2/3 cup) whites of 5-6 large eggs

11 ounces (1 2/3 c)granulated sugar

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

10 ounces dark chocolate cut into pieces

2 tsp instant espresso powder

16 ounces (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature cut into tbs size pieces (when not adding chocolate use 5 sticks or 20 ounces of butter)

1 tsp vanilla

Bring about an inch and a half of water to a boil in a deep saucepan, when it boils reduce heat so that it simmers. Place the egg whites, sugar, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer and place over the simmering water. Whisk constantly until all the sugar has melted scraping the sides from time to time with a spatula, if using a thermometer the mixture should be 185 degree’s, I keep feeling for grains of sugar, you want all the sugar to be dissolved completely. Once it is ready move the bowl to your stand mixer and start whipping with whisk attachment until its glossy and stiff and cool to the touch. While its whipping temper your chocolate either using your microwave or over simmering water (be careful not to overheat and cook the chocolate it will seize) Add the espresso to the chocolate stir to combine and set aside.

With mixer running add the butter 1-2 tbs at a time combining with each addition until all the butter is incorporated. Slowly add the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract and continue whipping. If its a bit soupy that’s ok, put it in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes and then return to the mixer and whip until it is a spreading consistency. Use immediately or you can also refrigerate up to two weeks or freeze up to several months. To use it bring to 72 degree’s (room temperature) and re whip.

Tips for Meringue (Dacquoise)

The meringue layers are baked free form on parchment. I drew 8 inch circles and piped it within the circles. Hint: spray the parchment with cooking spray it will make the release so much easier. Because the cake is round the meringue and cake layers should sit flush and the meringue is baked free form so its not perfectly aligned and the edges are not clean. I used a vegetable peeler to shave away the edges making a clean edge and perfect size to fit the cake layers. Once thing I didn’t do which I will do next time is smooth the top of the layer with a flexible offset spatula before baking.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I’ve been baking a lot of bread since the pandemic began last year. Finding a good sandwich loaf proved to be more difficult than I anticipated until I came across this recipe on the King Arthur Website for Sourdough Sandwich Bread it did not disappoint, its soft but not spongy like wonder bread, slices beautifully and has a great texture, and it couldn’t be easier to make which is really important. Pictured below is my sourdough starter which I have neglected, left hibernating in the refrigerator and ignored for months at a time even with all that when I take it out of hibernation and feed it the starter comes to life stronger than ever. I got this starter over 2 years ago from Elaine of Elaine’s sourdough (she has her first cookbook out too everyone) Her master recipe is awesome and is getting worldwide recognition, congratulations to Elaine!

I just have to say that I am not impressed with the changes to WordPress, is anyone else having problems? I can’t navigate easily, could not add photos, had to drop them in my computer file. I can’t figure out how to preview a post, not happy with this at all. Ugh…..

As a point to reference this bubbly starter sat in my refrigerator more than 6 months untouched and look at how lively it is!!

This recipe uses a levain which is made the night before you actually make the bread. It sits all night (12 hrs) on the countertop. The recipe also uses yeast which is fine by me.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Recipe on King Arthur Website

Makes 2 8 1/2×4 1/2 loaves

Levain

1 cup plus 1 tbs bread flour or all purpose flour also works

1/2 cup + 1 tbs cool water

3 tbs ripe sourdough starter

Mix all the ingredients together in a container that will allow the levain to grow, It will almost double in size. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight or about 12 hours. It will appear almost fluffy and have bubbles when it’s ready. (I let mine sit in my microwave all night.

Dough

5 1/4 cup bread or all purpose flour

6 tbs dry milk (Note: I did not have powdered milk so I used whole milk see below)

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

4 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature (Note: I used 5 tbs butter)

1 1/2 cup water (Note: I used 1 cup whole milk at room temperature and 1/2 cup water)

All of the levain

Mix all the ingredients in your stand mixer with dough hook, knead until you have a smooth and supple dough, it will not or should not be sticky.

Place the kneaded dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover and let dough rise for 1-2 hours it should have doubled in size.

Divide the dough in half if using the 8 1/2 x4 1/2 loaf pans or if using a larger loaf pan you will need to adjust for size. Shape into a log and place into a lightly greased pan, cover with a lightly greased sheet of plastic wrap and cover with a tea towel and let rise until they have crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan it takes 1-2 hours.

Toward the end of the rising time pre heat the oven to 375 degree’s. Bake the bread 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the sides of the loaf feel firm. Turn out onto a rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Made this recipe twice and the second time made sandwich rolls or burger buns, its amazing for that as well.

Mushroom Wellington With Port Wine Reduction And A Roulade

Happy New Year! I hope you all are doing well, staying healthy and weathering this pandemic. 2020 Has been a rough year, there is no glossing over that. My hopes and wishes for everyone is that 2021 will be a year of health and happiness and prosperity for you all. The holidays this year were different to say the least, most of the time was spent alone, well thank goodness I have Jenna Rose, she is always good company, even when she is sleeping which is most of the time. I baked cookies for friends and clients and Jenna and I delivered them, on Christmas Day a dear friend came over and I made dinner. She is vegetarian, I wanted to make something special and thought a Wellington would be nice so I researched and zeroed in on 4 recipes, I took bits and pieces from each, added my own touches and voila, a delicious mushroom Wellington. It may sound imposing but actually its quite simple, especially when you can buy amazing pre made puff pastry (Dufour’s). The filling can be made in advance and putting it all together before baking is a simple process. The port wine reduction is in my opinion what takes this over the top.

Dessert was a roulade, I used Erin Mcdowells recipe on Food52 and for the first time ever I had a beautiful roulade without any significant cracks. I saved her recipe for both chocolate and vanilla sponge, and both recipes are keepers. Its a simple non fussy dessert, chocolate sponge with a whipped cream filling served with a warm fudge sauce. I was on the fence about the dessert until Christmas morning, after deciding to give this a go I literally made it in the morning and served at dinner. Quick and easy!

Mushroom Wellington With Port Wine Reduction

Serves 6

Port Wine Reduction

1 shallot chopped

2 cloves garlic chopped

1 1/2 c good port wine

1 1/2 cup mushroom stock

1-2 sprig of fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbs butter

Chop shallot and garlic and saute in olive oil until soft and tender. Add the port and mushroom stock, season with sat and pepper and put the sprig of thyme in. Bring to a boil on high heat and then reduce to medium and continue to gently boil until it is reduced to about 1 cup of liquid, it should be thick and look like syrup. Pour through a sieve and save the shallot and garlic you will use that for the Wellington. I recommend making this the day before serving. When ready to serve add to a sauté pan and cook it reducing even more so that it is thick and yields a bit more than 1/2 cup, add the butter.

The Wellington

3 leeks, cleaned well and sliced ( only white and light green parts) save the rest for stock but clean it well, leeks are full of grit.

16 oz of assorted mushrooms, sliced. I used Baby Bella, cremini, oyster, chanterelle

1 packet of frozen spinach drained, all the liquid should be squeezed out.

2 oz cream cheese or soft goat cheese

1 heaping cup fresh bread crumbs

Reserved shallot and garlic from port wine reduction

6-8 tbs butter

1 sheet puff pastry

1 egg beaten with a splash or water or cream for egg wash

Put most of the butter in a heavy skillet and melt on medium high heat. Add the leaks and sautés until softened, add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until there is no liquid and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Remove to a bowl.

Add remaining butter and the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown, add to the bowl with the leeks and mushrooms. Add the drained spinach, reserved shallot/garlic from reduction and cream cheese and mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Lay a long sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface and spoon the mixture onto it shaping into a log, Wrap it well and refrigerate at least an hour preferably overnight.

Putting it together

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the chilled puff pastry, place the log on the short end with a 2 inch overhang. You should have enough pastry so that the ends can be turned in so the filling does not fall out. Brush the edges with the egg wash. Bring the 2 inch overhang up on the log and start rolling until the end. Place on parchment lined baking sheet seam side down. You can make shallow cross pattern on top being careful not to slice through all layers of the puff pastry or decorate with cut out leaves or whatever you like. Brush with egg wash and bake for about 45 minutes or until the Wellington is golden brown. Serve with the reduction.

Vanilla Bean Bourbon Pecan Praline No Churn Ice Cream

Gee, it’s been a while and I hope all are doing well, this pandemic has cause so much uncertainty, I do hope that you are healthy and have been able to maneuver and cope through the lockdown. So many things have changed and it seems like a much different world and I crave normalcy.

I recently tried some vanilla from a wonderful start up company Indo Vanilla. The vanilla beans are lovely, soft and loaded with seeds that add an incredibly intense vanilla flavor. Summer is winding down but I couldn’t resist as sort of a last hurrah making ice cream,  its still very hot out and I didn’t want to cook so this simple recipe is exactly what I wanted.  I saw a recipe on Food52 from Nigella Lawson for a creamy no churn Coffee ice cream, it looked so good I had to give it a try but changed the flavor adding the vanilla, bourbon and pecan praline. It is truly delicious,  simple to make, very creamy and it comes together so quickly. I changed a few things adding a little more heavy cream because sweetened condensed milk is very sweet and in Nigella’s recipe the coffee which is bitter mitigates the sweetness.

Vanilla Bean Bourbon Pecan Praline No Churn Ice Cream

Makes approximately 1 1/2 pints of ice cream

Quick Pecan Praline

1 heaping cup pecan halves

1/4 cup loose brown sugar

2 tbs honey

3 tbs melted butter

Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl, pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degree’s for 15 minutes. Let cool before chopping or breaking into bite size pieces. Note: You can toast pecans and just add plain pecans instead of making the praline. It’s just as good!

 

Ice Cream Base

1 1/2 c heavy cream

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

Seeds from 2 vanilla beans

2 tbs bourbon

pecan praline or toasted pecans approximately 1 cup

Place all ingredients except pecan praline into chilled mixing bowl. Beat using electric mixer or whisk until soft billowy peaks form. Fold in the pecans or pecan praline. Spoon into freezer safe container, I used a loaf pan. Cover and freeze at least 6 hours or overnight.

 

White Chocolate Mousse Cake

I don’t like using the term copy cat, I prefer to say that is an homage to my favorite cake, actually one of the best cakes I have ever had. I first got this cake many years ago at the Watergate Pastry Shop in Washington DC. I was smitten and it was love at first bite. The softest, lightest and most tender vanilla cake, a creamy white Chocolate mousse filling, frosted in whipped cream. At the time I didn’t know what the subtle flavor was that made it so distinct, after some research I found out it was Grand Marnier or Cointreau.

I have been thinking about this cake and wishing I could make a trip to DC for the express purpose of buying it, well that’s not practical and instead I decided to try my hand at making it. The recipe I always use for a yellow or vanilla cake Tender Yellow Cake,  I have posted many times, its super light, a cross between a chiffon and a yellow or vanilla cake, I knew this would work well. Years ago I posted a recipe for white chocolate mousse filling, when I made it then it was pretty seamless, this time not so much, but after some MacGyver like moves it actually came out pretty perfect. I recently received some vanilla beans and powdered vanilla seeds from a company called Native Vanilla and I have to say the beans are far superior to any vanilla beans I have ever used. They are so fresh, plump, loaded with vanilla seeds and so so fragrant. The vanilla seeds made this mousse incredible, additionally it is flavored with Cointreau. The cake is frosted with my go to stabilized whipped cream also flavored with Cointreau and vanilla.

It has been a few years since I had the Watergate cake but I think that this is pretty darn close to my recollection of the flavors and textures.

White Chocolate Mousse

1 1/2 C heavy cream divided

2 scant tsp unflavored gelatin

6 oz white chocolate (chips or bar cut into small pieces)

1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped (highly recommend Native Vanilla)

1 tbs Cointreau or Grand Marnier

Bloom the gelatin by placing in a small bowl and add 2 tbs cold water, stir and let sit. Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream to scalding. Put the white chocolate into your food processor and pulse to break into very fine pieces, mix the gelatin in the hot cream scrape in the vanilla seeds pour over the chocolate and process until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and let cool. While cooling whip the remaining 1 cup cream until stiff. Whisk into the white chocolate and liquor, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The mixture was thick and a little lumpy so I spooned it into the food processor and pulsed until smooth.

NOTE:The mousse was really thick so before filling the cake I whipped 1/2 cup heavy cream and folded it in. Judge for yourself how it is. You could decrease the gelatin but I wanted it to have structure so it would hold up in between the cake layers. It was the perfect texture and consistency after folding in the additional whipped cream.

After frosting the cake I decorated the top with shaved white chocolate curls.

Chicken Cacciatore With Gnocchi

I imagine that just about everyone is experiencing “shelter in place” right now, limiting going outside unless absolutely necessary and maybe getting a bit antsy being cooped up in your homes. Trying to turn this into a positive for me means spending a lot of time cooking. I recently made chicken cacciatore and it brought back some really wonderful memories, it has been a long time since I made this dish and after the first bite I understood why I liked it so much and wondered what took me so long to make it. I wish you all good health, stay inside as much as possible, wash your hands, a lot! We will get through this and things will be back to normal (maybe a new normal) Much love, be safe and be well.

What have you been cooking? Let me know.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 4-6

4-6 chicken thighs bone in, skin on or a whole chicken cut up

1 large green bell pepper sliced

mushrooms (sliced) as much or as little as you like

2 shallot chopped

2 cloves garlic (smashed)

1 26 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

splash of red wine to deglaze the pan

flour to dredge the chicken

Gnocchi (I didn’t make it used De Cecco

Dredge chicken in flour and set aside. Heat large cast iron or heavy fry pan (with lid) with high sides with enough olive oil to coat the pan generously. I used a Staub cast iron multi use pan with enamel coating (its awesome)

When pan is hot place the chicken in the pan careful not to crowd the pan skin side down. Cook approximately 4-5 minutes on medium high heat until nicely browned, turn over and repeat. Remove from pan.

On medium/high heat add shallots and green pepper and cook until softened. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking until soft but not caramelized. Remove and set aside, add the red wine to deglaze the pan, add the chicken, vegetables and tomatoes, season to taste. Put lid on, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 or 2 hours stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

When done add the gnocchi directly to the pan, no need to boil them first. Let them simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes until done. Garnish with some chopped parsley and grated parmigiana or Romano cheese.

 

 

One Skillet Chicken With Orzo, Tomato And Spinach And Percy

It has been a while again! I am pretty active on Instagram and recently posted this dish from a great cook @halfbakedharvest.  I follow her on Instagram and when I saw this dish I knew I had to make it immediately! Its easy to make, is everything you need all in one pot or skillet and is incredibly delicious. I did make a few changes. I used dried sage and thyme on the chicken instead of oregano and paprika, oven roasted tomatoes rather than sun dried and for umami added a generous splash of Worcestershire. I love a one pot or skillet meal and I am a big fan of orzo, all the components spoke to me and it did not disappoint. You can see the original recipe, its hyperlinked above. I will not post her recipe without her permission so please visit her site. You can do as I did and make it your own its very easy to customize and still have excellent results. I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #306, it’s been a long time since I have participated in the party and figured its about time to get back in the swing of things.

On November 5th my sweet Percy passed away, it was sudden, completely unexpected and has literally torn my heart in half. Percy was the sweetest, most well behaved and amazing boy. I miss him every minute of every day. I would have had Percy for 4 years on February 13th. I have a very difficult time even typing this because my heart is broken. I will post a tribute to my dear Percy soon, but  right now I am trying to come to terms with his death. RIP angel boy 06/16/2005 – 11/5/2019

Masters Tea From Adagio

Happy Fall!

I have been using Adagio Tea for a few years now, in the summer I practically live on their cold brew tea and now that the weather is turning colder a cup of hot tea is exactly what I want. I recently discovered that Adagio launched a new concept called Masters Tea, this is for serious tea lovers. The curated teas that are offered are made by artisan tea makers and when you open one of the containers the aroma is intoxicating. Each tea is a limited edition and small lot production. If you are a fan of Adagio I recommend you give Masters Tea a try, I ordered several and have tried 2 so far, they give you explicit instructions to prepare the tea properly down to the water temperature.

Formosa Ruby 18 Black

In the photo is Formosa Ruby 18 Black tea. Earthy, multi dimensional and well balanced. This is a full bodied tea from Taiwan you will taste hints of spice and vanilla, its absolutely delicious.

Balsun First Flush

Balsun First Flush is a Darjeeling tea from India, an early harvest black tea. Early harvest tea differs greatly from a late harvest tea, it’s lighter in body, crisp, clean and fresh. There are fruity notes along with just a hint of floral. It was exceptional.

For me a cup of tea is spiritual, different than coffee. I relax and think more clearly when drinking tea for some reason, I hope you visit the site for Masters Tea its well worth it. Note: The tea was sent to me by Adagio Masters Tea, I will only promote and review items I use or would use myself and all opinions are my own. When I say I recommend this I really mean it. 

 

Creamy Baked Eggs

I am so sorry that my posts are few and far between. I feel like I am fighting my way back from a sort of dark abyss. I appreciate so much that you have stuck with me despite my lack of posts (totally inactive). It had been a long time since I had entered a contest at Food52 and missed it and the community. The most recent contest is “Your Best Creamy Breakfast”. Well, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and of course anything creamy is definitely something I can get behind. Thinking about what to make brought me to my childhood, on special occasions my Mom made baked eggs or shirred eggs. This is my updated version of my Moms recipe. I was lucky enough to be picked as a finalist and would appreciate so much if you would cast a vote for me, click here and it will take you to the voting page on Food52. Thank you again for being so wonderful!

Creamy Baked Eggs

Recipe by sdebrango

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite

Béchamel

2 tbs butter

2 tbs flour

1 1/2 cup warmed whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

The rest

4 large eggs

5 oz baby spinach cleaned

4-6 slices bacon cut into bite size pieces

10 cherry tomatoes cut in half

1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

Handful toasted breadcrumbs to coat pan or pans

Make béchamel or white sauce. Add butter to small heavy bottom saucepan, melt on medium low heat, add flour and whisk cooking for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the warmed milk whisking constantly and cook until it thickens. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside

Heat a saute or fry pan on medium high flame and add the bacon bits, saute until lightly browned. Remove the bacon leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Remove and set aside. Place the tomatoes in the to pan and cook until they start to blister and soften, set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degree’s. NOTE: if bacon doesn’t produce enough rendered fat add a little olive oil.

Assembly:

Butter pans,( I used 2 individual oval pans), ramekins or cocottes. Sprinkle bottom with toasted breadcrumbs. Divide the spinach between the pans, add the bacon bits and tomatoes. Spoon 3 heaping tbs of the béchamel on top. Create a well and gently nestle the eggs in the well. Spoon more béchamel around the eggs. Place your pans on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, the eggs will not be completely set, that’s ok you are going to finish in the broiler. Remove from oven and adjust to broil setting. Cover top with grated cheese and place in broiler close to flame for about 1 minute or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.  Note: You can assemble this the night before and bake in the morning.

Serve with toast!