Friday, January 30, 2015

Croquants



Per Nana ~
When I started mixing the ingredients for these cookies I had my
 doubts that they would hold. Blending the egg whites with the sugar/
nut combination was difficult enough, but adding the bit of flour 
called for, I was sure I would need another egg white. But, as Dorie
 mentioned, this is not the cookie dough that you typically expect. 
I think my interpretation of a teaspoon is a lot different than Dorie's 
because the yield was only 2 dozen cookies. That said, we really didn't 
need more since we are still working on the "weekend cake" from 
"Baking Chez Moi". At this rate how I am ever going to get through Lent ?
 The cookies came out fantastic, so tasty and delicious, and considering the 
amount of sugar- they were not too sweet. This is a great way to use up
 extra egg whites and any nuts hanging around in the fridge or freezer. 

Per Tricia ~
I am not sure how I missed this treat in my visits to France, or more likely 
I did see them and had no idea what they were. It was a delight to learn of 
them this week via AMFT.  I especially enjoyed thinking of the famous ice
 cream shop, Berthillon, creating these from all of the left over egg whites. 
I teased Nana that I would have loved a cross reference in the index
 of "Around My French Table" which indicated which recipes used 
only a yolk, and which only egg whites. I am not organized enough
 to recall whenI am looking at extras but I think I will at least
 remember a new trick for making amazing use of the whites. 
These were interesting in every way and I was appreciative of Dorie's 
comments regarding how unusual the cookie batter would look. 
Because it definitely was not your standard concoction.
 I decided to use walnuts mainly because I had a huge bag left over 
from the holidays. My husband's first remark was that he was 
surprised they were not more sweet and didn't have a stronger 
flavor. Which is a good thing, in his book. Considering the
 amount of sugar involved, his comment surprised me. 
The texture and taste was very nice and elevated a few leftover egg 
whites and nuts to something quite special. Those are my favorite recipes. 
I will very likely make these again as a special treat for the family but they 
are also quite company worthy. Especially if that company is already 
getting creme brûlée which used up my egg yolks......

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brown Butter & Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake ~ Baking Chez Moi


Per Nana~
Dorie suggests wrapping this delicious cake to let it age for a day.
 Let's face it, that doesn't work. The combination of the vanilla 
flavored sugar and the beurre noisette made that impossible. 
Jim could not wait for the cake to come out of the oven. 
The recipe is so simple and easy, a perfect cake to prepare for a
 weekend of nibbling. I started out baking it for 55 minutes, but
 decided to add another 10 minutes to give it a bit more color. 
We tasted a small piece, plain, and it was delicious. Then after
 dinner I served it with a bit of Kir Royale jam and fresh cream. This 
is definitely a pound cake that I will make again- I just love the flavor.
Per Tricia~
I love vanilla. I love cake. I love simple things.  
Needless to say, this simple vanilla pound cake was quite the hit.  
It was truly easy and much quicker to prepare than I anticipated. 
The name refers to the French lingering over the cake for a weekend, 
enjoying it here and there but for me "weekend" in a recipe name should 
be associated with something that is more of a production. 
Like that Gingerbread Bûche de Noël, for instance :) 
Making one of these on a weeknight would be a snap and likely
 be the perfect thing to get us all through a busy week.
The taste testing started by my licking the bowl and I knew we were 
in great shape then -the batter literally tasted like creme brûlée. 
Off to a good start. 
The completed cake tasted like a combination pound cake and a Breton
 butter cake, which is basically a genius balancing act in my book. This is
 a keeper and I am already planning to make more and ship off to the 
boys at school. I will also stock one or two in the freezer for company. Or
 perhaps for a week night when we simply need more cake.......

~~~~~~~~

Friday, January 23, 2015

Spice Crusted Tuna

This week's recipe and a make-up too !


Spice Crusted Tuna
Per Nana~
Tuna - $26.99 a pound. Egads !!!
  I'm glad I am not trying to feed a family at those prices. 
I bought one small piece of fresh tuna that I prepared with the spices, 
but I have to admit that neither Jim nor I cared for the taste.  The 
combination of the spices was okay, it was the tuna we did not like.
 It is certainly a quick and easy recipe for a week night meal, 
but it just didn't work for us. 
Per Tricia~
My husband loves fresh tuna and often orders it out in restaurants, 
so I was excited to make this recipe for him. I was also delighted 
(for once) to be empty nesters as the pricey ingredients hit. My kids 
have a tendency to like the expensive ingredients best.  Go figure. 
The recipe was a snap as it simply involved taking Dorie's suggested 
spice combo and rubbing it onto the tuna prior to cooking it with a
 touch of olive oil. I always do appreciate her suggested cooking 
times because they are spot on. 
 While my husband did enjoy the recipe he also explained that he likes 
tuna so much that he prefers it prepared in a lighter manner.  He said
 this reminded him of all the the "blackened" recipes that were found in 
restaurants in the late '80's.  OK for chicken or catfish, but for him it
 was too strong for tuna steak - especially at this price point :) 

Arman's Caviar in Aspic
Per Nana~
Let me start by saying that Cher would love this interpretation of the recipe :) 
I do not like aspic or jello (something about the texture just gets to me) 
however I decided to make the recipe for the technique. 
Jim does not do caviar, his loss, so I decided to change things up a little. 
For the aspic I used a chicken flavored bouillon cube and topped it with 
chopped chicken livers.  the aspic set up nicely in the refrigerator for a day
 and I had no trouble removing it from the pan. It sliced beautifully. 
I scooped a little circle out and filled it with the chicken livers. 
The end result was quite elegant and Jim actually liked it. 
Per Tricia~
Like many tasks that you approach with trepidation, I found myself happy 
with the results in part simply because the task was over. I also learned 
not to make aspic in my Cannelé pan.  The dish you see below is the one 
"blob" that came out in a large enough hunk that it managed to survive.
 Let's just say the cat loved this French Friday.  
                            
While mine was not exactly a high end caviar selection, it is still caviar. 
Not a fan of fish to start with, this was an adventure - to say the least.  
I am not planning to make it again, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it 
would be either.  And I definitely would now try the "real caviar" if I 
am lucky enough to encounter it at some fancy buffet. 
Which is saying something. 
                   
My fish loving husband was game for anything and thought this was quite 
an interesting combo, but was not upset that so much aspic was lost in the
 "Great Cannelé Failure" either :)  I did get a kick out of  reporting to the boys 
that I was serving caviar at home now that they were both away at school......

Happy French Friday ~

Friday, January 16, 2015

Curried Mussels

Per Nana~
Even though mussels are not a favorite in our house the recipe looked
 so delicious that I could not pass it up.  So I substituted shrimp instead. 
I prepared only half the recipe and used a pound of shrimp. 
Unfortunately, cutting the recipe in half resulted in a small amount 
of sauce. I did not strain it but instead left all the wonderful flavors
 in there before adding the cream , and it was delicious. 
I served it with cooked rice but the next time I will prepare 
the full recipe to ensure it is not too dry for the rice.
That said, it was a fantastic dish and will definitely be repeated.
Per Tricia~
My guys are big fans of mussels -while I can't manage to get one down. 
More for them and since there are few things I don't eat, I see no reason 
to push the point :) But using curry to flavor them was a new one for us. 
My taste testers reported that from the aroma they thought the curry 
flavor would be very strong, but luckily it was not. It was definitely there, 
but not at all overpowering.  And they really liked the cream sauce that 
was added at the end. I look forward to circling back on this one with 
shrimp next time so I can enjoy it too !

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Granola Energy Bars - Baking Chez Moi


Per Nana~
These granola bars are definitely better than store bought. 
I was very excited to find a package of raw seeds containing
 a combination of pumpkin and sunflower seeds only.
 Some of the other packages had a variety of seeds, some of 
which I had never heard of.  For the dried fruit I used golden raisins 
and snipped apricots. Baking the oats with the slivered almonds and seeds
 gave off such a delicious aroma that I knew this would be a winner. The
 hardest part of the whole recipe was waiting the 3 hours for the 
granola to set up, but it was well worth the wait. 
The bars are incredible.
 Jim and I really enjoyed them. 
Per Tricia~
I was tickled that I ended up with this recipe the week the boys went 
back to college. Yes, they were packed right up - right after we tasted a couple. 
They did not disappoint and frankly, I was tickled to find a recipe for these. 
I had not thought to make them at home but they were truly a snap
 to knock out. I also chuckled when I read Dorie's instructions to
 "press down with authority" prior to cooling. I even read it out loud 
to my husband, explaining that this is why I appreciate her 
cookbooks so much. It is like having her right there along side. 
I selected dried strawberries and apricots for this first effort  but 
also stockpiled dried blueberries and raisins in order to make some 
more right away......yes, they are that good !

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday Card Recipe Exchange


Per Nana~
Since I did not read the information about the cookie exchange correctly, I did not include a recipe with my cards.  However I would like to share this with you now. 

About 19 years ago, before I retired, a co-worker gave me this recipe for Italian Ricotta cookies. I have made them every Christmas since then and passed the recipe to my granddaughters. (My own Tricia is not interested because she knows I will be making them, so why bother.) 

The four grandchildren have renamed them "Nana Cookies" and when I mention that I might skip them each year, they all have something to say about that. 

Italian Ricotta Cookies

  1. Cream together 1/2 lb butter and 2 cups of sugar. Add 2 eggs, one 15 oz container of Ricotta Cheese, 1 tsp vanilla and mix well.
  2. Sift together 4 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt. 
  3. Combine the two mixtures and drop by a teaspoonful onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. (Do not use a cookie scoop)
  4. Bake 8-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until set. Bottom of cookie should be lightly browned. 
  5. Frost with mixture of confectioner's sugar, milk and almond flavoring  (see below)
Frosting
  •  1 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar. Very important to SIFT.
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
Drizzle over the cookies and then tope with colored sugar sprinkles.
 I used red and green for the holiday. Enjoy !

Per Tricia~
I will admit that I wasn't sure how this recipe exchange was going to work,
 or that I would have time for another "to do" during the busy holiday season- 
but I knew how fun the card exchange had been in prior years so there 
was no way I was going to sit this one out.
Dorista cards proudly displayed on my pantry door in the kitchen ~
As each holiday card came through with a shared recipe I found that it 
was even more special than I could have anticipated.The reality that tried 
and true (or family recipes, or both) recipes were being exchanged by a 
group of folks that are clearly dedicated to finding only the best recipes 
...hit home. The "street cred" of the Doristas is quite high, so when they
 have shared something to make in the kitchen it carries some value. 
 I can easily and honestly say I plan to make every single recipe.
These do not get "mixed in" the general population of holiday cards !
                         
I also shared with my family that I was surprisingly touched by the sentiment
 that was mailed along with these recipes and now when I plan to make a dish
 it will be because these are "Cher's Peanut Butter Cookies" or "Teresa's 
Whipped Shortbread" or "Guyla's  special cocktail- the Apple Cider Sidecar".  
Yup- this already much enjoyed card tradition actually became even more 
special this year. Thanks to all that shared ~whether it was a card, a recipe
 or simply joining in our French Friday adventures at some point this year !

I ultimately selected Tammy Circeo's Lemon Sugar Cookies
 because frankly, they had me at their name. I LOVE lemon and
 the sugary lemony combo for a cookie sealed the decision. 
They did not disappoint. Crazy easy and so, so yummy.
 My entire family enjoyed them and I took a container to Nana's for 
Christmas Eve, where she and my Dad both gave rave reviews too. The 
subtle lemon flavor has a great balance to the original sugar cookie recipe. 
This is a keeper for sure. 
Thanks Tammy !

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gingerbread Bûche de Noël - Baking Chez Moi


Per Nana ~
This is a recipe I have always wanted to make and was excited that it was 
chosen for this week. I prepared each portion of the recipe separately so 
that I could concentrate without being overwhelmed. I made the candied
 pralines, which was quite easy and a new experience, and Jim loved them. 
As I read through the recipe, as each new step was mentioned I thought it 
would not all work. But with Dorie's instructions, it all worked beautifully. 
Removing the cake from the sheet pan was a trying experience, fortunately
 it came away so easily.  I managed to then roll it up without breaking or 
cracking the cake. By the time I prepared the frosting I realized I did not
 have a candy thermometer, so I just guessed at the temperature and when 
I poured the mixture into the egg whites it actually worked. 
Score one for Nana.
  All kidding aside, it is really not as hard as it looks and I 
am happy to be able to say I conquered the whole process.
 Tricia~
So many firsts with this single recipe. I had not attempted a 
bûche de noël before but as I followed along with Dorie's recipe
 from "Baking Chez Moi", I realized that I had not made sponge cake 
like this one, nor made the delicious candied pecans and definitely 
never tried a marshmallow meringue icing like this. It made me 
wonder what I had been baking all these years. 
I also had to chuckle because like any new learning experience, it seemed 
quite simple while I watched the video on Youtube of Dorie making it.  
Very straight forward. Kind of like watching my math teacher do long 
division on the blackboard many years ago. I was right there along side, 
until I got handed a sheet of paper and had to do a problem by myself. 
I am actually embarrassed to admit that I had to watch that Youtube 
video 4 or 5 times to double check what was being unwrapped when.
 Ah, nothing like a new adventure. 
While my kitchen never took such a direct hit (especially from 
confectioner's sugar) as it did with this recipe, it truly was a fun 
and forgiving cake..... bearing in mind that many sins will be
 covered with that amazing frosting. I am so pleased to have
 conquered this "bragging rights worthy" holiday dessert. 
Now on to the Croquembouche !  
(kidding...maybe next year...)
While we do not normally publish recipes from Dorie's books, we are 
permitted when the recipe was shared with the media by the publisher. 
This is one of them. 
The link below will take you to the actual recipe. 

http://www.npr.org/2014/12/22/371279552/yule-have-to-try-this-gingerbread-buche-de-noel

 Happy Holidays ~