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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring bakers-Opera Cake

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I was singing soprano when I saw the one-half cup of flour still sitting on the counter after I had spread the batter into the jelly roll pans. Jeez, and the joconde looked like the easiest part of this opera cake! Lucky my brother-in-law's chickens are laying like mad so I had plenty of eggs to start over again. Not so for the almond meal! That means another trip to the grocery store! I race out of the house, hop in the car and in minutes had the almond meal. As I was leaving the store, I stole a glance at myself in the mirror. Was that cake batter in my hair? No wonder the clerk looked at me strange.

Back in the kitchen now, so far, so good. The cakes are in the oven and look good. One catastrophe averted. Hopefully, the rest of the cake will go smoothly. I chose to flavor my soaking syrup with limoncello liqueur. As I was making the flavored syrup for the buttercream, I mistakenly added the lemon zest to the syrup at the beginning of the cooking process. I was amazed at the intense flavor of the lemon. The buttercream turned out very good, too.For the white chocolate mousse, I used some white chocolate that had little chunks of coconut added. I could have eaten the entire ganache myself, it was so good!

My opera cake went together as well as could be expected considering I hardly ever make fancy cakes, but with practice, I could see myself becoming half way competent. The cake tasted fabulous! Another notch in my belt for the Daring Bakers challenge. I, too would like to dedicate my opera cake to Barbara of winoandfoodies who is an amazing lady.

Lemon Opera Cake with Coconut White Chocolate Mousse

Cake ingredients

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to over mix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

Limoncello Syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan

Ingredients:

½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. limoncello

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Lemon Buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)


What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula

Ingredients:

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water

1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
zest of one lemon

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in the lemon zest and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

Coconut White Chocolate Mousse

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer

Ingredients:

7 ounces white chocolate with coconut
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)


1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. A
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

White Chocolate Glaze

(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler

Ingredients:

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.



Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie-Pecan Sticky Buns

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Memorial Day weekend was a blast! We were in Savannah for four days of fun in the sun. Our little boat was loaded with a grill, beach chairs and lots of food for our day trips to Wassaw Island, only accessible by boat, but with a lovely natural beach. Not the Caribbean, but close enough.

The sticky buns were a welcome sight at breakfast as you can see from the photo below. The brioche dough was made several days before, divided into two flat pieces and frozen. I'm an early riser, so was able to finish the recipe and have them piping hot by the time when everyone awoke. I managed to get some quick photos before they were totally consumed. Madam Chow chose this recipe for this edition of TWD and it was a great pick.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Makes 15 buns
For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)
For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).
To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.
To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.
To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).
With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.
Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.
Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What You'll Need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):
2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm
What You'll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)
Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie-Traditional Madeleines

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I knew I had some madeleine pans somewhere,but I hadn't seen them in a few years, so figured they were packed up with all the other baking pans and kitchen "necessities" that I had no room for. When I found them, I also found a 24 hole cupcake pan, a stainless steel fish poacher with brass handles shaped like fins, and a ulu set that I have bought while on an Alaska cruise. Forgotten "necessities". I don't know why I bought three of the madeline pans, but I'm happy to see them again.

These little scallop shell beauties were fun to make. I made my batter late in the evening so it had an overnight rest in the refrigerator. Next morning, I made sure I buttered and floured my madeleine pans before filling them nearly to the top. After about 14 minutes, they were light golden brown. I resisted eating them as they were going to be dessert with strawberries and ice cream at a neighbor's house that night.

Thanks to Tara of Smells Like Home for choosing Dorie's Traditional Madeleines. Be sure and check out all the TWD posts.


Traditional Madeleines

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working in a mixer bowl, or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines. (For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge; see below for instructions on prepping the pans.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Or, if you have a nonstick pan (or pans), give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don't worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven's heat will take care of that. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch(es), making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pan(s) before baking.

Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioners' sugar.

Makes 12 large or 36 mini cookies

Serving: Serve the cookies when they are only slightly warm or when they reach room temperature, with tea or espresso.

Storing: Although the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, the madeleines should be eaten soon after they are made. You can keep them overnight in a sealed container, but they really are better on day 1. If you must store them, wrap them airtight and freeze them; they'll keep for up to 2 months.


PS-My husband figured out that I had misspelled madeleines-sorry about the lapse!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Three Salsas- Black Bean-Mango, Avocado -Tomatillo and Pineapple-Tomatillo

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I have always been a fan of Bobby Flay and have several of his cookbooks that contain favorites which I serve on a regular basis, so I know his recipes work; unlike some of the other celebrity chefs and food magazine mavens whose photos look gorgeous, but the recipes come up short. Flay's innovative Southwestern cuisine is colorful and flavors are bold as in the title of his first book, "Bold American Food". Drizzles of red and green oils and sauces compliment nearly every savory dish he creates. A feast for the eyes as well.

These three salsas, although simple to make, have complex flavors and textures. Each contain some of the same ingredients, such as red onion, cilantro and jalapenos,so while you are chopping for one salsa, you can make the three of them with just a little more effort.

Great with grilled sea scallops, black bean mango salsa is also good as a topping for nachos. Be sure and use ripe mangoes for this salsa. At Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay's flagship restaurant, this salsa is a major part of Seared Tuna Tostada. I can't wait to make that dish!

Black Bean Mango Salsa

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and finely diced. See how to cut a mango here.
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno chile or serrano chile, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, depending on the sweetness of the mango
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the beans, mango, onion, chile, lime juice, honey, oil and cilantro in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. This can be prepared and refrigerated , covered, up to one day ahead. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

In making the Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, I deviated a bit from Flay's recipe. Here is my version.

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

2 ripe Hass avocados.
( See previous post on Hass avocados here.)
1 large tomatillo, husked, washed and diced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all but cilantro in a medium bowl. Fold in the cilantro until combined. This can be made up to 30 minutes in advance and refrigerated. Makes about 2 cups.


Pineapple-Tomatillo Salsa

1 cup finely diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup finely diced tomatillos (about 3 tomatillos)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.Can be made up to one day in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 2 cups.
Recipes from Bobby Flay's "Mesa Grill Cookbook".

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie-Florida Pie

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I've eaten terrific key lime pies in restaurants in Key West and have made numerous similar pies at home, but none had a intriguing bottom layer of coconut filling as in Dorie's Florida Pie. A tropical treat chosen by Dianne of Dianne's Dishes as her pick for TWD Tuesdays with Dorie is a group of bakers preparing and posting about every recipe in Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking From My Home to Yours". As of today, around 20 of those recipes have been completed. It's a great project.

Dorie's childhood memories of chocolate covered coconut patties, treats brought back from Florida by her parents, inspired her to add this luscious thick filling of sweetened coconut as a bottom layer to the ever popular key lime pie made with key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and eggs and topped with meringue.

The pie came together quite well, however, the graham cracker crust was a little too crumbly and needed more butter than the original recipe. I used boxed graham cracker crumbs for the first time, but they were a little too fine, so I recommend crumbling your own in a food processor until they are of the consistency you like. The coconut filling took most of the preparation time waiting for the filling to reduce by half. Using clean wooden ruler to measure the filling before the reducing process made it much easier to see when it had thickened and reduced.

A nice twist on an old favorite. Check out other Tuesdays with Dorie's posts on this great little dessert.



Florida Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust ,( recipe follows) fully baked and cooled, or a store-bought crust
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, separated
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes)
1/4 cup of sugar

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicone mat.

Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the reaming juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.

Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.

To Finish the Pie with Meringue:

Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.

Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you've got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted (I would add two more tablespoons)

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Tip the ingredients into a 9-inch pie pan and using your fingers, pat evenly until the crumb mixture covers the bottom and sides uniformly. Freeze the pan while you preheat the oven. The crust can be frozen for two months covered.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pan on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day 2008

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Today is Mother's Day in the USA.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

DMBLGIT Winner-Edibility, April 2008

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Thanks to Sara of ms.Adventures in Italy for hosting the April edition of DMBLGIT, a very cool monthly competition of food bloggers. Also, thanks to the judges, Helen of Tartelette,Sara of The Kitchen Pantry, Susan of Food Blogga and Robyn of The Girl Who Are Everything for their effort in judging what must be a difficult task trying to decide who is chosen for each category. The photos get better and better each month!

I am very proud of having been chosen Edibility winner. Check out all the winners here. You can read my post here.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Strawberries and Toasted Walnut Biscotti

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My local berry farm just opened its roadside stand a few weeks ago and as it is on my way to just about everywhere, I have been stopping by nearly everyday buying buckets for friends and family, plus a few for myself, too. Once you have had really good strawberries, you can never go back to the impostors in the grocery store. Last year, I froze quite a few of these luscious berries to have for desserts in the winter.

After a heavy meal, this simple dessert is colorful and the toasted walnut biscotti adds a little crunch. These little biscuits freeze well, so can be made ahead. The whipped topping is a mixture of sour cream and heavy cream whipped with a little sugar and will keep several days in the refrigerator. The strawberries can be sliced and sugar added several hours ahead of your meal.

Strawberries

3 cups washed, sliced fresh strawberries
sugar to taste

Combine fruit and sugar. Refrigerate for an hour or so.

I wrote a previous post on biscotti here. In the Spring 2007 issue of Baker's Companion, there is an article on creating authentic Italian biscotti which gives step-by-step instructions to ensure success in making these lovely little crisp cookies. Without going through all the steps in detail, here are three important ones.

1. To keep the biscotti from crumbling after the first baking, spritz the baked dough lightly, but thoroughly with water taking care to cover the sides and the top. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. This is an important step especially if your biscotti contains nuts and fruits.

2. When cutting the biscotti for the second bake, use a serrated knife and cut with a straight up and down motion. This steps ensures that the biscotti will stand up for the second bake.

3. Instead of flipping the biscotti over to bake a third time, stand them up on the prepared baking sheet so the air can circulate around them as they bake.

Toasted Walnut Biscotti

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar (4 3/4 oz)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup toasted,chopped walnuts
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet (18x 13-inch) with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract until creamy looking. When properly beaten, the egg/sugar mixture will be thick and lemon colored and drop in a ribbon from the beater.

Lower the mixer speed and add the flour beating gently until incorporated. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and shape into a rough log about 14 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide and about 3/4 inch thick. Smooth the top of the dough with a wet dough scraper.

Bake the dough for 25 minutes. With the nuts, it may be necessary to bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on pan from 5-25 minutes. I let mine cool about 15 minutes. Spritz with water. Let stand 5 minutes. This will soften the crust to make slicing easier.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Wait 5 minutes, then cut the biscotti on the diagonal into 3/4 inch slices using a serrated knife and straight up and down motions. If you slice the biscotti wider at the top than the bottom, they will topple over while baking the second time.

Set the biscotti upright on the prepared baking sheet 1/2 inch apart so the air can circulate. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container to preserve their texture. If the biscotti aren't as hard as you like, store uncovered overnight to continue drying. Biscotti can be stored at room temperature for two weeks; for longer storage, wrap airtight and freeze. Yield 14-16.

Whipped Topping

1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar (add more if desired, to taste)
8 ounces sour cream, you can use low fat sour cream, but not nonfat

Whip cream at low speed with electric beater or by hand. Don't overbeat or it will turn to butter. With wire whip, fold in the sugar, mixing well. Drain any water off sour cream. Fold it into the whipped cream. Add more sugar if desired. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Use as needed. Keeps well.

Original whipped topping recipe here.

To assemble dessert

Spoon strawberries into desired dessert dishes, place biscotti in glass and spoon topping over strawberries. How easy is that?
Serves about 4.


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