Friday, January 30, 2015

FFWD ~ Croquants

FFWD ~ Croquants
After a fishy month of French Fridays, we are making cookies!!  Finally a break from the fish…but only a short break, next week we have another fishy recipe on the agenda! 
Croquants are a popular French cookie. Quite easy to make! Delectable to eat! The texture is a crunchy combination of sugar, egg whites and nuts. I used the traditional mixture of hazelnuts and almonds suggested in the recipe.  Dorie tells us, her house favorite is made with salted Cashews. I’m looking forward to giving that a try. 

Elegant, nutty and did I mention crunchy
I chose to bake these little gems, while I was house bound during the Blizzard of 2015! Which by the way, turned out to be not such a big deal in my neck of the woods.  I love baking on snowy days! There is something quite comforting about warm sweet aromas permeating my house on a cold winters day!
This was my first experience with Croquants. I had never even heard of them before. The name literally translates to crunchy. They came together quite easily, and I was not disappointed with this lovely elegant little cookie. I totally enjoyed the nutty crunchiness! The flavor of the hazelnuts was quite evident. The French enjoy these sweet nutty cookies served along side their tea or coffee! That was how I enjoyed them, too! I thought they were reminiscent of a meringue cookie in taste, but much crunchier in texture.
These are a perfect anytime cookie, and yet elegant enough for a special occasion.  
Needless to say these were a winner in my house. Bill has never met a cookie he didn’t like!
Happy Friday everyone! 

These cookies are from “Around My French Table”. They have been published several times so I am sharing the recipe with you. To see what the other Doristas' thought of this recipe check it out here.

Baked perfectly in just 8 minutes
Nutty Croquants…quite delicious
Yes, please!
This little guy is enjoying lunch in the snow 

by Dorie Greenspan from “Around My French Table”

3 ½ ounces (about a cup) of nuts, coarsely chopped
1¼ c. sugar
2 large egg whites
½ c. plus 1 Tbsp. flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the nuts and the sugar in a medium mixing bowl and stir together with a rubber spatula. Stir in the egg whites, then the flour, to form a loose dough. Don’t worry if it looks more like grainy. It’s supposed to look that way.

Drop the dough by the teaspoonful onto the parchment-lined baking sheets. The dough will spread, so be sure to leave about 2 inches between each mound of dough. You can use your finger to round the edges of each one.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until they puff up, and the tops crackle and brown.  
Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, and let the cookies stand for about 10 minutes, until you can easily peel them away from the parchment. Transfer the cookies to the cooling rack, and allow them to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Store in a dry, covered container – not in a plastic bag or plastic wrap – or they will lose their crunch.

Dorie says that this recipe makes about 34 cookies. Using a heaping ½ teaspoon of dough for each cookie I had closer to 45.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup for National Blueberry Pancake Day ~ January 28th

January 28 ~ National Blueberry Pancake Day

We just survived the Blizzard of 2015! Luckily for us the storm mostly missed our neck of the woods. We wound up with a measly five inches of snow, to add to the ten we received on Saturday. They were predicting 10-18 inches! One thing we did not miss was the dreadfully cold weather. This morning, snowbound, hungry and craving something warm, I remembered that it was National Blueberry Pancake Day tomorrow. While doing my shopping over the weekend, I found some beautiful Driscoll Blueberries. I was set! I actually had enough blueberries to make luscious blueberry syrup, to serve with them!  What could be better than waking up to a stack of warm, tender blueberry pancakes?


My mom made the best pancakes! When I was a kid she made them just about every Sunday. Sometimes she would make traditional pancakes; other times she would make Palacsinta, which is a traditional Hungarian crepe.  She made them with a little of this and smidge of that…unfortunately I don’t have her recipe. Even my husband will testify that they were best. He often reminds me, how much he loved my mom’s pancakes. Recently, while browsing through some of my mother’s old cookbooks, I found a recipe that is very much like the one I remember her making. These wonderful blueberry pancakes I’m sharing with you today, were made using that recipe.  So why not whip up a batch for yourself, and join the celebration for National Blueberry Pancake Day? A great way to ward off the cold! Happy Blueberry Pancake Day everyone!!

I like to sprinkle the blueberries onto the pancakes
A wonderful way to start your day
Driscoll’s blueberries and pancakes….absolutely luscious together!
Surviving the snow storm...

Blueberry Pancakes 

1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, well beaten
¾ cup milk
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1 cup Driscoll's blueberries
Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Combine egg and milk. Add to flour mixture gradually, beating to a smooth batter. Add melted butter and stir to mix.
Drop about ¼ cup of batter onto hot griddle or frypan set on medium heat. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over the pancakes. Turn when pancake is bubbling on top and lightly browned on the bottom. Cook until done. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

Blueberry Syrup

1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup Driscoll’s blueberries
1 tablespoon butter
To make Sauce: In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, add water. Boil over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in blueberries and reduce heat. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes, or until the berries have burst. Stir in butter until melted. Serve with pancakes.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Driscoll’s Berries however, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.  I like and use Driscoll berries because they are always fresh looking, and tastier than other berries that I find in my local supermarket.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi ~ Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi ~ Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

Another Tuesday, another terrific dessert! This week, for Tuesdays with Dorie, we made a wonderfully easy and delicious cake! It's called a "Weekend Cake".  According to Dorie, the French call this type of cake a weekend cake because it lasts all weekend! I love the French name: Gateaux de Voyage, which translates to travel or weekend cake. This is the kind of cake you bake, and then take with you on a picnic or to a friend’s house.  Everything sounds so much more elegant in French! 
My new favorite “go to” cake
As luck would have it, we were invited to a get-together on Sunday. It was a “Souper Bowl” party, and yes I know…I did spell it right!  This party had nothing to do with football, and everything to do with soup. Everyone invited brought a pot of their favorite soup, along with some bread, and dessert! Lucky for me I had a lovely travel cake on the agenda! Along with my Manhattan clam chowder, I brought Dories’ “Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake”.  Since I was serving it for dessert, I also brought some whipped cream, and raspberries to dress it up…not that it needed it!  It was a perfectly delightful dessert to end a marvelous day with friends!

This cake was also heavenly with my afternoon tea! Whichever way you prefer it…I’m sure you will love it! 

 Dorie is right...the next day it was better!
The ingredients were simple everyday ingredients that you would normally find in your pantry or fridge. Butter, flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder, I even had the heavy cream handy. The weather was quite cold here, with a lot of snow…a perfect day for baking! The cake whipped up quickly. First, browning the butter, watching it closely so it doesn’t burn. Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together. Then whisk the eggs into the sugar…now whisk the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Stir in the browned butter; pour into a 9x5 loaf pan and bake. That’s it folks!
Dorie does suggest wrapping the cake overnight in plastic wrap, so the flavors can meld. An essential step for this cake…the flavors were much better the second day!  Happy Tuesday, everyone!!

You can find this recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi”. Do yourself a favor and get a copy! We are asked not to publish the recipes we bake each week, however in this case it has already been shared. You can find it here. To see what the other bakers thought of this recipe check it out here.

Browned butter or Beurre noisette…the aroma is divine 
Ready to bake
Gateaux de Voyage or Weekend Cake…amazing!

Happy Snow Day to my fellow East-Coasters!! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

FFWD ~ Spice Crusted Tuna

FFWD ~ Spice Crusted Tuna
One more fish dish for French Friday…this has been one heck of a fishy month! This week it’s Spice Crusted Tuna!  As luck would have it, I was on Long Island last weekend for my twin grandsons' birthday! Long Island, home to wonderfully fresh seafood! I was able to secure two absolutely gorgeous sushi grade tuna steaks, from a fabulous seafood store. They were not cheap, at 24.99 a pound, I was glad I only needed two steaks. Cor J’s is well known on the Island!  They are a wholesale seafood supplier to many of the high-end restaurants! They are also extremely accommodating and helpful!  These fishmongers know their stuff!

A delightful dinner 
The recipe is simple, and super quick to prepare! Mixing the spice mixture was pretty straightforward. I cut the amount in half because I was only doing two steaks. Smash the seeds from about six cardamom pods, a teaspoon of white peppercorns, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, two thin slices of fresh ginger, chopped, and fleur de sel in a mortar. Press the mixture onto the lightly oiled tuna steaks, and sear in a very hot fry pan for two minutes on each side. Since my husband and I are not fond of very heavily spiced dishes, I chose to go lightly on the amount of spice I sprinkled onto the fish.  These were absolutely wonderful!! Another five star meal at home! Happy Friday everyone!!

Although this is pretty much a non-recipe, it can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table”. To see what the other Doristas thought of this one, check it out here.

Spicing up the flavor of this amazing fish!
Fresh beautiful tuna
Smashing the spices
Searing the tuna
A five star meal served in my kitchen
This was fabulous! 
Love this place
Michelle, my very helpful fishmonger
Shellfish a-plenty
It can’t get any fresher!

Friday, January 16, 2015

FFWD ~ Curried Mussels sans Curry

FFWD ~ Curried Mussels with Paprika
This is another fishy week for French Fridays, and the fishy weeks are far from over! Getting behind this weeks recipe was easy, except of course for the Curry! We don’t do curry in our house! It’s just a given! Like you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t add curry to anything for Bill! I know it doesn’t rhyme but, you get the point!

However, Bill does enjoy his mussels! Several years ago, while we were in Holland, we ate dinner at a cute little bistro in Rotterdam! The name escapes me, but the memory of this charming place will live in my mind forever! It was a cool summers evening, we sat at an outdoor table, and there were heat lamps warming us. Twinkling lights, a glass of wine, and mussels! A huge bucket of mussels! Now I enjoy a few mussels once in awhile, I can usually manage to eat five or six, but this bucket must have had four dozen mussels in it! Bill ate every last one!!

These mussels were scrumptious…and although you can’t see it, the sauce was creamy and delicious! 
Although Bill doesn’t eat anything with curry, I knew I could turn this recipe into a dish that he would enjoy! After some thought, I was able to substitute Paprika for the Curry, and with very good results! I love the flavor of Paprika, and it’s substitution did not disappoint! The creamy wine sauce was delectable, and perfect for bread dipping! My biggest problem was trying to get a few decent photos in the dark of evening!

Tomorrow we will be driving to Long Island for a very special birthday! Our twin grandsons turn seven! They are the babies in the family! Where did the time go?
Happy Friday everyone!!

I’m pretty sure this is the last of the mussel recipes…Bill will be disappointed!

Curried Mussels (or for me Mussels with Paprika)
By Dorie Greenspan from Around My French Table

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder (2 teaspoons paprika)
a pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and ground pepper
¾ cup dry white wine
1 thyme sprig
1 parsley sprig
1 bay leaf
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
⅔  cup heavy cream
French Bread, sliced for dipping in the creamy sauce
How To Clean Mussels
Discard any open mussels, they're dead. Just before cooking soak mussels in cold water for about 15-20 minutes, this will help release some of the salt and sand that is in the mussels. Mussels often have beards, to remove these yank the beard toward the hinge of the mussel. If you tear it away from the hinge, you can kill the mussel. Remove the beards, and use a brush to brush off sand or anything else that decided to attach itself in the ocean, and place mussels into another bowl of cold water (the first bowl is all sandy and salty by now) until they are cooked.
Melt butter on stove in a large Dutch oven, over medium-low heat. Add sliced onions and garlic, stirring to coat onions with butter. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add curry powder, red pepper flakes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for about 3-5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to medium and add wine, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf, cook for 3 more minutes.
Add the mussels to the pot, and stir around in the liquid, coating the mussels. Increase the heat to high and cover with lid. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring once. Take a peak and see if the mussels have opened, if there are still some to open remove the pot from heat (keeping lid on) and let sit for 1-2 more minutes.
Remove the mussels from the broth and place in a bowl, cover the bowl to keep mussels warm. Bring the sauce back to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream, add a little more pepper and cook on high heat for another 3 minutes. Return the mussels to the pot, stirring around to coat them in the wonderful creamy sauce and then serve. Enjoy the mussels and don't forget to use french bread to sop up the sauce.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi ~ Granola Energy Bars

TWD ~ BCM Granola Energy Bars

My daughter is the granola maker in our family! Since she had her children, she has always tried to control the amount of junk food they eat, always providing them with home made and healthy snacks! She even made homemade teething biscuits for them, when they were infants. I on the other hand, have never tried to concoct a batch of granola! I’ve thought about it a few times, but it always seemed too time consuming, and not worth the effort! After all, there are so many varieties available at the grocery store.  Boy was I wrong!!  I can thank TWD~BCM for my change of heart!
This week Granola Energy Bars were on the schedule. Dorie claims these bars are better than store-bought, and she is absolutely right! For me, it was all about controlling the amount of sugar and add-ins, that made them so tasty! However, it didn’t come easy!

Second time was a charm
These bars are fairly effortless! Roasting the oatmeal, and almonds for five minutes. Then adding pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, then baking for another 3 to 5 minutes. Pour this mixture into a large bowl and mix in whatever fruit mixture you are using (apricots, and cranberries for me)! Sounds easy enough so far, doesn’t it? Ok, this is where I got into trouble! I had never heard of Brown-Rice syrup. I decided it probably wouldn’t make a difference if I substituted another syrup, that I already had in my pantry.  I Googled granola bar recipes, to see what I could substitute.  I read that Barley Malt syrup would work fine…so that’s what I did. The taste was strong and not sweet enough. I also let it boil a bit too long, I don’t know if that mattered, but the resulting granola bars were terrible! The lack of flavor and sweetness was dreadful! My husband took one first…go figure! He just said “good”!  That didn’t sound like a resounding endorsement! After I ate one, I looked at him and said “these are terrible”…and he said, “I was waiting for you to say that”!  Let me just say that the squirrels and birds are enjoying those bars this morning!
I called my daughter, and asked if she had ever heard of Brown-rice syrup. "Of course", she said, “That’s what I use for my Granola bars”.
I knew, with my anal-retentive perfectionist personality, I wasn’t going to let this one slide! Again, I turned to Google and found several recipes that used a honey, brown sugar syrup.  So early this morning, I started the Granola Energy Bars one more time! This time I used the honey-brown sugar syrup that I found at the Barefoot Contessa. It worked wonderfully, and the granola was fabulous! However, since I will be making these wonderful snack bars again, I will be buying a bottle of Brown Rice Syrup! By the way…my hubby loved these (too bad for the squirrels and birds)!  
These Energy Granola Bars can be found in Dorie Greenspans new cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi”. To see what the other bakers thought of these bars check it out at the TWD site.

These were utterly delicious…so much better than store bought
A winner in my house!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Easy Sea Salt Caramel Fudge

Creamy, sweet-salty Caramel Fudge

I have finally put away all my Christmas decorations! The tree is down, the ornaments boxed up for next year, and the roping has been removed from the fireplace. It feels so good to clean and de-clutter! I am always so anxious to decorate, and yet by January 1st., I’m even more anxious to take it all down!

The other thing, I’m happy to clear out of my house, are all the sweets that have inundated us for Christmas! Finally, the cookies have been eaten or given away! The breads are gone, and they were so good! But January is a birthday month for our family! My grandsons turn seven this week! You can’t have a birthday party without some sweets…can you?

Wonderfully delicious!! 

This is where my fudge comes in! I made a batch this morning! So, just in case you haven’t had your share of sweets over the holidays, here’s one more recipe you’re going to love! The recipe is easy! I mean the easiest fudge you’ll ever make and so, so yummy! You won’t need a candy thermometer, and there will be no pouring of hot liquids into your mixer while it’s running. Just two ingredients, that’s it!  You will have a salty caramel fudge, you won’t believe! If you can melt chocolate and stir, you’ve got this one made!

So easy and so very melt-in-your-mouth yummy

My inspiration for this luscious fudge was my daughter-in-law! Last year, she told me about a Salted Caramel Fudge she made for Christmas. She knows I have a thing for Sea Salt Caramel anything! Have you seen my Sea Salt Caramel Biscotti? She told me she found the recipe on-line! I did several searches, and found a few recipes that appealed to me.  After all the baking and cooking I did over the holidays, I picked this one for its ease of preparation! It was a great choice…totally delicious and so easy to make!   

So how about a batch of Easy Sea Salt Caramel Fudge

Easy Sea Salt Caramel Fudge
adapted by bakeawaywithme 

Yield: about 24 pieces

14 ounce can Dulce de Leche*
3 cups white chocolate
a pinch of coarse sea salt and more for sprinkling

Prepare a 9x9 or 8x8 baking dish by lining it with foil or parchment paper. Lightly oil or spray the lining.
Over low heat, melt the white chocolate, stirring constantly. Once the white chocolate is completely melted and smooth, mix in the dulce de leche and a pinch of sea salt until completely incorporated. This mixture is quite thick.
Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer with a rubber spatula.
Sprinkle with a bit of course sea salt to taste.
Let cool completely at room temperature for 3-4 hours or place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Cut into 1 inch pieces to serve.

*Usually this can be found in the Hispanic food aisle. Or you could make your own…the easiest way to do this is boil a 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk for 3 hours. The can has to be completely covered by water during the boiling process, or it could explode. I make mine in a large soup pot, to make sure the can is always completely covered with water! I keep an eye on it during the cooking process to make sure the water does not evaporate. After three hours, let it cool completely. You can do this in advance, once boiled it will last unopened, in your pantry for quite awhile. Once it is opened keep it tightly covered in the fridge, it will last for up to 3 weeks. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

FFWD ~ Champagne Aspic with Currents, Blackberries and Raspberries

Champagne Aspic with Currents, Blackberries and Raspberries

Did you know that gelatin is something people have very strong opinions about? I never knew that! When I was growing up, there was always a bowl of red or orange Jello gelatin in the fridge. Sometimes, there was fruit or grated carrots folded in!  But jello was always there! It was our after school snack, or dessert after dinner, usually with a squirt of whipped cream! I always liked it fine…it was an ok snack! Not my favorite, but ok!  

This week, for French Fridays we’re making a very grown up version of gelatin called Aspic. Our pick was for Arman’s Caviar Aspic.  Like I said, I like gelatin just fine…but fishy gelatin isn't for me! Sorry Arman!

This is my week to go rogue!  The Aspic was something I wanted to prepare, simply for the technique and learning. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the seafood flavor. Champagne Aspic was my compromise! 
As I contemplated flavor options, Champagne kept popping into my head! Would it work? It sounded great to me…but what do I know, I like Jello with fruit! Aspic made with Champagne! Definitely an adult flavor! And who doesn’t love Champagne? Elegant, bubbly and perfect for the New Year! 
This was quite pretty and tasted delightful.
I wasn’t sure how it would work. As I looked through binders of recipes, I came across an old article, cut from a newspaper years ago. It was for Champagne Aspic! Quite different than what I finally came up with, but the basic idea was from the article…and so were the proportions of gelatin to Champagne! Although, I think caviar would be interesting with champagne, I thought fruit would be lovelier! I had some blackberries in my fridge, but they seemed rather large. In my freezer, I found a few bags of red raspberries, and red currents that I froze last summer. I bought the currents while in NYC with my Dorista friends Cher, Betsy and Diane! When I got home I threw them in the freezer. I knew they would come in handy!  

It does look rather sparkly, doesn’t it?
I was actually getting excited about making the Aspic with Champagne.  I was envisioning something sparkly, with bubbles! That didn’t happen! Still the end result was wonderful! 
The gelatin gets softened in ½ cup of Champagne. Then the rest of the Champagne is brought to a boil, to which the softened gelatin, sugar, raspberry liqueur, and flavored vinegar is added. I decided to add some of the liquid to molds. I placed some berries into each mold and poured in the liquid gelatin. I poured the rest into a loaf pan, as Dorie suggested. 

This was a French Friday I seriously thought of skipping! I’m so glad I didn’t! Sometimes going rogue is a good thing!! My version of the Aspic was delicious and quite pretty! I loved the taste of Champagne that came through! Even Bill enjoyed this one!  Happy Friday everyone!

This was a good alternative, for someone who doesn’t do fishy gelatin.
 Perfectly lovely to serve for any elegant occasion. 

 Recipe adapted by Bakeawaywithme 

2 tablespoons (2 envelopes) gelatin
2 1/2 cups champagne
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Raspberry Liqueur
1 tablespoon flavored vinegar…I used Pear Chardonnay vinegar, but Raspberry would be quite good.
Blackberries, Raspberries and Currents

Add the gelatin to a half cup of the champagne. Stir to moisten the gelatin evenly, and allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes to soften.
Bring the rest of the champagne to a boil. Add the softened gelatin, and stir until dissolved. Add the sugar, raspberry liqueur, and flavored vinegar. Place a few berries into each small mold. I used cannele molds. Pour the gelatin over the fruit, or pour into 9x5 loaf pan chill until set. Then cut the gelatin into squares, scoop a tiny bit of the gelatin out from the middle of each square (I did this using a grapefruit spoon, as Dorie suggests in her aspic recipe) and then I placed a berry into each. I thought the flavor of the raspberries worked best for this recipe. The currents were a bit tart. Or experiment!