Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Everynight Dessert: Day 3

It's only day 3 and I'm starting to feel the consequences of too much sugar. For someone who doesn't eat a lot of sweets, this week is quite a shock to the system. I'm going to continue, but try to find some desserts that are lighter and less prone to stomach aches if you eat too much.

One of my favorite things to do is add countless items to my Amazon wish list. Then, periodically when I have a little bit of money laying around to spend, I go through the list and search for items that are used for as little as $0.01 or $0.99. I pick up so many great books this way. Call me cheap but I call it smart shopping. Just because it is used doesn't mean it isn't in perfect condition. For instance, I picked up David Lebovitz's Great Book of Chocolate this way for a mere $0.01 plus shipping. (Sorry David) The book is a a gem, loaded with great information on chocolate and a good portion of recipes in the back. He has cookies, brownies, cakes, white chocolates, cupcakes, etc. The recipes aren't difficult, as you might expect from the former Chez Pannise pastry chef, they're simple and super delicious! Like these black bottom cupcakes....

I lost count of how many of these I ate last night. The cake was super moist and fluffy like devil's food. The filling, made from cream cheese and chocolate chunks, was perfectly creamy without being sickening like cheese cake. The filling held nice half-melted globs of dark chocolate tucked deep inside. It only took 10 minutes to whip up a batch of these and would have taken 5 if I could have pried open the jar of my coconut oil (another story entirely). Check out DL's book. I'm scouring Amazon to find a good copy of his other books, Ripe for Dessert and Room for Dessert.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Everynight Dessert: Day 2

It is pretty sad that I had to go to Starbuck's to get espresso for my tiramisu when I have a nice Gaggia espresso machine sitting on my counter top. The poor machine is so neglected it has decided to accumulate lots of nice scaly stuff all over. After far too many grimace-inducing cups of espresso from Starbuck's, I am anxiously awaiting the cleaning supplies I ordered to get back up and running.

After this tiramisu and the pavlova incident I absolutely cannot wait to have enough counter space to buy a KitchenAid stand mixer. The hand mixer is just too much elbow grease when there are egg whites and cream to beat into soft peaks. This recipe I saw over on Adam's blog and just thought I'd give it a shot since it seemed so easy. I unfortunately didn't let it chill nearly long enough so it was a bit of a runny mess, but a tasty runny mess nonetheless.

from the Amateur Gourmet (and the Sopranos cookbook)

2 eggs, separated (don't freak out about raw eggs, just use fresh ones that are antibiotic-free and preferably omega-3 vegetarian fed hens)
1/2 C sugar
4 oz mascarpone
1/2 C heavy whipping cream
6 oz cooled espresso (preferably not from Starbuck's)
1/4 C coffee liqueur (ok I used Starbuck's liqueur!)
ladyfingers (I used the spongecake kind), enough to line the bottom of a 9x9 dish

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. (Don't freak about the raw eggs! It really isn't any different than your sunny side up). Whisk in the mascarpone until smooth and set aside. Beat that cream until soft peaks form. Fold into the egg and sugar mixture. Beat those egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the mixture. Add the espresso and liqueur to a shallow bowl and dip the lady fingers just for a second and lay them in the bottom of a square dish. They are like giant sponges, hence the name, so be careful not to break them as you place them. Once the pan is lined, pour the cream mixture on top and put it in the fridge for a long time not an hour or two like I did. Six hours is a more realistic time so that it sets better, so plan ahead. Sprinkle the top with chocolate shavings or a light dusting of powdered cocoa and dig in. Piece of cake?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Everynight Dessert: Day 1

Someone around here hates Mexican food. It's not me, but I will say it isn't my favorite. I'm a sucker for the condiments (salsas, guacamoles, sour cream) but in general, I've never had anything that wasn't a snooze-fest for my taste buds. When I do have an inkling for something a little er Latin, I have to disguise it. Hide the tortillas until the very last minute! Tonight someone was eating these fajitas faster than I could warm them on the pizza stone.

My new favorite cut of meat is the flank steak. It is generally leaner than a skirt steak and so incredibly easy to cook. It comes out perfect nearly every time. Even if I overcook it just a tad it is still incredibly tender. The flank steak is making me think I can actually cook meat well. Don't be fooled.

These fajitas are so good I don't even care about the David Lebovitz dulce de leche brownies I made for dessert. Not to mention that the salsa had so much garlic in it I don't think I can taste my brownies.

Chili Rubbed Flank Steak
adapted from Serious Eats and Chef on a Shoestring

1 flank steak (1.5 pounds)
1 bottle of dark beer
1/3 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

I tend to look at ingredients and not instructions, so here's what I put together with this one.
Take a flank steak, trim it of any excess fat, put it in a big bowl and pour a bottle of beer on it. Sounds great so far, right? I used Sam Adams because it was the cheapest bottle in the fridge. The beer works to tenderize the meat but I only let mine sit for about 10 minutes because it was starting to eat away at the muscles fibers like an episode of Myth Busters I saw involving coke... Anyway take out the steak and pat it dry. Rub the 'rub' all over the steak covering it completly on both sides. Press it in firmly and let it sit for a bit to reach room temperature. Preheat the broiler and line a shallow baking pan with foil and a light coating of olive oil. Broil the steak for about 6-8 minutes depending on thickness and flip it once during that time. It will be hard to tell since the whole thing will look red from the chili powder, so go by feel and squish the middle with your finger. I suppose a meat thermometer would work too but who uses those? Let the steak rest then slice it thinly against the grain and pour the pan juices on top. Sautee bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms to go in your fajitas.

For the green salsa, I found this recipe from Dinner Party. It is a real cinch to put together in your food processor. The base is basically a tomatillo sauce but the addition of avocados gives it a nice creamy texture. I didn't add the water that is mentioned in the recipe because I really don't think it's necessary. Play with it until you get the consistency you want.

So what were we talking about....? Dessert. These were easy too. I ruined my appetite by dipping into the can of dulce de leche one too many times though.

I tried to make them look pretty with a toothpick. They came out oooey and gooey as expected. David Lebovitz is the chocolate king afterall.

I'm stuffed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some tasting notes to tide you over

I'm about to have an entire week to do absolutely nothing so I definitely intend to blog more. Things need to be spiced up around here. For the next 7 days I'll be doing something a little different and attempt to document desserts from every night. So that means every night to follow dinner, I'll try out a new dessert recipe from here and there. At the end of the week, we'll decide which turned out the best.

In the meantime, here are my notes from a France vs Australia tasting a few weeks ago.

Taltarnia brut tache - From the Victoria region, this champagne combines chard, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. I don't think I've had a tastier, more balanced bubbly. It is sweet and fun and much cheaper than our favorite standby Moet & Chandon.

Rockbare Chardonnay - Parker gave it 93 points but I just can't get into chards. There's something about the intense oaky-ness that says pickles to me. Far too many chards = pickle juice.

2 Up Shiraz - As expected, this one was intensely peppery with touches of plum and cherry.

Campbell's Muscat Classic - 93 points from Parker and it tastes so good. One tiny sip hits you hard with honey, caramel, and a rich creamy finish. I haven't met a dessert wine I didn't like.


Denogent Clos des Bertillonnes - What was that I said about chards? This one was less oaky and more minerally. I liked it because it really came together on the palate.

Frederic Tableau Cabernet Franc - 100% cab franc. This one smelled richly of coconut, was super velvety with lots of tannins. A bit of spice and plum rounded out the finish.

Pearson's Cabernet Franc - Parker gave this one a 92 and I'd have to agree that this was one of my favorites. Made from 60 year old vines, this wine was medium bodied with cedar, raspberry and a nice finish.

I have to declare Australia the winner just for the variety. Sorry France, you can't win every time.