Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flan, I love you just the way you are...

At some point, I'll talk about the many variations of flan--chocolate flan, pumpkin flan, brandy flan, and the list goes on. But for today, I just want to pay homage to the one and only, plain and simple,caramel flan.

This dessert makes me think of my mother. She's never been a baker, but like all Spanish women, this is the one dessert she can make, almost like a rite of passage.

I will say a couple of things about the list of ingredients. If you are on a diet or have cholesterol issues, let's be honest, this is not the dessert for you. Unless I bake a dessert with the intention of making it "low-fat," I never try substituting ingredients. I believe in real sugar and whole milk. It just tastes better. Also, I love trying to use organic whenever possible/affordable, but over Thanksgiving my brother and sister used some sort of brown organic sugar with this dessert, let's just say it did not work...AT ALL. Just use the real stuff today, and ask for forgiveness at the gym tomorrow.

Here is what you will need:

Step 1: Prehat the oven to 300°. Scald the milk with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Step 2: Beat eggs, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla until it is all nice and fluffy.

Step 3: Continue to stir the egg mixture, and slowly pour the scalded milk into the bowl--continue to stir until well blended but not foamy.

Step 4: Set aside the egg mixture. Place 6 tablespoons of sugar in an iron skillet on low heat. Stir constantly until it turns a nice golden color. Do not leave unattended because it might start to burn.

Step 5: When the sugar turns amber, quickly pour the melted sugar into the souffle dish and move around to coat the bottom. It will only take a few seconds to harden, so tilt the dish back and forth quickly.

Step 6: Pour the egg mixture into the souffle dish. Place the souffle dish in a baking pan and pour at least a couple of inches of HOT (but not boiling) water into the pan. Cook for one hour. Check on the water ever 20 minutes to make sure it hasn't started to boil. If it does, pour in a half a cup of cold water to cool it down.

The top will be a nice golden brown.

Step 7: Let it cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and turn over onto a plate. The caramel will cover the good! Cover and refrigerate.

List of ingredients:

12 tablespoons of sugar (divided)
2 cups of whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 whole eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

I have yet to try a recipe from Martha Stewart's website that isn't immediately deemed "the most delicious thing I have ever tasted." She always hits the right note between sticking to the classic recipe and adding her own twist. Too often celebrity chefs feel the need to throw a curveball ingredient like wasabi into cake mix just because they want to be different, but at the end of the day, they've strayed too far from the original essence of the dessert, and well... it's just not that good.

This recipe for devil's food cake with ganache icing is another example of Martha's handywork. The sourcream in the cake mix adds the perfect hint of tang,and the bittersweet ganache icing is just sinful enough for this devil's food cake.

Here is what you will need:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth (pictured below). In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (not pictured, but let's use our imaginations).

Step 2: Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed (I cannot seem to master the art of cracking eggs and taking photos at the same time). Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

Step 3: Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

Step 4: Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three- quarters full. **Take your time on this step because when the cupcakes look even in height, the presentation is much more "professional." I used 2 scoops of a ladel to make the cupcakes consistent.
Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. ***Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Now let's talk about the ganache icing.

Here is what you will need:

Step 1:Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup just to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour mixture over chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until chocolate begins to melt. Beginning near the center and working outward, stir melted chocolate into cream until mixture is combined and smooth (do not overstir).

Step 2:Refrigerate, stirring every 5 minutes, until frosting just barely begins to hold its shape and is slightly lighter in color. I stirred it every 5 minutes for about 45 minutes. At that point, it started to finally hold it's shape. This can be kind of tricky, so be patient. Use immediately (ganache will continue to thicken after you stop stirring).

Step 3: To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and garnish with chocolate curls just before serving. To make the curls, I used a vegetable peeler and a bar of chocolate and shaved them off. Very easy.

List of ingredients for the devil's food cake:

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

List of ingredients for the ganache icing:

1 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup
chocolate bar for chocolate curls

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Roast Chicken

Finding time during the week to make a home-cooked meal can be hard, so on Sunday nights I like to make something big that will last for a couple of days. This Sunday I made a roast chicken with vegetables. While cooking a whole chicken can seem intimidating at first, it is really quite easy. This doesn't involve any real measuring or counting, so that makes the whole process much more enjoyable for me.

Here's what you will need:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken in cold water. Remove that pleasant little bag of "stuff" from the cavity of the chicken. One day, I'll try and do something with it, but for now, it just seems kind of unhealthy/gross. Place an entire lemon and some herbs (rosemary, thyme, and anything else you may like) inside the cavity of the chicken.

Step 2: Place the vegetables around the chicken. You can use any assortment of vegetables you want. I used a combination of carrots, parsnips, different types of potatoes, and some root vegetables---and garlic cloves, of course! Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper, and then squeeze a lemon all over the chicken and vegetables.

Step 3: Drizzle the chicken and vegetables with olive oil, and make sure to rub the olive oil into the chicken (I sprinkled it one more time with salt and pepper, for good measure). Then pour 1 cup of white wine over the vegetables.

Step 4: Place the chicken in the oven and cook 30 minutes at 475°F. Then, lower the temperature to 375°F and cook for another hour until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 180°F. The skin should be crisp and brown.

List of ingredients:

1 6-pound roasting chicken
2 lemons
2-3 Sprigs of fresh rosemary (and any other herbs you might like)
8 cloves of garlic
Assortment of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and at least 1 onion.
1 cup of white wine
olive oil
coarse salt
freshly ground pepper

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Corn Soufflé

Dear Capital Chef,

First of all, I love your blog!! You are so wonderful and talented. I am writing because I have a question for you. Do you have a go-to side dish that is easy yet impressive? I'm throwing a dinner party this weekend and could use your help.

Sleepless in Seattle

I'm going to be honest, this is not a real fan letter (I know, you feel shocked and betrayed), but consider this an open invitation to submit any questions, comments, or flattery my way. Now, had this been an actual fan letter, my answer would have been easy--corn soufflé.

I was first introduced to this corn soufflé at the tender age of 12 by my real-life mentor, Maribel. When she first moved to Memphis, she brought this to her first Thanksgiving dinner with my family,and while we were still deciding on what we thought of her, once we had a bite of this soufflé, we decided to keep her around--not so much for her fabulous personality, but instead for what she could contribute to my mother's dinner parties.

This dish is simple, delicious, and impressive. All the elements of a perfect side dish.

Here is what you will need:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter soufflé dish.

Step 2: In a large bowl, beat 4 egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

It should look like this:

Step 3: In a separate bowl combine the 4 egg yolks, flour (heaping tablespoons), sugar, butter, milk, baking powder, and can of creamed corn.

Step 4: Fold the egg whites into the creamed corn mixture. Do not overmix.

Step 5: Pour the mixture into the soufflé dish and bake in the oven for 1 hour.



4 heaping tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of Baking powder
4 tablespoons of melted butter
4 tablespoons of milk (not skim)
1 can of creamed corn
4 eggs separated

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tarte Tatin: Part II

Oh, this is good....REALLY good!!! And what I love most about it--it literally has only 3 ingredients--sugar, butter, and apples. How can you go wrong?

My husband and I just shared a piece, and I got a little nervous when he had a few bites and started off his "review" with, "I'm sure this is going to come off the wrong way, but I'm going to say it anyway." (I'm thinking--danger, abort!! abort!! this never goes over well!!) But actually, what he had to say was kind of true-- "It sort of tastes like an apple pie from McDonalds." And you know what, I have to agree...but I don't mind one bit!

There are a million versions of this recipe, but I used the recipe from Williams-Sonoma. It was simple and easy to follow. My only mishap may have been with the crust, but this is supposed to be a "rustic" dessert, so after a minor emergency crust surgery, it all worked out (and thankfully, since we flip this pie over, the holes/lumps in the crust will remain a dirty little secret).

Here is what you will need:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F, and peel the apples.

Step 2: Cut the apples. Some people cut the apples a bit larger than I did, but it is really a matter of taste. Since I have never made this before, I actually practiced placing the apples in the cast-iron skillet.

Step 3: To make the filling, set a 10-inch straight-sided, ovenproof fry pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat and heat the butter. When it melts, sprinkle the sugar evenly over the butter and continue cooking until the sugar melts and turns amber colored, 3 to 4 minutes. Shake and swirl the pan frequently to redistribute the sugar for even melting and caramelization.

Step 4: Arrange the apples, core side up, in the caramel in a snug, even layer. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the apples are just tender, about 15 minutes. The caramel will bubble up around the apples. Remove the pan from the heat.

Step 5: Now while the apples are cooking, lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the chilled dough from Part I into a 12-inch round, a scant 1/4 inch thick. Lift and turn the dough several times as you roll to prevent sticking, and dust the surface and the rolling pin with additional flour as needed. Use a dough scraper or icing spatula to loosen the pastry if it sticks. Trim the dough into an 11-inch round. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Step 6: Uncover the pastry round. When the bubbling has subsided, slide both hands under the pastry round and carefully place it on top of the apples, tucking in the edges and being careful not to burn your fingers. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Step 7: Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Place a large flat serving plate upside down on top of the pan and invert the pan and plate together. Lift off the pan. HAVE NO FEAR! JUST FLIP IT!!


For the filling:
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
3⁄4 cup sugar
5 Golden Delicious or other baking or all-purpose
apples, about 2 lb. total, peeled, quartered
lengthwise and cored

Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tarte Tatin: Part I

I have been wanting to try this dessert for a while now, so I decided I would make this my first great blogging challenge. For those of you who don't know what a Tarte Tatin is, it is sort of like an upside down apple pie that dates back to 19th century France. Here is the history as told by wikipedia:

Tradition says that the Tarte Tatin was first created by accident at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in 1898. The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. There are conflicting stories concerning the tart's origin, but the predominant one is that Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. An alternative version of the tart's origin is offered on the Brotherhood of the Tarte Tatin website,according to which Stéphanie baked a caramelised apple tart upside-down by mistake. Regardless she served her guests the unusual dish hot from the oven and a classic was born.

Part I of this recipe is making the dough. Unfortunately, ever since the great onion chopping fiasco incident of October 2009, I have not had a food processor, so probably much like the Tatin sisters, I am going to make this dough by hand. Bare with me because I really have no idea what I am doing.

Here is what you will need:

Step 1: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Step 2: Add the butter and shortening and toss to coat with the flour mixture. I chopped up the butter into tiny pieces like so...

Step 3: Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the pieces of fat into the flour mixture until they are no larger than small peas.
(This is when it would have been REALLY nice to have a food processor...or even a pastry blender. I would say I probably worked on this for 8-10 minutes to get it down to size.)

Step 4: Dribble the water over the mixture and toss with a fork until the dough is evenly moist and begins to come together in a rough mass.

"Rough Mass"

Step 5: Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a 5-inch disk.

Step 6: Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1⁄2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut
into 3⁄4-inch pieces
3 Tbs. cold vegetable shortening, cut into
3⁄4-inch pieces
3 Tbs. very cold water