Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Peach Melba Sauce

This week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays was actually supposed to be Pavlova Peach Melba: a meringue topped with sweetened whipped cream, fresh peaches and raspberries, and a tangy raspberry sauce. It sounded lovely and springy, but I have a thing against eggwhites. Divinity, meringue, even homemade marshmallows; they gross me out and I just can't make myself eat them! But I didn't want to skip the week entirely, so I made just the Peach Melba sauce, and served it over vanilla ice cream. It was delicious! I didn't love the peach slices or fresh raspberries as ice cream toppings, but the fresh raspberry sauce itself was amazing and I will definitely make it again.

Many thanks to Patty of Birding, Blossoms, and Baking, our hostess for the week. You can find the recipe for the Peach Melba sauce, as well as the meringue it was supposed to top, on her blog here.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers, March 2010: Orange Tian

The March Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse's Cooking School in Paris. Pardon the ugly photos. It was 9 PM. Just take my word for it: it was delicious!

I've not been the best Daring Baker over the last year, but I promised myself I would participate in this month's Daring Bakers challenge come hell or high water! And luckily for me, the recipe sounded amazing: a crispy, slightly sweet shortbread-ish crust, homemade orange marmalade, piles of whipped cream, fresh orange segments, and a luscious orange-caramel sauce. Was it labor intensive? Yes. What it delicious? OMG! The Orange Tian was practically the most perfect dessert I've ever eaten. There were parts (the crust and the whipped cream) with just a hint of sweetness, which were perfectly balanced by the incredible, sweet and tangy orange-caramel sauce drizzled over the top. It was light and refreshing without being pure fluff. It left me very satisfied, yet sad that there wasn't more because it was just. so. delicious.

Instead of making lots of individual servings, I made a family-sized 9" Orange Tian and cut it into wedges. And we ate all 9" of it. Every last crumb. I think a few people even secretly licked their plates, or not so secretly in my case. Now for the big question: Would I make Orange Tian again? Yes, but only if I needed a really impressive dessert with tons of Wow! factor for a dinner party or something, because it really does take all day. But a corollary to that question is Would I order this if I saw it on a menu? And the answer to that is YES!!! And I'll keep my fingers crossed that I do!

If you are feeling adventurous, give the recipe a whirl. I promise, you will LOVE it!

Orange Tian
adapted from a recipe by Alain Ducasse

Pate Sablee (the crust):
2 medium egg yolks, room temperature
6Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Put flour, baking powder, butter, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla until pale. Pour egg mixture into food processor and pulse just until dough comes together. If the dough is too crumbly, add a few drops of cold water and pulse again until the dough forms a homogeneous ball. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in fridge for 30 minutes. Roll out chilled dough on a lightly flour surface; roll to a thickness of 1/4 inch. If you are making individual desserts, cut out circles with a cookie cutter. If you are making one large dessert, cut a circle the same size as the bottom of a large springform pan. Place circles on a parchment line baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes until just golden.

Orange Segments:
8 large oranges

Cut the peel off of each orange and cut it into segments. Reserve as much of the juice as you can, and put the juice and segments in a bowl.

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 plus 2 Tablespoons orange juice

Put the sugar in a deep saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar has melted, slowly add the orange juice. This will make the caramelized sugar seize up, but just be patient and keep stirring and heating it, and eventually, that sugar will melt back down. Pour half of this caramel sauce over the orange segments, cover, and refrigerate. Pour the remaining sauce into a small bowl and refrigerate.

1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed OJ
1 large orange, scrubbed, and sliced, peel and all
cold water
1 teaspoon powdered pectin
granulated sugar

Place the orange slices in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes and drain. Repeat this process 2 more times. Blanching removes a lot of the bitterness from the orange peel. Puree blanched orange slices in a food processor. Weigh the orange puree with a kitchen scale and set aside. Measure out the exact same weight of granulated sugar. Combine sugar, orange puree, pectin, and orange juice in a pot, and cook until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Whipped Cream:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
3 Tablespoons very hot water
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon orange marmalade

In a small bowl, combine gelatin and hot water, and stir until gelatin is fully dissolved. Set aside to cool. Pour cream into a chilled mixing bowl, and beat on low speed until cream begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and continue beating until beaters leave a visible but temporary trail in the cream. While the beater are going, slowly pour the cooled gelatin into the cream. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Fold in orange marmalade.

Putting it all together:
Make sure you have room in your freezer for a baking sheet with several cookie cutters or springform pans on it. Heat reserved orange-caramel sauce in a small pan until it is syrupy. Set aside to cool. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out the cookie cutters or springform pans (the same ones you used to make the crust) on the baking sheet. Drain the orange segments very well. Arrange the drained orange segments on the baking sheet inside the circle molds. Make sure they fit together snuggly and look nice; this will end up being the top of your dessert. Next, spoon on the whipped cream. Make sure you leave a 1/4" at the top of each mold for the crust. If you are using one big pan, this won't be a problem. Spread a thin layer of orange marmalade onto one side of your crust, and place the crust on top of the whipped cream so that the marmalade is touching the whipped cream. Gently press the crust so that the dessert is compact. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the dessert. Place your serving tray on top of the dessert, and carefully flip it over. Remove the circle mold, drizzle the top of the dessert with caramel sauce, and serve immediately.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cake Slice Bakers, March 2010: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple is my favorite fruit. I love it in all of its many forms: fresh, canned, grilled, baked in a cake, skewered on kabobs, blended in drinks, atop a pizza. I just plain love it, so I was thrilled that this month's cake of choice from Southern Cakes was a pineapple upside-down cake. And when our bookclub met to discuss The Help by Kathryn Stockett (fantastic!!), I knew this cake would fit beautifully with the southern setting of the book.

The cake was delicious: simple, straight-forward, and tasty. It seemed like a good, old-fashioned, homey dessert, and everyone who was lucky enough to get a piece loved it.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
from Southern Cakes by Nancee McDermott
I baked mine in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, as the recipe suggests. You can alternately use a 9-inch round cake pan.

1 20-oz can pineapple rings
4 Tablespoons butter
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
10 maraschino cherries

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain the pineapple, reserving 2 Tablespoon of the juice for the bake batter. Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in skillet over medium heat. Remove pan from heat, and sprinkle brown sugar over the butter. Carefully place pineapple rings over brown sugar, making sure they don't overlap (I got 11 pineapple rings to fit). Place a cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring; set pan aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk and butter. Using a mixer, beat well for 1 to 2 minutes, until a thick, smooth batter forms. Add egg, reserved pineapple juice, and vanilla. Beat 2 additional minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. Pour batter over pineapple topping, spreading evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in skillet for 5 minutes, then carefully turn cake out onto a serving plate.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

This week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Julie of A Little Bit of Everything. She chose one of Melissa Murphy's favorite recipes, one that she made for her sister's wedding: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I really like carrot cake, and this recipe produced a very classic, straight-forward, tasty carrot cake. Of course I had to make cupcakes (they're just so much more manageable!), and they turned out moist and tender. They weren't overly sweet, and actually tasted as good without the frosting as they did with. In muffin-form, they would make a great addition to any brunch. The addition of orange zest to the classic cream cheese frosting was amazing! The bright pop of citrus in the frosting complemented the subtle spice of the cupcake very nicely. It was a delicious combination of flavors.

Thank you Julie for choosing such a delicious recipe! If you'd like to make these cupcakes, you can find the recipe HERE, or in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dinner Club: A Soup Party (and Chicken Tortilla)

Round about the end of January, I got the idea to have a soup party for our next dinner club. Except I wasn't scheduled to host February's dinner club. So I begged my friend to let me host, which she graciously agreed to (I did disguise the whole thing as a favor. "Hey. I know you're super busy lately, and I was just thinking maybe I could host dinner club for you this month to give you a break." Yeah, whatever.)

Anyway, in preparation for this great event, I started making soup twice a week. Cream of Potato with Carraway Seeds; Sausage with Potato and Kale; Tomato, White Cheddar, and Dill; Ribollita; Chicken Tortilla with Chipotle and Lime. And then dinner club got postponed to the first weekend in March. While February definitely still counts as soup weather, March just doesn't. No matter how cold and blustery March is, it is the beginning of Spring, and it just doesn't speak "Soup." But somehow, without it being discussed by any of us, our soup party turned out to be a light, fresh welcome to the coming warmer weather. Welcome, Spring!

The Menu:
spinach salad with strawberries and sugared almonds
chilled raspberry soup with whipped cream and mint
seafood chowder
curried butternut squash and mushroom soup with toasted almonds
chicken tortilla soup with chipotle and lime (scroll down for the recipe)
homemade french bread
corn muffins
cinderellas (A delicious beverage made with fresh-squeezed OJ, fresh pineapple juice, and ginger-ale. Amazing! I drank way more than my fair share.)
chocolate pave

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Chipotle and Lime
adapted from Sunday Soup, a fantastic soup cookbook

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 canned chipotle pepper, rinsed and minced (scrape the seeds out for less heat)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained (nothing beats home-canned tomatoes!)
6 cups chicken broth or stock (nothing beats homemade chicken stock, not even the tomatoes!)
1 generous pound chicken breasts, chopped to 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 yellow bell pepper and 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into skinny, 1-inch strips
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
kosher salt
toppings: sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheddar, jack, or mexican blend cheese, diced avocado, minced cilantro

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Saute chopped onion for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add chipotle, cumin, oregano, tomatoes, and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. **At this point, the cookbook tells you to puree the whole thing, but I didn't like it super smooth. The next time I made it, I coarsely pureed about half of the soup and preferred the chunkier texture.** Return soup to a simmer, add chopped chicken and bell peppers, and simmer until chicken is tender and peppers are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add lime juice. Correct flavor with lime juice and salt as necessary. Serve with toppings! Serves 6.

Other delicious recipes from Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom:

Tomato, Dill, and White Cheddar Soup

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Molten Chocolate Cookies

{This is a picture of a leftover cookie reheated in the microwave for 20 seconds. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see how gooey the cookie is inside. Imagine what it was like right out of the oven!}

I've been in a cooking funk this week. We have guests coming over for dinner for the next 3 days in a row; I think maybe I've just been saving all of my cooking up for the weekend. We've been eating Girl Scout cookies for dessert every night so far this week. Last night, I just couldn't do it anymore. I did not want Samoas and Thin Mints for dessert again, so I pulled a bag of chocolate chips out of the cupboard, found this recipe on the back, and made it right then and there. They were amazing! They reminded me of brownies in cookie form: a thin, crisp crust surrounding warm, gooey chocolate. We ate them as directed by the recipe--fresh out of the oven and with a tall, cold glass of milk. Definitely better than Girl Scout cookies again (no offense).

Molten Chocolate Cookies
from the back of a package of Guittard Semisweet Chocolate Chips

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoon butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each session, until butter and chocolate chips are melted and smooth. Set aside. Using a mixer, combine eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat on high for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add chocolate and mix on low. Add flour and baking powder. Mix on low just until combined. Give it a few stirs by hand to make sure everything is mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a regular ice cream scoop, scoop level blobs of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for exactly 12 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Remove cookies from oven, let cool about 3 minutes, and eat. Makes about 20 cookies.
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