Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Candied Orange Peel

Food gawk fir real

Great as a garnish, or on it's own. You can also cover these in chocolate!!

Candied Orange Peel

3 to 4 oranges
2/3 cup water, plus extra for boiling
1 cup sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the oranges. Try to get as much of the peel as you can, including the white pith. Cut into thing slices about 1/8 on an inch thick. Bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Boil the peels for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat. This removes most of the bitterness. Combine with 2/3 cup water and the cup of sugar. Bring to a bowl and reduce to simmer. Add the orange peels. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cool. Transfer to a small bowl and let the orange peel sit in the syrup overnight. Remove from syrup and toss in granulated sugar. Lay out until dry and firm.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Herbed Irish Soda Bread with Parmesan Spinach Butter

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Irish soda bread has a bit of a bad reputation for being dry and kind of bland. It is also usually studded with raisins. Growing up, I hated, no, detested raisins. They were the chocolate chip's evil twin, lurking in my cookies. Now that I am older, I like raisins and all things raisiny; dried figs, dates, etc. But I still sometimes have a slight aversion to those pesky raisins. Here is a delicious and full flavored recipe for Irish soda bread with rosemary, sage, thyme, parsely and dill. Perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

Herbed Irish Soda Bread
Recipe by Darina Allen

3 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons freshly chopped herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, dill, and parsley
12 to 14 ounces buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a
large bowl, make a well in the center and pour all of the buttermilk in at once. Using 1 hand, stir in a full circle starting in the center of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well-floured board. Roll dough around gently with floured hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up, flip the dough over. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2-inches deep.

Cut a deep cross on it with a sharp knife, prick the four sections all over with a fork to let steam out.

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Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until just cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

This can also easily be made into a sweeter version by adding about 1/4 cup of sugar or honey, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips. You can pretty much put anything you would like in your Irish soda bread.

Parmesan Spinach Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons cooked chopped frozen spinach, liquid squeezed out

Combine all ingredients in small bowl until incorporated.

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So there it is, delicious savory Irish soda bread. This goes so nicely with a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Butterfly and Mushroom Birthday Cake


Working at a family owned chocolate and gelato shop has many delicious benefits! But it has also provided some awesome opportunities for letting out my creativity! Candace, gelato maker extraordinaire, got an order for a gelato birthday cake this weekend. We teamed up to create this cute cake. Candace made the actual cake, and Nicole and I did the decorating. The inside is dark chocolate, fig mascarpone, and strawberry balsamic gelatos layered between vanilla cake. YUM!! It is frosted in vanilla meringue butter cream. The mushrooms, leaves and grass blades are made of gum paste. I love how this turned out! Simple and whimsical.

On a hike not too long ago, I snapped this shot and have loved these little leaves ever since! I thought they would go so well next to little mushrooms so I wanted to try and recreate them in gumpaste.

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Nicole found these butterflies at Michael's. They were the perfect finishing touch!!

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Hope you liked your cake, Sally!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Almond Cake


Every Saturday, there is a farmer's market about 5 minutes from my house. For as long as I have lived here, my sister and I have loved going to the farmer's market to get tamales and the most amazing yet simple almond cake! A lovely French woman sells her rustic baked goods. She has a lot of vegan and gluten free items with a wonderfully old world feel to them. I have always loved the almond cakes because not only are they delicious, they are beautiful as well. She stencils on beautiful powdered sugar designs like hearts and peace signs. I finally have come up with a recipe that mimics this cake pretty closely. While nothing compares to the joy of going to the farmer's market on a beautiful sunny Saturday and buying this cake from the sweet lady, it is nice to know if the craving hits I don't have to wait a whole week!

Almond Cake
Makes 6 large muffins, or 1 0-inch round

4 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups ground almond meal
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 6-muffin tin or a 9-inch round pan.

Whisk the egg yolks, brown sugar and vanilla extract until sugar dissolves and the yolks are thick and light in color. Add the almond meal and salt, stir to combine.

Whisk the egg whites till frothy, gradually adding the granulated sugar. Continue whisking to soft peaks.

Add about a quarter of the egg whites to the almond mixture. The almond mixture will be fairly stiff so to start off, just mix in the egg whites vigorously to loosen the mixture. Continue to fold the remaining egg whites into the almonds. Pour into prepared pans. For muffin cups, fill about halfway and bake for 15 minutes. For 9-inch round, bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool and top with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Potato Tart with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

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Well, I'm changing it up a bit today! I made a savory tart for a family get together and it turned out beautifully.

The first component of this delicious tart is the pie crust. Pie crust is one of the most simple things you can make. A few tricks and tips can turn a good pie crust into a great pie crust. There are only 4 to 5 ingredients needed in a pie crust; Flour, salt, butter or shortening, and water. Many recipes call for a mixture of shortening and butter. I find myself, more often than not, without shortening in my pantry. I have made many a pie crust sans shortening and have always been pleased with the results. The key concept in making crust is KEEP EVERYTHING COLD. The goal is to end up with a flaky, melt in your mouth crust, which can only be achieved by keeping everything cold. The cold butter gets chopped up by the food processor into tiny pea sized bits, which melt and steam once in the oven, creating layers. My go-to pie crust recipe is from Alton Brown, which I've adapted for this recipe.

Pie Crust
Makes enough for one 9-inch tart


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
9 ounces all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons ice water
About 30 ounces dried beans, or pie weights for blind baking

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut butter into small cubes. Place the butter, the flour, and the food processor blade in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the cold blade. Pulse to mix. Add the butter. Pulse about 20 times until the butter has been chopped up into tiny pea sized bits. Slowly add half the water, pulsing to combine. Once the mixture holds together when squeezed in your hand, the dough is ready. It may look a but dry and crumbly, but it will come together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

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Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Press into a 9-inch loose bottomed tart pan.

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Line the tart with a layer of foil and fill the tart with the weights of your choice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Cool.

Potato Tart with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions
Makes one 9-inch tart


1 par-baked pie crust
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 medium red potatoes
140 grams goat cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
200 grams creme fraiche
3 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and the olive oil. Thinly slice the onions and add to the butter and oil mixture. Cook over medium low heat for about 15 minutes. Once slightly browned, add the brown sugar and about 1/4 cup water. Reduce and continue to cook about 10 minutes until caramelized. Set aside.

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes, just till potatoes are soft. Once cool enough to handle, thinly slice the potatoes.

In a medium bowl, combine the creme fraiche, eggs and thyme.

To assemble the tart, place half of the onions on the bottom of the pie crust. Sprinkle with half of the goat cheese and half of the Parmesan cheese. Layer the potatoes, slightly overlapping each other. Pour the creme fraiche mixture over the potatoes. Top with remaining onions, goat cheese and Parmesan cheese.

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Bake for 35 minutes, until slightly puffed and golden brown.

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