Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—Crème Brûlée

Crème Brulée in a ring mold
Just a reminder to enter this month's food photography event, Does My Blog Look Good In This? The deadline is TODAY, Tuesday, September 30th at 11:59 p.m. Click here to read the submission guidelines.

Crème Brûlée, which means "burnt cream", used to be the dessert I'd look for on menus when eating out. A favorite restaurant of ours in Ottawa is West End Station Bistro. We used to go there so often, they knew us. Once, when the babysitter called to say we had to get home right away [baby was hungry and bottle wasn't working], the restaurant let us take home two crème brûlées to broil in our oven. The next day, we brought back the empty ramekins. Now that's customer service!

Since then, I've learned how to make this dessert and own a crème brûlée torch. It's been a fun dessert to bring to dinner parties along with the torch and let everyone caramelize their own sugar top.

It's such a versatile dessert that can be flavored any number of ways. I used Chai tea bags steeped in the milk and cream mixture for one batch. I also added a tablespoon of dulce de leche to the milk/cream mixture in another batch. But my favorite version is the original vanilla one.

There's even a website dedicated to this dessert, and here's a great video showing how to make it.

Playing Around

Frozen Crème Brulée in a pyramidThe recipe I usually use for crème brûlée bakes in a water bath, the oven is set to 300˚F, and the custard bakes for 25-30 minutes. In this version, there is no water bath, the oven is set at a lower temperature (200˚F), and the custard bakes for 1 hour (or more!). So, since it was so jiggly even after extra time in the oven, I popped it into the freezer after it cooled to room temperature. It tasted refreshing this way. In fact, the ingredients for crème brûlée are the same as crème anglaise which is the base for ice cream.


Ingredients for Crème BruléeYou can find the recipe for Crème Brûlée in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger! Thanks to Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake who chose the recipe for this week.

Tasting Notes
This version of crème brûlée was lighter and less dense than the recipes I've used before. It didn't set during baking as much as I expected. However, the taste was amazing. The best part of this dessert is cracking into it with a spoon and getting a mouthful of crunchy sugar with some creamy custard with it. And freezing this version worked well. For the frozen version, a piece of crackly sugar gave it the crunch it needed.
"Amelie has no boyfriend. She tried once or twice, but the results were a letdown. Instead, she cultivates a taste for small pleasures: dipping her hand into sacks of grain, cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon and skipping stones at St. Martin's Canal."
From the script for the movie Amelie
Recipe for Next Week (October 7)
Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake on pages 264 and 265 chosen by Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy.

Another Award
Nikki from Nik Snacks gave me the "You make my day award". Well, she made my day with this one. Nikki actually went to Le Cordon Bleu school, has her own blog, teaches cooking classes, is an Editorial Assistant at a local newspaper, and runs her own catering business! Now that's busy.

I now get to pass on the blog love to some of my favorite blogs:

• Kim from Scrumptious Photography has amazing photos. It's always a treat to see what she's been up to.

• Mari from Mevrouw Cupcake has inspiring takes on everything she makes and her posts are fun to read.

• Tommi from Brown Interior always makes me smile when I read her posts and her recipes are very creative and inspiring.

• Steph from Obsessed with Baking has beautiful photos of all the treats she makes in the kitchen.

• Lynne from Café Lynnylu shows off her talent with a camera with every post!

Thanks so much, Nikki. It means a lot to get an award from you!

Monday, September 29, 2008

DMBLGIT September 2008 Edition—Meet the Judges

I am so excited to present the judges for the Does My Blog Look Good in This? September 2008 Edition. We have an international panel of judges, with representation from Africa, Canada and the United States including expatriates from France and Britain. Together they bring 11 years of food blogging experience to the panel of judges. Thanks to each one of these superb food artists for being willing to give of their time and expertise.

La Tartine Gourmande
Everyone in the food blog world knows the amazing and inspiring Béa Peltre, a French expatriate living in Boston, award-winning author of the food blog La Tartine Gourmande and a regular contributor for the Boston Globe Food section and the French magazine Cuisine Light. She has received numerous DMBLGIT awards (I counted seven, but I may have missed some), has been blogging since November 2005, and hosted DMBLGIT in June 2007. Stunning, inspiring, amazing. Her work resonates with passion, and we all love her for that.

"I've learned that attention to detail is important." — Béa
Photos by Béa from La Tartine Gourmande
Canon 30D

Cookbook Catchall
Sabra, from Cookbook Catchall, is a New York food photographer who has won four DMBLGIT awards and has been nominated for the Inspiring Food Photography Event, which is a monthly poll hosted by Margot from Coffee and Vanilla. Recently, Sabra did a "cook and style" shoot for the New York Times Dining Section. Her interviews and behind-the-scenes posts with famous photographers (Judd Pilossof and last week with Paul Lowe) are captivating as well. She hosted DMBLGIT in March 2008 and has been blogging since June 2006.

"Study light. If it’s natural light you use, for example, learn about the different qualities of light at different times of day, and in different areas of your studio. Learn how to manipulate the light to control it by diffusing, reflecting it, or changing the angle of it relative to your setup, etc. Light is the hardest thing to learn but has the greatest impact on the image." — Sabra
Photos by Sabra from Cookbook Catchall
Nikon D80

Matt, from wrightfood, is a British expatriate living in Seattle who has a passion for good clean food, especially seafood. He won the first place DMBLGIT award in June 2008 for his beautiful photo of Halibut, saffron-mussel liquor velouté, fava beans, watercress and fresh peas. He's even written a cookbook and has been blogging since June 2007.

"Really, really think about plating. Arrange food so that it looks very presentable - even if it means making your portions much smaller than you would normally eat - just for the photo. When you are done, pile your plate high if you wish!" — Matt
Photos by Matt from wrightfood
Canon 10D

Hannah, from BitterSweet, is the author of the book My Sweet Vegan, which is an amazing collection of original recipes. Hannah began experimenting in the kitchen at a very young age, was one of six finalists for the Budget Recipe Challenge, and winner of the Food Blog Awards in 2007 and the Veg Bloggy Awards in 2008. Recently, she published a post about her food photography class with Lou Manna (who helped judge March 2008 DMBLGIT with Sabra). She is an inspiration who has been blogging since February 2006.

"You should never give up on a shot until you love it. Settings can be rearranged, lighting can be adjusted, food can be restyled or remade if needed, and with a bit of work, any sort of dish can be photographed beautifully." — Hannah
Photos by Hannah from BitterSweet
Canon Digital Rebel XTi

Kate, from Aapplemint, wowed all of us last month with her stunning Honey In a Spoon photo. She lives in Ghana, West Africa, but has travelled and blogged about Hong Kong, Mumbai, China and Ethiopia. She has been nominated for the Blogger's Choice Awards 2008 in the "Best Food Blog" category and is described as having "a passion and panache for beautiful food." She has been blogging since January 2007.

"Always try and visualize what your final shot will look like. Carefully think of every detail beforehand. The kind of props you will use, the background, the composition. Then when ready, make sure you have ample light and the food is fresh. Remember, food should be clicked as if you were about to eat it right away. It makes them more appealing and mouth watering. Don't just take a shot, until you are convinced that the photo has made your taste buds tingle!" — Kate
Photos by Kate from Aapplemint
Canon 400D

I will be providing some input on the judging front as well. Keep those submissions coming! Entries must be received by September 30, 2008 [tomorrow] at midnight EST (U.S.)


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers—Lavash Crackers and Honeydew-Peach Salsa

Lavash Crackers and Honeydew-Peach SalsaThis month, the Daring Bakers were asked to make Lavash Crackers with a vegan and gluten-free dip. Lavash is a soft, thin flatbread of Armenian origin. (This is going to be an "almost wordless" post since it's been a busy month! Just a reminder to enter this month's food photography event, Does My Blog Look Good In This? The deadline is Tuesday, September 30th at 11:59 p.m. Click here to read the submission guidelines.)
Vegan means no animal products of any kind.

Gluten-Free means no wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, and triticale, as well as the use of gluten as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent.
For my Lavash crackers, I sprinkled toasted sesame seeds and black pepper on them. I used half the dough to make cracker bowls by cutting the dough into squares and carefully laying the square inside a sprayed ramekin.

To see the different versions of Lavash crackers and dips cropping up all over the foodblogosphere, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll. Thanks to Natalie from Gluten-A-Go-Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl who hosted this month’s Daring Bakers event.

Recipe for Lavash Crackers

ingredients for Lavash Crackers and Honeydew-Peach Salsafrom The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6)

Note: The following recipe includes directions for both gluten-free crackers (care of Natalie from Gluten-A-Go-Go) and traditional all-purpose flour crackers.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 tbsp (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
1 tbsp (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350˚F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Recipe for Honeydew-Peach Salsa
from The Splended Table

Try the salsa with grilled seafood and poultry, or over rice noodles. Chile could be added to taste. It is best eaten within several hours of preparation. Use organic ingredients if at all possible.

juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 Red Fresno and 1 Hot Yellow minced chile (seeds removed)
1 to 2 tsp sugar,
1/2 ripe sweet honeydew melon, cubed into bite-sized pieces
4 small, ripe peaches, peeled and cubed into bite-sized pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup minced fresh coriander, or coriander and mint combined

In a medium bowl blend the lime juice, garlic, onion and chilies. Let stand 20 minutes, then blend in sugar and fruits with salt (a generous pinch) and pepper (to make piquant) to taste. Refrigerate up to 3 hours. Fold in fresh herbs just before serving.

Copyright 1997 Lynne Rossetto Kasper, all rights reserved.

Lavash Crackers and Honeydew-Peach SalsaTasting Notes
The crackers were easy to put together and tasted wonderful, even after storing for a day or two. The salsa was a big hit and definitely a recipe worth keeping.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Deadline Looming...DMBLGIT September 2008 Edition

There aren't too many more days, hours, minutes, or seconds left to enter this month's food photography event, Does My Blog Look Good In This? The deadline is Tuesday, September 30th at 11:59 p.m.
"The idea behind the event/contest is to give everyone a chance to enjoy some of the best pictures of the month posted on food blogs. There are so many food blogs now and stories are constantly posted that it's very easy to miss some great posts and pictures. This event takes us back through the food photos."
— Ronald from love Sicily
How do I participate?
Click here to read the submission guidelines.

Several bloggers from around the world have already submitted their picture. Now, it's your turn!

Where can I see the entries?
Click here to see the gallery.

DMBLGIT September 2008 Edition

So if you haven’t submitted your best picture yet, there's still time to do so.

Whisk Wednesdays—Blanquette de Veau à l’Ancienne (White Veal Stew with Onions and Mushrooms)...a day late

Blanquette de Veau à l’AncienneMore comfort food for Fall this week. Last week a braise, this week a stew. Unlike a braise, a stew uses small chunks of meat and is covered with liquid while cooking, but the goal is the same: to take a cheap, tough cut of meat and make it tender and tasty. This is the perfect dish to celebrate the beginninng of Autumn.
"The whole point of a braise is that it turns a somewhat tough piece of meat or an old bird
into a succulent and juicy dish that is full of flavor."
Elizabeth David in French Provincial Cooking
Blanquette comes from the French word blanc, which means white. À l’ancienne means "old-fashioned". When à l'Ancienne is used when referring to meats, "it often means braised meat, stews or fricassees."

To keep the stew "white", the meat is blanched instead of seared and braised. As well, (white) veal is the most common meat to use in this dish, but you could use pork or chicken (or even rabbit — hey, if veal doesn't offend you, rabbit won't either, right!).

First, I created a flavorful broth of onions, clove, carrots, celery, parsley, thyme, bay, and peppercorns. After simmering this for a bit, I added the chunks of de-fatted veal shoulder. This mixture is simmered for about 45 minutes, skimming every so often, similar to making a white stock.

Roux, Stew and Liaise
After removing the vegetables but keeping the meat and broth, I made a roux to help thicken the sauce. Then, I slowly drizzled the broth back in, whisking it to remove any lumps. I added the meat back to the pan, and a bit of water to cover the meat. Finally, I simmered it very slowly, without boiling, just rippling, for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. At the end, I added a liaison of crème fraiche (or cream), egg yolk and lemon thicken the sauce and add some richness.

While the stew steeps away, I made the garnish of mushrooms and pearl onions. Both are cooked the same way, but in separate pots. I barely covered the onions with water and seasoned them with salt and pepper and a large pinch of sugar, for glazing. Then I made a buttered parchment paper lid, which allows some evaporation but protects the onions from caramelizing. Plus the butter on the parchment adds a touch of flavor. There's a great discussion about parchment paper lids here.
If you don't know how to make a parchment paper lid,
relive your paper snowflake-making days since the folding is the same.
After simmering the onions under the parchment for 8-10 minutes, I took the paper off and let it continue cooking until the liquid had evaporated and the onions were nicely glazed. I did the same with mushrooms, but instead of sugar I added a tablespoon of butter.

When the stew was finished cooking, I added the onions and mushrooms and served it on rice.

Blanquette de Veau à l’Ancienne mise en placeYou can find the recipe for Blanquette de Veau à l’Ancienne (White Veal Stew with Onions and Mushrooms) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger!

Blanquette de Veau à l’AncienneTasting Notes
This stew is rustic, homey, hearty and delicious. The smell wafting through the house was wonderful. Plus, it reheated well for lunch the next day.

Next Week (October 1)
• Navarin d'Agneau Printanier (Braised Lamb Shoulder Stew) page 350-351

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $784.68 + $32.92 = $817.60

Butter used so far: 8 pounds

. . . . . . . . . .
::Whisk Wednesdays::
We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Blanquette de Veau à l’Ancienne (White Veal Stew with Onions and Mushrooms)

Just wanted to let you know that I've been wrangling with Blogger and trying to come up with a new design for my blog. That took over my day (instead of writing up the Blanquette). I will write it up at some point, just not today. So sorry, but stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—Dimply Plum Cake & some awards

Dimply Plum Cake baked in passion fruitDimply Plum Cake has been around the food blogosphere for awhile. Here's a round-up of some of the other ones out there before the food blog world gets hit by 250+ TWD members today (let me know if I missed you):

Cupcake Project
The Wednesday Chef
Kitchen Parade
My Feasts
No Special Effects
Slow Like Honey
Smitten Kitchen
Rosa's Yummy Yums
Vegan Diva’s Blog

I now know why it's been blogged about so much. It's a delicious breakfast, afternoon, evening, anytime treat.

Playing Around

Dimply Plum Cake baked in passion fruit shellsPassion fruit has been stealing my heart and taste buds lately. It's a taste memory that goes way back for me and is my favorite fruit out there. I thought the shell of the passion fruit would be tough enough to withstand baking a mini dimply plum cake in it. It worked great.

I also tried baking the cakes in half a mango and half a yellow dragon fruit. The batter in the mango trickled out while baking on one side, but the other side looked fine. The dragon fruit stood up well, and I'll definitely use that again.

For all the shells, next time I would dry the shell out in the oven for an hour on a low heat to reduce the moisture that the cake absorbs.

Dimply Plum Cake IngredientsYou can find the recipe for Dimply Plum Cake in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or here. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger! Thanks to Michelle of Bake-en who chose the recipe for this week.

Dimply Plum Cake baked in passion fruit, dragon fruit and mangoTasting Notes
I loved the crunch of passion fruit seeds in the cake (but you could strain the seeds out if you don't like them). The hint of cardamom was delicious too. This cake was gobbled up quicker (mostly by me!) than a lot of other desserts that come into our hosue. Usually, when reading other TWD posts, I have the urge to nibble on whatever it is we made that week. I won't be able to do that this week, unless I make it again…soon. And I will.
"The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the crown:
The Lion beat the Unicorn all round the town.
Some gave them white bread, some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum-cake and drummed them out of town."
Chapter 7, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Recipe for Next Week (September 30)
Creme Brulée on page 393 chosen by Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake.

In the past month, I've been lucky enough to get two awards from three different bloggers.

Karen from Something Sweet by Karen and Laura from She's Cookin' Now both gave me the "E for Excellent" award. Karen has beautiful photos of her kitchen creations, and I'm so glad she kept on blogging instead of deleting her gorgeous blog! Laura's turkey chili looks amazing as do her blueberry muffins. Check them out!

Esther & Hannah from Del Sisters Kitchen gave me the "I Love You This Much" award. Esther & Hanna are two sisters baking up a storm together.

Thanks so much, you guys. It means a lot to get these blog awards and feel supported and loved in the food blogging world. It's a treat to be part of this community!