Wednesday, August 10, 2011

//Move on over

Hi everyone,

After two years, and a lot of work on the line, I'm now at: As always, I aim to tell a good story and provide a decent recipe. But now my focus is more about giving professional tips and knowledge to home cook or baker, thereby making gourmet cuisine more accessible.



Wednesday, July 8, 2009

//Orange Crème Caramels with Berries


Ya know... I could have sworn I clicked the "Publish Post" button and not the "Save Now" button on Friday morning before I closed my laptop so I could head on out the door and onward to Seattle for the Fourth of July weekend. But, I guess I was wrong!

(Spoiler: Seattle is awesome. And very much a foodie town, like Portland. But that's not the focus of this post, though I do want to write a mini-wrap up post about the city some time this week.)

Crème caramel is often passed over in favor of the more popular crème brûlée. Both depend on caramel for their predominate flavor, but in a crème caramel, the caramel is soft and the custard is unmolded. Berries are the perfect accompaniment for the dish, as they blend well with the subtle hints of orange, and they complement the slight bitterness of the dark caramel. I chose a crème caramel recipe as my final dish for the Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites because I really want to buy a crème brûlée torch some time in the next few weeks — so that I can make brûlées (regular, fig, pumpkin... the entire panoply of custard recipes known to humankind), as well as sear meat and seafood. Also, typing "crème brûlée" with all the accents is just plain fun (editor's note: I have a weird sense of what constitutes "fun"). But, I couldn't in good conscience go through with the purchase until I first made an easier custard... one that didn't involve obtaining a fire extinguisher beforehand (just in case).

Orange Crème Caramels with Berries
Dish No. 6 of 6 for The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites
(recipe borrowed from Classic Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti)

For Orange Custard Base:
2/3 cup milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Peel of 1 orange
4 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, cream, and orange peel over medium heat and cook until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare and ice bath. In a large stainless-steel bowl, whisk together egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, and salt until blended.

While whisking constantly, pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. Place the bowl in the ice bath and let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the orange peel.


For Caramel:
2/3 cup sugar
5 Tbsp water

While the custard base is cooling, arrange six 5-ounce ramekins in a 9-by-3-inch baking dish. In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar and 3 Tbsp of water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and comes to a boil. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the mixture becomes golden amber. Remove from the heat and let the bubbles subside for a few seconds. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp of water. Be careful as you stir, as the caramel with bubble up when you add the water.

Pour the caramel into the bottoms of the ramekins. If necessary, pick up each ramekin and rotate it so that the caramel completely coats the bottom. Set aside until the caramel hardens, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300° F.

Fill the caramel-lined ramekins with the custard base. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, but leave one corner open. Place the baking pan in the middle of the oven. Carefully pour hot water into the pan so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan completely with foil.

Bake the custards for 50-55 minutes. To check if the custards are ready, carefully remove the foil and gently shake the ramekin. The custard should be set around the edges, yet have an area in the middle — about the size of a quarter — that is not completely firm. Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the ramekins from the pan with tongs or a dish towel to protect your fingers Cover an refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.


For Tops:
1 pint mixed berries
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)

Carefully run a knife around the inside of the edge of each ramekin and unmold the custards onto plates. In a bowl, toss the berries with the Grand Mariner, if desired.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

//Puddin' Out Muffins


Happy Muffin Day!

Triple Berry Bread Pudding Muffins
Dish No. 5 of 6 for The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites

For batter
7 cups of cubed bread (French, brioche, challah, or your choice)
Strawberry reduction (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 pint blackberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 lb strawberries
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour one 12 muffin tin, or one 6 muffin tin.

Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and add the strawberry reduction. Let stand for five minutes. Then stir in the milk, beaten eggs, vanilla, butter and berries.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir this mixture into the bread cube mixture.

Evenly divide the mixture among the muffins cups, using two spoons. Place the muffin tin on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool. Can dust with powdered sugar before serving.


For strawberry reduction
10 medium-sized strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup cream

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, heat the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice until the fruit breaks down and releases its juices (about 10 minutes). Remove mixture from heat and strain. Pour the cream into the reduction, and whisk until just combined.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

//Deliciously simple, simply delicious


Sometimes the most flavorful desserts require minimal ingredients, preparation, and time to make. This exquisite lavender goat cheesecake comes to mind. It's an incredibly versatile recipe, as well: you can serve it as a dessert "nightcap" following a summer evening meal; or you can omit the eggs and use the batter and berries as filling for crepes or for pancakes. You can even use the lavender syrup in lieu of table syrup for waffles.

Lavender Goat Cheesecake with Fresh Berries
Dish No. 4 of 6 for The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites

For cake
11 oz fresh goat cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
6 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 pint blackberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and dust it with granulated sugar; tap out the excess.

Put the goat cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and zest in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Stir in the egg yolks, two at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour and mix until incorporated.

In a separate mixer bowl, place the egg whites and whip on medium speed until a soft peak forms. Using a spatula, gently fold in the whipped whites into the goat cheese batter. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then top with berries.


For lavender syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup loosely packed lavender
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the sugar, lavender, lemon juice and water. Once the syrup comes to a boil, remove it from heat and strain it. Cover the syrup and allow it to steep for at least 20 minutes.

Using a dry pastry brush, spread the syrup over the cake and the berries. Optional: sprinkle dry lavender onto the cake.


Monday, June 29, 2009

//Good to the last drip: Blueberry Pecan Sticky Buns


There's a note at the bottom of the recipe page that says "Sticky buns are best eaten the day they are baked." Well, OK. You're twisting my arm here, Martha Stewart, but I suppose I can bring myself to follow this direction. But only because last week I had the unfortunate luck of buying a sticky bun that turned out to be as chewy as taffy and as dry as cardboard. It came from a reputable nearby bakery, too! I was mighty surprised at the bun's supbar quality, and vowed to make a better batch for this week's berry fest.

Blueberry Pecan Sticky Buns
Dish No. 3 of 6 for The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)

For Dough


1 cup warm milk (110° F)
2 envelopes active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk; stir until dissolved. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and 4 Tbsp butter; beat on low speed until butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse meal, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the yeast-milk mixture; mix until dough just comes together. Add the eggs and yolk; mix until just combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overmix.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, making sure to include any loose bits left at the bottom of the bowl. Gently knead to form a smooth ball, about 30 seconds. Wrap well with plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 18-by-10-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick, keeping the corners as square as possible. Remove any excess flour with a dry pastry brush. With a short side facing you, evenly distribute the remaining butter over two-thirds of the dough. Fold the unbuttered third over as you would a business letter, followed by the remaining third. This seals in the butter.

Roll out the dough again to an 18-by-10 inch rectangle, then fold dough into thirds as described above; refrigerate for 1 hour. Repeat this process 2 more times.

Refrigerate dough, tightly wrapped in plastic for at least 4 hours to overnight.

For Buns


3 1/3 cups pecan halves
2 1/4 cups light corn syrup
3/4 cup plus 2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
All-purpose flour, for dusting
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh, whole blueberries

Let dough stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Generously butter two 6-cup jumbo muffin tins. Chop 2 cups pecans, and break the remaining 1 1/3 cups in half lengthwise, keeping the two groups separate. Pour 3 Tbsp corn syrup into each muffin cup, and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp brown sugar. Divide halved pecans among the muffin cups.


On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 18-by-14 inch rectangle, about 1/4 in thick. Using a spatula (offset, or regular), spread the sour cream over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Dust the sour cream with cinnamon, and sprinkle with chopped pecans, remaining 2/3 cup brown sugar, and the blueberries. Roll up the dough tightly lengthwise to form a log about 3 inches in diameter, and trim the ends using a serrated knife. Transfer log to prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the over to 350° F.


Using a sharp knife and a sawing motion slice the dough crosswise into 12 rounds, about 1 1/2 inch thick, and place in prepared pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until 1/2 inch above cups, about 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to the oven, placing a baking sheet on the rack below to catch drips. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until buns are dark golden brown, about 40 minutes.


Immediately turn out the buns onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Replace any pecan halves that have fallen off. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. "Sticky buns are best eaten the day they are baked."


//Raspberry-Peach Cobbler with Earl Grey Biscuit Topping


Raspberry Peach Cobbler with Earl Grey Biscuit Topping
Dish No. 2 of 6 for The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites
(an adaptation of a cobbler recipe found in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)

For Cobbler
2 pints fresh raspberries
1 1/2 lbs yellow peaches, pitted and diced
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup instant tapioca
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp plus a pinch of salt

For Drop Biscuits
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 bags of Earl Grey tea
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 cup milk


Preheat oven to 375° F, with racks in the center and lower third. Lined a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the raspberries, peaches, sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, and pinch of salt; stir to combine. Let stand about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Divide the filling among six to 8 10-ounce baking dishes, or pour into a 2 1/2-quart baking dish.


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and Earl Grey tea. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.


Pour in the milk; using a rubber spatula, fold milk into the dough, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix. Using a large spoon, top cobbler filling with dollops of dough, leaving a 1-inch border.


Brush dough with cream. Transfer baking dishes to prepared baking sheet; bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until biscuits are golden brown and juices are bubbling, 50-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

//Dinner by Candlelight: Halibut cheeks over chard with a cherry-balsamic reduction


Usually, often, most of the time, I have enough self-control pulsing through my body that I will first photograph what I've made, and then, only after I'm sufficiently satisfied with the pictures, will I dig in.

Tonight was not that night.

It was the cherry-chocolate balsamic reduction (ladled over sauteed halibut cheeks and roasted chard, of course) that prompted me to pick up my knife and fork mere seconds after I had set the plates down on the dining room table. The curiosity of wanting to know what the sauce tasted like overwhelmed me to the point where photographing the meal didn't even enter my mind. It was only after I had used the remaining chard leaves to sop up some of the sauce, and then used my index finger to wipe the plate clean of cherry pieces and halibut flesh, that I even glanced in the direction of my Canon camera.

I can't say I was all that upset.

Dish No. 1 of 6 for "The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites"

For Chard:
1 bunch of rainbow chard, stalks trimmed and cleaned.
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300° F. In a shallow baking dish, mix together the rainbow chard, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before placing the dish in the oven, cut the temperature down to 250° F. Roast the chard until the leaves just begin to wilt. Be careful not to brown the pretty stems too much! Pull the dish from the oven and dress the leaves and stems on plates.

For Halibut cheeks:
2 six oz halibut cheek portions
Flour and butter for dredging
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the halibut cheeks from the butcher paper, butter them, and dredge them in flour. Heat the 2 Tbsp of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the oil spreads enough to coat the base of the pan, add the halibut to it. Wait 6 minutes before flipping it. Wait another 6 minutes, and then plate the fish on top of the rainbow chard immediately.

For Cherry-Chocolate Balsamic Reduction:
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup (scant) flour
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
15 ripe red cherries, pitted
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp dark chocolate chunks
1/3 cup olive oil
Zest of half an orange

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to brown, add the flour and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the balsamic vinegar, pitted cherries, brown sugar, chocolate chunks and olive oil. Stir until well-combined; then reduce the heat to a low simmer. If necessary, thin the sauce with a little extra vinegar. Before spooning it over the halibut, grate the orange zest into the pan.