Thursday, March 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: Homemade Lasagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I kinda broke the rules on this one. We were supposed to make handmade spinach lasagna noodles and pair it with a white (b├ęchamel) sauce and optionally a ragu sauce. I've considered posting "dinner foods" on here before, but since I haven't yet, this wasn't going to be the first time. I did handmake my noodles, and I did use a white sauce. But they were chocolate noodles and the sauce was just mascarpone cheese. Unfortunately, the least tastey part of my lasagna was the pasta. It smelled and tasted chocolate-y right up until I boiled it, but once boiled it lost all flavor and just tasted like regular old pasta. I've had chocolate pasta before (from the Pike Place market, one of the best places on earth!), and it too only tasted like regular pasta after being boiled. So I wasn't really dissapointed, and I planned ahead knowing I'd need to compensate. Thus the feuillete layer (really just chocolate covered rice crispies, but why not use a French word!).
Well, at least I can cross "homemade pasta" off my list. Definately not doing it again, at least without a machine. All that rolling left my hands bruised and my arms sore!


Chocolate Pasta (replace 1/4 c flour with 1/4 c cocoa powder, and 1 T cinnamon, use 2 more eggs, and oh, yeah, don't put in spinach!)
Feuillete (cover rice crispies in melted chocolate and press thin between two sheets parchment paper)
Sliced strawberries
Mascarpone cheese

Monday, March 23, 2009

ICE Challenge: Nuts and Seeds

It was almost spring for two days over the weekend. Now it's snowing. It's time for some serious sunshine. Here's my winter-needs-to-be-over-poem for you to enjoy (and mock, feel free)...

Skirts and grass, you know my love
Strong with courage
it's easier to dream in the sun.
Pink and brown lead to green
and green
With some rain, not cold
Eat better, sleep better, run better, run faster
Then pause, and live.
I smell your sweet lilac breath
Wishing for those library days of yesterday
Wishing for those stargazing evenings of tomorrow
Dreams are easier in the sun
Life is dreams in the sun.
Dreams are life in the sun.

I'm finally doing the Iron Cupcake Challenge again this month. This month is nuts and grains. I've always wanted to incorporate more healthy desserts into my menu, and while this isn't "healthy" by any stretch of the imagination, there are some healthy components, so it's not all guilt! The cake is a yellow cake with polenta and quinoa. I've mentioned polenta before, but chances are you haven't heard of quinoa. It's seems to be a a food that only vegetarians/vegans know about. It's a South American (pseudo)grain that is high in complete proteins. It's one of the best foods you can eat if you don't eat meat. Unfortunately, it's also gross. Not just bland, the flavor is really unappealing. BUT, put with other foods so the flavor is covered up it's really good. It has an unusual crunchy texture that I really enjoy given other flavors are involved. So I threw a handfull of quinoa in the batter, and suddenly you have a protein rich cake!
The mousse is only slightly nutmeg flavored, and the overall flavor of the cake is pretty gentle. A nice light dessert, you definitely won't feel overwhelmed (or incredibly guilty!) eating one.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup polenta
1/4 cup cooked quinoa
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
2/3 cup whole milk, at room temp
6 T butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a large roll pan and cover with parchment paper, spray again. Or prepare as for regular cupcakes.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat butter and sugur until light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs, milk and vanilla. Add egg mixture to flour mixture all at once. Stir until just combined. Add the cooked quinoa.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread out thin. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean and the cake is browned. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Cut out circles the size of your finished cakes.

Nutmeg Mousse

160g heavy cream
160g whole milk
2 whole nutmegs
4 medium-sized egg yolks
80g granulated sugar
25g cornstarch, sifted
2 tsp powdered gelatin
240g whipping cream

Pour the milk and first part of the cream into a saucepan. Add the nutmegs. Heat to boiling, then turn the heat off, cover and let infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the nutmegs. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until white, thick and fluffy. Add the cornstarch, beating carefully to ensure that there are no lumps. While whisking vigorously, pour some of the milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Put infused milk back on the stove on medium heat. Pour yolk mixture back into the milk while whisking vigorously. Keep whisking vigorously until mixture thickens considerably. I've seen that you are supposed to cook it until it coats the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger through the layer on the spoon the line stays. If your cream curdles a bit, just whisk it and then strain. Add the gelatin and let it melt completely. Let cool. Beat the second part of the whipping cream and fold into the cooled egg yolk cream. Let set up a bit (~ 1 hour).

(I used cupcake molds with removable bottoms.)

Cut out parchment paper to line the sides of the molds. Place one cut out piece of cake in the bottom. Spoon mousse on top. Place on more layer of cake, and then spoon one more layer of mousse. Let set up in the fridge at least 2 hours. Optional: roll the top edge of the mousse in finely chopped pecans, and decorate with a flower (I used primroses).

Our March ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:
Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS,, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,, JESSIE STEELE APRONS; TASTE OF HOME books,; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, . And as a special thank you, we would like to once again thank DIANAEVANS - for her participation in the February challenge. An incorrect link was posted and we want to be sure that she gets the recognition she deserves. Thanks again Diana!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chocolate Chip Souffle

I tried really hard to think of a good anecdote to go with this post, but I got nothin' for ya. I'm really blocked right now. Feeling stifled, I guess. Nothing particularly inspiring has come my way recently. At least nothing I've noticed. That is, perhaps, the problem. I'm usually so anxious for spring I start anticipating it in January. But these last couple months I haven't been jonesing for gardening, or the farmer's market, or sandals, or grape hyacinths. So please, leave me inspiring comments - something to help me get my groove back :)

Chocolate Chip Souffle

45 g butter
55 g
200 g whole milk
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1 t vanilla
1 T cornstarch
45 g sugar
1/4 c chopped good quality chocolate

extra butter and sugar for coating

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the bread flour and cook for about 2 minutes to make a roux. Add the hot milk and whisk It will thicken to a paste. Transfer this mixture to a clean bowl. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, continue mixing the roux base to cool it down slightly before we add the egg yolks. When steam stops coming off but it is still warm, add the egg yolks one a time and mix.

In the meantime, start whipping the egg whites. When they are medium peaks, start adding the sugar slowly. Whip to stiff peaks.

Add the vanilla and cornstarch to the roux and egg yolk base. Fold in a third of the meringue to the base and mix to lighten it. Add the
chocolate and the rest of the meringue and fold gently.

Brush inside of ramekins with room temperature butter and coat the sides with sugar. Fill the ramekins with souffle base almost to the top.

Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes depending on the size of the ramekin.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chocolate Tartlettes (and I'm giving in)

I give in, but I'm changing the rules...

The first however many people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you. This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!

2- What I create will be just for you.

3- It'll be done sometime this year.

4- You have no clue what it's going to be. It may be a story. It may be a joke book, autographed picture of myself, handmade bag, or a little invention of my own!I may bake you something and mail it to you. Who knows? ***My rule change: Well, of course, you know it will be food. If you live not close to me, it'll be something that ships well. I also want you to give me an adjective or noun to describe what I'll make for you. An ingredient, a flavor, a feeling, a season, a shape. Be creative, be specific!***

I'm nixing this rule, but if you really want to re-post, go ahead. (The catch is that you must re post this on your blog and offer the same to the first 5 people who do the same on your blog. The first 5 people to do so and leave a comment telling me they did, win a homemade gift by me! Oh, and be sure to post a picture of what you win when you get it! Sounds like fun, right? So, let's play! )

You can't tell, but the tartlettes also have a layer of caramel cream on the bottom. I gave the tartlettes to a friend, so I couldn't cut into them to show you, so you'll just have to trust me ;)

Chocolate Tartlettes

1/2 c crushed Oreos
2 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 c shortening
1/2 c ice water

Cut the shortening into the oreos, flour and salt. Cut in the water. Knead briefly until the dough comes together (you may need extra flour). Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Roll out dough and pre-bake for 15 min at 350 F.

Caramel Layer
adapted from Eric Kayser’s Sweet and Savory Tarts
150 g sugar
125 g cream
pinch salt
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 T flour

Heat the cream and salt on the stove. Meanwhile, dry cook the sugar until it is caramelized. Pour the cream over the caramel, stir until combined. Let cool slightly. Whisk the egg, yolk, and flour together. Slowly pour the caramel into the egg mixture, stirring so it doesn't curdle. Pour into the cooked tart shells and cook for another 15 min at 350 F.

Chocolate Bavarian
found here

Pour the chocolate onto the cooled caramel filled tart shells.

Italian Meringue
150 g sugar
75 g water
110 g eggwhites

Melt the sugar and water on the stove until it reaches 245 F. Start beating the eggwhites when the sugar reaches 225 F. Beat to soft peaks. Add the sugar syrup and continue beating for another 10, until the meringue cools. Spoon on top of the chocolate layer. Brown with a kitchen torch.