Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers-Heart-Shaped Nougatine with Caramel Semifreddo

Print Friendly and PDF This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux

Although I had planned on making the savory tuiles, the nougatine recipe fascinated me as I have never seen something that cooks up like a brittle, yet has to be rolled out like a pie crust, then cut with cookie cutters or rolled over a form. With Valentines Day coming up, heart shaped nougatine paired with an almond or caramel mousse popped into my head. My inspiration for the caramel semifreddo came from a recipe in the Gelato book, by Pamela Sheldon Johns, a cookbook author and culinary workshop teacher who lives in Tuscany.

I made half the recipe for the nougatine which was ample. even then. Quick work is needed to cut out the shapes before the nougatine cools. I placed a warm towel underneath my pan which was easier for me than placing the pan in the warm oven. After cutting the shapes I needed, I broke the remaining, by then, brittle into large pieces to serve with ice cream and the leftover caramel sauce. The sliced almonds would be a better choice as the slivered ones are hard to cut through with the cookie cutters.

Thanks to Karen of bakemyday and Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte for choosing this months challenge.

From Michel Roux: Finest Desserts

5.1/4 cups / 500 grams sliced almonds
(or 4.1/3 cups/500 grams slivered almonds)
3.1/3 cups / 660 grams sugar
4 tbs / 60 grams butter (optional)
2 tbs oil (vegetable, sunflower, peanut)

Makes 2.3/4 lbs/1.2 kgs! (This is the yield of the recipe given in the book, feel free to downsize!)
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Preheat oven: 180C/350F

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned. Cook the sugar in a heavy based saucepan over low heat, stirring gently and continuously with a spatula, until it melts to a light golden caramel. Add the almonds and stir over low heat for 1 minute, then stir in the butter until completely absorbed. (This is not essential, but will give the nougat an added sheen) Pour the nougatine onto an oiled baking sheet.

Shaping: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable. Work with one piece at a time, of a size appropriate to the shape you want. Roll out each piece on a warm, lightly oiled baking sheet or lightly oiled marbled surface. It is essential to work quickly, since the nougatine rapidly becomes brittle. Heat the nougatine in a microwave oven for a few seconds only to soften it if needed.

Roll the nougatine into the appropriate thickness for your desired shape, but never thicker than 1/8 inch or 3 mm. Quickly cut out your chosen shapes using cookie cutters, or the blade or heel of a chef’s knife. To mold the nougatine, drape it very rapidly over the mold so that it follows the shape and contours. Leave until completely cold before removing from the mold.
Or, cut out and using your fingers or a knife, push into folds or pleats… use as a basket, twirl round a knitting needle..

Nougatine based shapes can be made two or three days in advance, Keep them in a very dry place and do not fill with something like a mousse more than 2 hours prior to serving.

Caramel Semifreddo

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups milk, scalded
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1 cup crushed amaretti cookies

In a medium saucepan, combine the 1/4 cup sugar and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook until the mixture turns a rich caramel color. Stir in the hot milk and place in a hot water bath to keep warm.
In a blender, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until very thick. With the blender running, add half of the hot caramel-milk mixture slowly so that the eggs don't curdle. When the milk has been incorporated, add the remaining caramel. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat and place it in a cold water bath. Stir 2 minutes to stop the cooking and cool the mixture. Chill thoroughly. When mixture has completely cooled, whip the cream into soft peaks and fold into the custard mixture.
Pour half of the mixture into a chilled eight-cup terrine or individual ramekins or small dessert glasses if you are not unmolding the terrine, but serving it like a mousse or pudding. Sprinkle with half of the crushed amaretti. Pour in the remaining mixture and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
To unmold, dip the pan briefly into a pan of warm water and loosen the edges with a sharp knife. Cover with the serving platter, invert and remove mold. Drizzle with caramel sauce, sprinkle with the remaining amaretti, and serve at once.
Serves 10.
Caramel sauce recipe from Simply Recipes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fresh Ginger Chocolate Cake-Tuesdays with Dorie

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Heather from Sherry Trifle chose a very straightforward chocolate cake laden with three forms of ginger-freshly grated, ground and stem ginger. I'm sure there are some embellishments that can be done with this cake, but I saw no reason to "mess with a good thing", so to speak. Stem ginger can be ordered online which I had no time to do or can be purchased at an Oriental grocer, again I had no time to track down a grocer that carried it. I just omitted it, but added candied ginger to whipped cream topping.

Head over to Heather's blog for the recipe. If you have the book, "Baking From My Home to Yours, the recipe is on page 212.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blood Orange Marmalade

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"The bloods are in", the cashier said as she spied the blood oranges in my cart. To her friend standing by her, she asked,"Have you ever tasted a blood orange?" Not only had she tasted blood oranges, but the lucky friend had an aunt in California who grew both blood orange and avocado trees. Quite appealing to someone from Georgia whose only experience with citrus trees was with a mandarin orange or satsuma that I took a big chance on planting one year and was amazed that it bore lovely oranges year by year. When I moved, I missed the orange tree much more than I missed the house.

Of all the food related photos that I have taken, I think the blood orange has been my favorite subject. Its lovely orange skin flushed with red is only a slight glimpse of what lies beneath. The flesh of the blood orange is vibrant with shades of pink, crimson red and the color of burgundy wine in some cases.

Blood oranges are in season here in the US from December to May, but seem to be most prevalent during the winter months. Buy fruit that are heavy and avoid any with soft spots or brown areas. Refrigerate and the fruit will last about two weeks.

Blood Orange Marmalade


2 cups sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups water, divided
1 blood orange or regular orange, thinly sliced with peel into rounds, seeded if necessary
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Campari


Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and orange slices in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low; cook until orange peel is tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Pour into strainer set over medium bowl. Chop orange slices and reserve; discard syrup.

Combine remaining 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and lemon juice in another heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add chopped orange. Reduce heat to low; cook until orange is very tender and rind is translucent, about 30 minutes longer. Mix in Campari. Transfer marmalade to small bowl and cool. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Recipe from Bon Appetit

More on Blood Oranges here and here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pickled Chipotle Red Onions

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These sweet-hot and crisp red onions are perfect as garnishes for salads, burgers, Mexican food and any other food or condiment you would like to kick up a few notches. Simple to make, too. The heat comes from chipotle chile powder which is readily available in your grocery store, or you can make your own with dried chipotle chilies. Just toast the whole dried chilies in a cast iron skillet until fragrant, cool and remove seeds and stems, then grind in a blender.

Because these red onions are not cooked, the onion flavor may be too strong for some tastes. To tame them, give them a five minute soak in ice water, drain and use as is, or continue with the pickling recipe Another method is to soak the onions in hot water first, then the ice water or another entirely different way would be to soak the onions in cold milk. The first time I made the chipotle pickled red onions, I didn't soak them and the second time, I soaked them in the ice water for five minutes. The time soaking in the ice water helped keep the onions crisp for a longer time.


1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp chipotle powder, or to taste
2 medium red onions, cut into rings
salt to taste

Combine vinegar, sugar, chipotle powder and salt to taste in a medium bowl.Stir to dissolve sugar. Place the onions in a heavy-duty freezer zip bag and pour the marinade over the onions. Toss gently to coat with marinade. Close zip bag and place in a bowl or shallow plate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, moving the mixture around a couple of times during refrigeration to evenly distribute marinade. Drain before serving.

Pickled Chipotle Red Onions on Foodista

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fiery Corn and Pepper Muffins with Jalapeno Jam-Tuesdays with Dorie

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Happy to see a savory recipe this week, I was more excited that it featured cornmeal. In my years of baking, I have made more cornbread than any other bread,adding a little cornmeal to my pizza dough and even sneaking some in a green chile and cheese baguette for a more rustic texture. Somewhere there's a definite cornmeal gene in my family. Stone ground cornmeal is a preference which I buy from Old Mill of Guildford.

As a Southerner, I never make my cornbread with sugar, but with these muffins, I caved in somewhat and added just a tablespoon. Instead of the plain chile powder, I used chipotle chile powder which added some more heat and a smokiness to the muffins.

With loads of color and Southwestern flavors, this muffin is a great complement not only as a traditional accompaniment to a bowl of chile or soup, but it shines as a breakfast item with butter and jam. I've made this jalapeno jam a number of times. It's good as a glaze for grilled chicken and pork.

Jalapeno Preserves

3 medium red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
6 red or green jalapenos, minced
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
3/4 cup liquid pectin

In a large, heavy saucepan over high heat, combine peppers, sugar and red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Watch carefully and don't let mixture boil over.

Turn off heat and add pectin. Bring back to a rolling boil. Pour into sterilized jars and seal according to manufacturer's instructions. May also be refrigerated covered in a non-reactive bowl or other vessel for 6 months.
Makes 6 cups.

Thanks to Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake for choosing this week's TWD recipe. You can find the recipe on her blog.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

French Pear Tart with Pistachio Nut Crust and Candied Pistachios-Tuesdays with Dorie

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We are honored to have Dorie Greenspan host this first Tuesdays with Dorie of 2009. As you all know by now, Dorie wrote "Baking From My Home to Yours", the brilliant book of baking that our Tuesdays with Dorie group are going through recipe by recipe, writing and photographing the results on our blogs, then getting feedback via comments.

One of the things I loved about making this tart was I could make the almond cream a day or two before, the food processor made easy work of the crust and canned or fresh poached pears were an option. I love poaching my own pears, but the canned ones are peeled much smoother than mine would be. I bought jarred pears so I could could pick ones that similar in shape and size.

Ground pistachios in the crust added another element to the French pear tart and I took the theme a little farther by caramelizing some whole pistachios to garnish. Recipe below.

Caramelized Pistachios

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, warmed or at room temperature

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and place it on the counter near your stove. Put the sugar and water in a small nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium high heat and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Then bring to a boil and cook with out stirring until the sugar becomes amber-colored. Add the nuts and stir, without stopping, until the sugar becomes a dark caramel color and coats the nuts. Turn the nuts out onto the parchment or silicone baking mat, spreading them out as best you can.

When the nuts are cool, you can use them whole or chop them. Keep them in a cool, dry place until needed.

Dorie will have the French Pear Tart up on her website Dorie Greenspan. Also, check out the TWD blogroll for other variations on this very easy and elegant very French tart.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Ham and Biscuits with Black Mission Fig Jam

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I grew up eating my grandmother's wonderful biscuits that she mixed by hand in a special wooden bowl that was only used for making biscuits, or dumplings for her juicy peach cobbler. Somehow, I didn't inherit the biscuit gene, so usually buy frozen biscuits, but when I saw an interesting biscuit recipe in January's Bon Appetit magazine, I thought I would give them a try. After mixing the biscuit ingredients, the dough was patted out into a rectangle and dotted with thin frozen butter slices, then folded letter style before cutting into biscuit shapes. The effect being similar to making croissants where when baked, the frozen butter releases moisture and the steam allows the dough layers to rise up ensuring flakiness in the biscuits.

I always have dried fruit on hand, especially figs which have many uses in my winter kitchen. The Black Mission is my favorite fig. Brought to California by Spanish missionaries from Mexico, the Black Mission fig was first planted in the garden of the Mission San Diego de Alcala near San Diego in 1769 and subsequently planted in the gardens of the string of missions stretching from San Diego to Sonoma, thus the name "mission" fig. Not really black, the mission fig is a dark black purple color. With these figs, I have made brandied figs, granola with chopped figs and have used the figs as part of a stuffing for pork. They are quite versatile and are a powerhouse of nutrition.

The biscuit sandwiches are perfect for a Sunday breakfast or when made smaller, a tasty appetizer for a cocktail party.


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk, plus extra for brushing biscuits
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, very thinly sliced, then frozen.

Preheat oven to 425° F. Whisk first 4 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Rub in shortening until like coarse cornmeal; some lumps will remain. Gradually add the buttermilk and work with a fork until dough comes together. Turn dough out on floured surface. Pat out into a 1/4 inch rectangle (about 10x15 inches). Arrange frozen butter in a single layer over the top two thirds of the dough. Fold bottom third over center and top third over center, like folding a business letter. Pat out dough to 3/4 inch thick rectangle. Using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter cut out biscuits, pressing straight down without twisting. Twisting will keep the layers from forming while baking the biscuits. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. With bits of leftover dough, press again to 3/4 inch thickness and cut more biscuits. Makes 12 total. Brush with buttermilk.

Bake biscuits until puffy and golden, about 20 minutes. To make the biscuit sandwiches, allow biscuits to cool for 15 minutes.

Ingredients for biscuit sandwiches

butter for spreading on cut biscuits
12 ounces very thinly sliced country ham, warmed
Black Mission Fig Jam(recipe below)

Black Mission Fig Jam

1/2 pound dried black Mission figs, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 cup (or more) water
2 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses-(if you don't have molasses, you can substitute with 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar and 1 tablespoon water mixed together.
3/4 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Combine figs, 1 cup water and all remaining ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered until figs are very soft and jam is thick, stirring and adding more water by tablespoonfuls to keep jam from sticking, about 45 minutes. Puree jam in food processor, adding water by teaspoonfuls to thin, if desired. Transfer to bowl. Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

To assemble ham and biscuits

Preheat broiler. Slice biscuits in half using a serrated knife. Spread room temperature butter over each side. Place under broiler until butter melts and biscuits are lightly browned.

Spread bottom halves of biscuits with jam, top each with a folded slice of ham. Top with top half of biscuits. Makes 12 ham biscuits. Original recipe here on Bon Appetit.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year-2009

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"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.