Tag Archives: filled

Maple Mousse in a Phyllo Nest with Strawberry and Mango Sauce and a Maple Balsamic Reduction

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After all the years I’ve spent experimenting with recipes I feel I’ve got a decent grasp of which flavors work together, but tend to be a traditionalist — especially in the savory department.  Cilantro goes with onion, tomatoes, spicy peppers, and citrus.  Basil goes with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil.  Bell peppers go with celery and onions.  Once in a while, I’ll play around with one of the combinations, but not often.

I scan the ingredient list of an accomplished chef’s recipe and think, really? wondering where their inspiration comes from.  I dissect it with my own familiarity of and opinion about each flavor in an attempt to understand how one works with the other, but know that my simple lack of experience is my biggest obstacle.  It’s a slow process, but it works if I’m in the mood to tackle one of the often complicated recipes.   Again — not very often.  And even when I do, the experience is rarely if ever repeated, so my ability to grow knowledge beyond my traditional ingredient choices peters out.  Well, except for that dense, rich, dark chocolate tart I’ve made a few times with cayenne and chipotles in adobo.  But still.

A good example of my semi lack of awareness would be with maple syrup.  It makes me think of breakfast:  bacon or ham, eggs, hash browns.  I think of Fall for some reason because I think of apples.  Apples + maple syrup + walnuts = great with a German pancake.  Chalk this up to someone who grew up about as far as one can get from maple trees and their accompanying “sugaring-off” season which occurs as winter’s cold temperatures wane into spring.  Sasha Chapman’s article “The Sweet Life:  Maple Syrup Season in Quebec” published this past March in Saveur magazine provided an excellent foundation to restructure my thinking about maple flavored anything — authentically, of course.  I was drawn into Chapman’s nostalgic description of how Canadians gather in the “sugar shack” and work within the family to make syrup, waiting for that first taste of the season.

Why use maple syrup as an example to explain my not so edge-cutting ingredient combining ability?  Because it’s what the Daring Bakers were challenged with this month.  Color me surprised.  The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

I had to do a bit of reading to get my head out of my maple syrup rut and consider what flavors might work with a mousse.

It’s spring…

There are berries everywhere…

…and mangoes.

Resisting the addition of a chiffonade of basil, a piquant maple balsamic vinegar reduction was added, and voila.

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Key Lime Blackberry Swirl Cupcakes

As the rest of the food world in the northern hemisphere is beginning to notice the gold and amber in leaves, refreshing dampness in the air, and hope to soon realize their desires for large pots of savory delicacies or comforting treats made of apples and cinnamon, I’ve decided that a bit of lime and blackberries are in order.  After all, the southern hemisphere is just now packing away flannels and sweaters, perhaps wanting bright flavors that conjure a dreamy afternoon spent in a place perfect to accomplish not much of anything.  I wouldn’t mind that about now, sitting here with slippers and a sweater wrapped about myself, our windows snapped shut earlier than I can remember in years. October will be here in a couple of weeks, and still the warm fall days I expected to make up for a summer that never really was, have still not arrived.  The air here is damp as well, and the salt-tinged breezes blowing in from the ocean tend to be brisk, making my evening walks a good time to breathe deeply, taking it all in.  It’s good weather for taking stock, and thinking about what might be if one can put her mind to it — always a good thing.

Some would say cupcakes are always a good thing as well, but I’m not sure I agree, not completely understanding the semi-maniacal swoon inducing craze  over what amounts to a bite or two of cake.  A sometimes too precious thing that, if you’re not careful, will land frosting side down when you least want it to, spoiling the perfect swirl of creaminess that, when the first big bite is taken, often ends up in your nose.

Not exactly precious, but definitely hilarious.  A redeeming quality.

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Hazelnut Linzer Cookies

Hazelnut Linzer Cookies

Each year that the holiday cookie spreads come out in food magazines, the Linzer cookies catch my eye.  Most often, they appear in bar form, constructed on a sheet pan, spread with jam, covered with a lattice top, and perhaps sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Thinking about the attraction now, it was the pastry that caught my attention, and when I made them,  they were always a favorite.

With that interest, I chose Hazelnut Linzer Cookies as my first choice for our holiday bake fest.  Although nothing like the Linzertorte I’ve enjoyed in the past, these cookies are a pleasant combination of nutty crunch and sweet, tart jam.

If they’re so satisfying and the first to be baked, why not the first to be shared?  My notes tell the story.

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German Chocolate Cake: Inside-out

My sister celebrated a birthday recently, and since we both believe that sending a card or present across the country for this event is necessary, I’ve been trying to think of other ways to celebrate.  You know — it’s the thought that counts sort of thing.  Two years ago, I posted a tribute to her.  Last year, my husband and I held a candle and snapped a photo in mid, “Happy Birthday to You…” and this year?  I thought I’d make her a cake.

When I first thought of this, I really didn’t think she liked any type of cake, but I asked to make sure.  After all, if someone who doesn’t really enjoy cake is going to have to appreciate a cake they’ll never get to taste, then it should at least seem appealing to them, don’t you think?

Not only did I get a response from her, I got three:  Angel food, German Chocolate, and cheesecake with coffee.  The mention of angel food brought back memories of a cake she introduced me to, and that’s saying quite a bit because my sister doesn’t really enjoy cooking.  So I thought about recreating that cake, but decided to save it for another time.  Cheesecake is something I adore and make several times a year, so I passed on that one quickly.  But German Chocolate cake?

Really?  Call me completely surprised!  My thinking about German Chocolate cake is wrapped in memories of a gooey exterior hiding a dry cake that isn’t chocolate enough.  It always seemed rude that the frosting promised something quite flavorful inside, yet it never lived up to my expectations.  But I seem to be in the minority because no sooner had I begun to mention that I was going to make a German Chocolate cake, that I found out it’s not only enjoyed my many — it’s a favorite.

Another surprise was finding out there’s nothing actually German about this cake.  It’s named after Sam German who created Baker’s Sweet Chocolate.  A Texas homemaker sent the now familiar recipe for German Chocolate Cake to a newspaper in 1957, and General Mills sent the recipe to newspapers all over the country.

My search for the perfect recipe sent me to David Lebovitz’ site first, but after a quick scan of the ingredients listed, I realized I didn’t have buttermilk.  Next stop was epicurious.  I couldn’t get past the idea of what they described as an “inside out” cake.  Evidently, a few people had decided it was a darn good cake since there were 236 reviews, most of which were raves.

The problem I had with that recipe was the Dutch-processed cocoa.  I can’t tell you how many stores I’ve searched in and have just decided to not deal with it anymore.  Yes, there’s a conversion for using regular cocoa, but it’s not advised.  And when it comes right down to it, there are just about as many recipes for chocolate cake out there as there are renditions of German Chocolate cake.

So guess what?  I made it my own, of course.  Sheer chocolate-coconut-dulce-de-leche-almond-crunchy-but-moist heaven.

Seriously.

Happy Birthday Lori!  This is your birthday song — it isn’t very long…

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Pastry Ring with Dark Chocolate and Cardamom

Chocolate Almond Filled Pastry Ring

One of the techniques I’ve shied away from has been making puff pastry.  Although I can be fairly tenacious, when I feel like I’ve worked diligently on something and it doesn’t turn out, I’m not willing to jump back to the task to get it right.  Let me adjust that — when it comes to something that isn’t important in the grander scheme of things, that is.  Making puff pastry would fit into that category.  If you’re a pro at making puff pastry, then you’re most likely thinking, “What a quitter.  It’s not that challenging…” and I would agree temporarily, but being the contrary person I am by nature, I’d come back with, “Yes, but when’s the last time you tore down a fence in your pajamas on the spur of a Monday morning moment while enjoying your first cup of coffee?”  And then I’d go inside and start a not quite puff pastry dough, but yeasted laminated dough all the same.

I think what annoys me most about my failings as a cook is the waste.  Yes, I absolutely learn something in the process of failing and know it to be an extremely important aspect of learning, but it’s the time invested when I’ve put off doing something else.  It’s the waste of product if it’s not eaten, and therefore, a waste of money as well.

Sounds grand, doesn’t it?  It’s really because I don’t like having my butt kicked by a recipe.

A good strategy after a colossal failure is to break down the task.  Perhaps begin again with something similar, but not quite as involved.  After success once, give it another go and pat yourself on the back.  Bask in the glow of your accomplishment and then instead of tackling the dreaded initial failure again, try another recipe, again similar, but a bit more involved.  Practice developing patience with copious amounts of deep breathing.   Think about those turns and all that butter nestled between those layers.  Still not quite puff pastry, but getting close.

So very close.  And some chocolate never hurts in the process, right?

I’ll get there.  I will.  You wait.

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