Sunday, January 23, 2011

Butter Almond Cake

Almond Butter Cake


As I mentioned in my last post, I hosted my Bunco group Friday night.  Everyone enjoyed the food but we all wait with anticipation for dessert to be served. After a night of playing bunco, drinking a little wine and of course eating….it is time for dessert and prizes. I think we would all give up the prizes but never the dessert!! I decided to serve two desserts this month. The first being an Italian Fruit Salad, creamy and ambrosia like. Quite delicious! I also chose one of my favorite 'go to'  recipes for a lovely to look at, delicious to eat and easy to prepare cake.  It is a recipe given to me years ago, by a friend, for  Almond Butter Cake. The ease of preparation makes this cake the one I go to when I am short on time but, don't want to give up taste or deliciousness! This cake has no leavening, and although it does have 2 eggs, they are not beaten, so it does not rise a lot. The end result is a cake that is chewy and dense.  Kind of  like a blonde brownie.  You can taste the butter and almonds in every bite.  I love this cake because it is made in one bowl and looks like you fussed all day. I bake mine in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  I like mine plain but, it would be wonderful served with a little whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Give it a try…I promise you'll be happy you did. 



 Butter Almond Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, lightly toasted 
1 tablespoon sugar…I use raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350°
Grease and flour a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom 
or a 9 inch cake pan


Blend 11/2 cups sugar and melted butter. Beat in eggs. Stir in almond and vanilla extracts.
Add salt and flour and mix well. Spread batter evenly into pan. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and sugar.
Bake for 30-35 minutes 









Butter being poured over sugar
Beating in the eggs
Adding extracts
mixing in the flour and salt
Spread into tart pan
Ready for the oven

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chicken B'stilla French Fridays with Dorie

I live in a rural area of NJ and the year we moved into our home 14 other new homes were built on our street. My "new" next door neighbor was from Texas and wanted to get us all together so we would get to know each other.  Her plan was to start a Bunco group. None of us had ever heard of Bunco but, it sounded like fun and we decided we were in!! That was 23 years ago. Through the years we have lost members, added new people and still have 5 original members. We take turns hosting monthly. This is our monthly gab fest…a time to catch up with one another, a time to relax, drink some wine, eat some food and laugh…actually a lot of laughing!! Oh, and we do play Bunco too! This happens to be my month. As I went over what I would serve, I realized we would be meeting on friday night and it just so happens that the Chicken B'stilla (pronounced ba-stee-ya) would be a great addition to my menu. I am sure the girls will love it….it sounds so delicious to me. The flavors are so Moroccan…cinnamon, coriander and ginger, all of which permeate your kitchen while the chicken is marinating.  Thursday morning I marinated the chicken for 2 hours. I then added the chicken broth to the pot. I let this simmer for another 2 hours. I then removed the chicken to a bowl, let it cool and shredded it. I had poured the broth through a sieve and removed the onions. Now it was time to make the sauce. I had about 4 cups of broth that I put in the pot and boiled slowly until it reduced to about a cup and 1/2. I then added the egg and honey mixture,  whisking while pouring into the broth. The sauce came together well but, took a while (6 or 7 minutes) to thicken. That was it. I added the chicken and onions and refrigerated. Putting this dish together was fairly easy for me, since I have worked with phyllo dough often. I have to say my phyllo was not cooperating today. It became brittle while I was working with it. I just got rid of the top few sheets and then I had no problem. I put this lovely dish into the oven about an hour ago because I want to serve it tonight.  I cannot describe how absolutely fabulous this smells and I can't wait to dig in!
Hopefully the girls will love this!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie Gnocchi à la Parisienne

My finished dish

Well here we are, it's Friday again!! Today we are driving to Long Island for my twin grandsons 3rd birthday.  They are such a joy and so much fun to be around, as is their big sister. So this is going to be a very busy week-end. I decided to make my Gnocchi a la Parisienne yesterday. In the past I have made pasta and have always wanted to make gnocchi…Italian style! Made with potatoes and served with some sort of sauce. I never knew there was any other kind. The process for making the gnocchi was a bit like making a Pate a Choux…the kind of dough you make for cream puffs. Since I have made this type of pastry before, this went quite well and was effortless! Next I decided to let the dough rest, as suggested by Dorie, while I made the béchamel sauce. I again made this as per the recipe. 2 1/2 T. of butter and 6 T. of flour. I thought it need more butter but I stayed with the recipe. As I added the milk, I thought it was difficult to incorporate. The end product was a very thick sauce that I felt had to be thinned, which I did. I let this sit with plastic wrap placed over it, as Dorie suggested and started the pot of water boiling, for the gnocchi. As soon as I got the hang of it , this went along well. I sprayed my spoon with cooking spray and that made them slide better into the water. I had my dish prepared with the parmesan cheese and the layer of béchamel.  They were quite easy to cook and the process went relatively fast. I put them in the dish, covered them with the béchamel and cheese, dotted the butter and then realized that I wanted to take them today to my daughter's house for dinner. OK!!! Only after I went through all of this did I bother to read the sidebar. ONCE THE DISH IS BAKED THOUGH, IT'S MEANT TO BE EATEN IMMEDIATELY AND FULLY….LEFTOVERS WON'T KEEP.  This happens to be a very bad habit of mine; never fully reading through before I start! So I froze the whole dish and we will bake it tonight at my daughter's house.  I will let everyone know how that worked.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Delectable Canelé

I have to say I love all things French. Maybe it's because the language always conjures up romance and intrigue.  For me it might have started with Peppy La Pew but, watching Kevin Kline recently  in 'French Kiss' reminded me how much I enjoy listening to someone speaking French. And who doesn't enjoy the adventures of Hercule Poirot. I have always wanted to learn french.. so in high school I took Spanish. What was I thinking? It was suppose to be easier!! Easier…but lacked the passion and romance of French! Please no one be offended, it's just the way I feel!  I keep telling myself I need the Rosetta Stone. Maybe this is the year. I have been to Paris. The Louvre is quite impressive and the Eiffel Tower is beautiful. But I'm most fond of  the people…and I absolutely LOVE the FOOD! Mostly the baked goods! My favorites are these most fabulous little cakes, Canelés! (kuh-nuh-leh) But the French also have Madeleines! Both of these treats are so wonderful. They both are unique and delicious! I have always made the Canelés in a silicone pan that I had gotten from Williams-Sonoma years ago along with the recipe. They always came out wonderful but, could they be better? I have been known to be a just a little obsessive when it comes to my baking. I will try several recipes until I get the result I am looking for. Recently I had read that the French, to get the best results, make the Canelés in little copper molds. So, for my after Christmas present to myself, I splurged on some little copper Canelé molds. I found a recipe that is slightly different than the one I had been making. It's from Paula Wolfert. She also gives you some places to buy the copper molds. I was quite pleased with the price at jbprince.  My little copper molds arrived the other day. They are sooo cute! I just love them and can't wait to put them to use! How can you love a copper mold? I'm not sure…but I do! I made the batter yesterday. Canelés are made from a batter that resembles a crepe batter.  The batter must sit for 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. When baked, the Canelé is crusted with a burnt sugar coating, dark on the outside and kind of custardy on the inside.  Today is baking day and I am so excited to finally try out my new molds. Can't wait to bite into one of these wonderful  little cakes.
Since I'm writing this in real time, I have to tell you my first batch came out way too brown…I'd say burnt. I followed the baking directions exactly…I think it had to be the amount of bees wax in the mold. I have another batch baking now and hope this batch comes out better. Considering I only have 4 molds…and they take almost two hours to bake, the baking process can be a bit daunting.  I have 6 more molds coming in the mail, they are on backorder…I'm so glad I didn't bake 10 at once. I think I wouldn't love my little molds anymore!
Well my second batch just came out of the oven and they are beautiful. I realize now that the bees wax film you paint on to these molds has to be very thin. I accomplished this by putting the molds in the oven for a few minutes, taking them out and then brushing on the bees wax and turning crown to top then placing them in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then take out and fill.  You should get very good results. I'm lovin my molds again!


Canelés

2 cups whole milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup cake flour
pinch of salt
1 cup minus 2 Tablespoons fine sugar
4 extra large egg yolks
1 Tablespoon dark rum
1 vanilla bean split 


Pour milk into saucepan with vanilla bean and set over low heat; heat to 183 degrees F.
Place butter, flour, and salt in the bowl of a processor; pulse until combined. Scatter sugar on top; 
pulse once or twice to mix. Add egg yolks; process until mixture begins to tighten. 
With motor running, quickly and steadily pour hot milk into batter; stop motor; strain through
very fine sieve into clean container; press any congealed yolk through; stir in rum. Cool to room 
temperature; cover; refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.
Grease molds either with cooking spray (as per Martha Stewart) and then freeze for 20 minutes. Or click on Paula Wolfert and try the white oil. 
Heat oven to 400°
Place chilled molds 1 1/2" apart on baking sheet; gently stir batter; fill each mold almost to the top;
place on lower oven rack; bake 1 3/4  to 2 hours, or until canelés are deep, deep brown in color.
Remove the molds from the oven. Unmold as quickly as possible. To unmold, use an oven mitt to grasp a hot mold; firmly tap the crown side against a hard surface to loosen the canelé. Cool to room temperature before serving.
This recipe is from Paula Wolfert, she goes into much more detail on her post. Click on her name above.

Milk and vanilla heating to 184˚

Flour, sugar, butter,  egg yolks, salt and rum.

My very cute Canelé molds

This was my first batch…note the very thick crust…much too hard

molds filled with batter

This is not a great picture, it was taken through my oven door, I wanted to show how high they rise.

My second batch….oh so good!



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Paris Mushroom Soup, French Fridays with Dorie

Today has been a day for catching up after the holidays. Bills had to be paid, laundry needed to be done, 2nd refrigerator had to be emptied, leftovers had to be wrapped in foil and frozen….and I haven't even started to de-Christmas my house yet. I love to be organized but, during the holidays I seem to let a lot of things slide. More like, there is only so much any one person can do and I prefer to spend my time baking, decorating and enjoying the fun of the holidays.  Soooo... here I am today with all those things I let SLIDE!  Between volunteering at the hospital this morning, doing laundry, paying bills and trying to get Christmas put away, I was really looking for something easy to make for dinner. (Funny thing about putting Christmas away...I always say no more christmas stuff and today I came home from the hospital with a new Santa. The gift store was having a 50% off sale. I just couldn't walk away!)
Lucky for me this weeks pick for FFWD is 'Paris Mushroom soup'. It is a cold day in NJ (19 degrees) and we're expecting snow tonight. I really needed some comfort food for dinner.  This soup was just what I was hoping for. It is fairly easy to put together and is very warm and inviting.  I happen to love mushroom soup anyway! This was not the case with my husband. He reluctantly ate his bowl, but said it was not one of his favorite dishes. I think I will have another bowl tomorrow and freeze the rest to take out to my daughter's house.  The taste was truly wonderful, the flavor of the wine and herbs were so evident with every bite. Too bad I wasn't eating this in a Paris Cafe with the back drop being the Eiffel Tower!  I would definitely make this again, just not for my husband.

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans new book 'Around My French Table'. And also here!




The star of this dish

The flavor

Chopped veggies

Sliced and ready to go

Mushrooms and veggies sweating out the juices

Wine and broth added

The Salad…I didn't think I would like this part…but it was very good!

Bon Appétit