Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chocolate and Caramel and Sea Salt, Oh My!

I don't believe that you need a ton of gadgets, accessories and thingamabobs to be a good cook. But then just because a girl could get by on one pair of shoes does not mean she SHOULD.

I've had my eye on this little baby for a while. It attaches to your KitchenAid stand mixer and mixes all the batter that is usually left in the bottom of the bowl, unmixed. I luurve it! It's the SideSwipe Mixer Blade.

Previously, I'd been using this trick: attach your paddle but instead of pushing it all the way up, twisting it and locking it into place, just hold it there and raise your bowl. Now the bottom of the mixer bowl will be in contact with the bottom of your paddle attachment, thereby holding it in place and scraping the bottom of the bowl when you turn it on. Disclaimer: I'm sure Kitchen Aid doesn't endorse this method but it's worked for me. That being said, I think my new SideSwipe is less risky.

Here's something I made with my nifty new gadget. This cake has been responsible for many oohs and aahs around here. It's very rich so slice it small and feed an army.

Adapted from David Lawrence via The Vanilla Bake Shop

Serves 12

1 c sugar
1/4 c water
2 T light corn syrup
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 c unsalted butter, diced
1/4 c sour cream or creme fraiche
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Large pinch of fine sea salt

3/4 lbs. chopped bittersweet chocolate (71 % cacao)
3/4 lbs. chopped semi-sweet chocolate (62 % cacao, not chocolate chips)
2 T corn syrup
2 c heavy cream

2 c sugar
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot, strong coffee

Directions for Caramel:
Stir sugar, water and corn syrup in deep saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Turn up heat to high and let mixture cook, undisturbed, until syrup turns an amber color. Do not stir the mixture or touch it. Take off heat and add cream. Mixture will violently bubble. Whisk in the butter, sour cream and lemon juice. Add a generous pinch of sea salt. Cool to room temp, then cover and chill.

Directions for Ganache:
Finely chop chocolate and place in a large bowl with the corn syrup. Heat cream in a saucepan until a few bubbles appear around edges of pan. Do not let boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk gently until chocolate and cream are combined. Cool to room temp.

Directions for Cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350F. Line bottoms of 3 9-inch round cake pans with parchment. Spray with Pam Baking spray (or butter and flour).

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer until blended. Add milk, eggs, vanilla and oil and blend at low speed until well mixed. With mixer running, slowly add hot coffee until incorporated. Batter will be very thin. Divide among cake pans and bake until toothpick inserted into center come out clean, about 20-30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of pans and turn out cakes onto cooling racks. Peel off parchment and cool completely.

To Assemble:
Place 1 layer of cake on cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of room temperature ganache. Put 3/4 cup of ganache into a pastry bag or ziploc and pipe a ring of ganache around the edge of the cake. This will be your wall. Fill the center of the well with 1/4 cup of room temperature salted caramel. Top with second layer of cake and repeat with ganache and salted caramel. Top cake with 3rd layer and spread remaining ganache over the top and sides of cake. Drizzle top with some remaining caramel and sprinkle a large pinch of sea salt over the top of cake. Cover with cake dome and chill. Let cake stand at room temp 1 hour before serving.

Note: I made mine a two layer cake with only one layer of ganache and caramel in between.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Gratitude Breakfast

When a friend who has known you forever brings you a gift of Bouley bread with pistachios and apricots inside.

When you've found Vermont Butter and Cheese Company butter on sale, yup, ON SALE, people!

When the jam lady at the Farmer's Market makes the best apricot jam ever.

What's a girl to do but give thanks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Last Drop of Summer Cocktail

Does anyone else feel summer slipping away?

I'm desperate to work in summer produce at every meal, loving all the "no oven" options the season brings. I'm counting the days until school starts...most days sadly. It's bittersweet.

I know there's nothing that says you can't sit on your porch or patio or stoop in the autumn enjoying a twilight cocktail. But it's just not the same. Try this lovely libation as we wring every last drop out of summer. It's light and refreshing with a whisper of herbal mystery and you could try it with a gin or vodka. And here's another thing: you may want to double the Rosemary Lemon Simple Syrup recipe as you can leave out the vodka and serve a wonderful non-alcoholic lemonade fizz to those who prefer that.


1 cup Rosemary Lemon Simple Syrup (recipe below)
1/2 cup lemon vodka (can use gin instead)
1 litre soda water or seltzer

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 4-inch sprigs of rosemary

Bring sugar and lemon juice to a simmer in a sauce pan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat, add rosemary and cover. Let steep until syrup is cooled to room temperature. Remove rosemary and discard (strain if you have rosemary leaves in the syrup). Refrigerate.

For cocktail:
Mix 2 parts rosemary lemon syrup with 1 part vodka and top with soda water. (Start by using a tablespoon as measurement.) Serve over ice.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tis The Season

That's right, it is fresh fig season! Fig season is so short (August-October) don't let it pass you by. If you happen by my house during fig season, you will very likely be served this luscious snack. This is a "no-recipe" recipe. The kind that you just throw together for friends or family and as their eyes roll back in their heads you say, "Oh, this? It's nothing..." But oh, is it something.

And if you enjoy this outside, early on a summer evening with a chilled glass of wine, you can thank me later.


1 loaf of crusty French bread
spreadable goat cheese
fresh figs, sliced

Slice bread and spread with goat cheese. Pile on the prosciutto. Top with sliced figs and drizzle with honey.

Tips: Figs-take good care of these little babies. They don't last long so try to eat them the day you bring them home or refrigerate to avoid mold. I used Black Mission figs which have dark, purplish skin when ripe. Use any variety you can find. If you don't have goat cheese, you can use mascarpone cheese or even cream cheese. Want to gild the lily? Use an exotic honey like Truffle Honey.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cantaloupe with Salsa Verde

Look what was in abundance at the Farmer's Market. Cantaloupe. Or do you call it muskmelon?

When I was a girl we used to eat wedges of these with a little salt sprinkled over them--a sweet, slurpy, salty, taste of summer. We ate this a lot and inevitably, by the end of August my stance on cantaloupe was, "OVER IT!

If that sounds like you, it's time to bring in some other ingredients and change it up a little. I had a lot of fresh herbs on hand, my Serrano peppers that finally were ready for picking and some lovely walnut oil. How about a salsa verde? Salsa verde literally means "green sauce" and contains fresh herbs, an acid (usually vinegar), aromatics (shallot, red onion, capers, chili flakes) and oil. It's delicious on grilled meats, fish, bread so why not fruit!

Serves 8

1 ripe cantaloupe, seeded and cubed
3 T minced red onion
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, tightly packed
1/4 cup Thai basil or regular basil leaves
1/3 cup of walnut oil
3 t grated ginger
1/8 t salt
2 T lime juice

Chop mint, cilantro and basil leaves. Combine with minced onion, ginger, walnut oil, salt and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour over cantaloupe. Chill and serve.

*Variations-add toasted pumpkin seeds and cubed feta cheese

Buy a knob of ginger, which is cheap, cheap, cheap, by the way. Peel it with a spoon. Use the edges of the spoon to just scrape that skin off. Then use a microplane or grater on your ginger instead of a knife. The stringy fibers are hard to cut finely. Then put it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. The next time you need ginger, use it frozen. Peel it with the spoon and grate what you need and back in the freezer. Don't let it defrost before using, just use it frozen.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Make What The Good Lord Gave Ya...

I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's the story of her family's year long experiment of eating locally and seasonally. They ate only what they or their neighbors could grow or raise in their county.

Now given my shaded backyard and my serious lack of a green thumb, my people would starve if we attempted this. But some of her points really hit home. If you eat what is grown near you and you eat it when it naturally grows it will be a food at it's fullest potential. A pale, February grocery store tomato will never compare to the taste of a ripe, juicy August tomato.

There are social and eco-friendly reasons why this is a good thing too-supporting local farmers, not contributing to the fossil fuel consumption it takes to store and ship food nationally and internationally, etc. but those are bigger discussions. The bottom line is this: Food "here and now" will be some of the most delicious food you will experience.

So, if I may be of is a list of some of what is
ripe in late July/early August:
Summer Squash

And here is a source to find a farm or farmer's market in your area:

I double-dog dare you to go shopping without a list. See what looks ripe and fresh, buy it and then decide what you're cooking this week. I'll do it too and I'll share my recipes with you, because I'm a giver.