Chocolate = Love

Yes, chocolate = love. No matter how you put it this will always be true; an absolute fact of life. This is why its not too late to impress the one you love with chocolate!  Here is a simple chocolate truffle recipe that you can make in less than an hour.  Now go impress anyone with some mad candy making skills!

chocolate truffles

 

Chocolate truffle recipe

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 16 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • cocoa powder (about 1/2 cup)

Step one: Making the ganache.

Bring a cup of heavy cream to a simmer. Be careful not to burn the bottom.  While the cream comes to a simmer, place chips in a bowl. Once cream is hot and simmering, pour over chocolate chips and start to slowly incorporate until a lustrous and silky chocolate sauce is formed. At first, the mixture will seem grainy and it might even look broken, but keep on whisking and the desired consistency will be reached once all the chocolate has melted completely.  Pour the chocolate sauce into a container and allow it to set in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Step two: Rolling ganache into balls

The fun part is here! Once the ganache is set, its going to have a texture similar to Playdoh. Set aside a bowl of cocoa powder and a line a sheet pan. Dip your hands into ice water for a couple of seconds to lower their temperature so as not to melt the ganache.  With a small tablespoon scoop out some chocolate and roll it into a ball. Imagine you are rolling meatballs. Once you’ve formed several balls of chocolate ganache, place in the freezer for several minutes. Bring them out and toss them in the cocoa powder.

Step Three: Spreading the love.

These truffles are quick and perfect for a pot luck, or a small cute gift. Now you can box them up, wrap them up or do whatever you want to spread the love on Valentine’s Day!

Enjoy

 

On a rainy day I bake

On a rainy day I bake to fill my heart with the warmth of the aromatic nutmeg. Its subtle sweetness and delicate aroma invade my senses as I sprinkle it into a bowl of freshly cut granny smith apples.

On a rainy day I bake to create a symphony of flavors that send my taste buds into a whirling craze.

I bake to send myself on a journey where patience and understanding is key. Because baking is an art form with a final act which culminates as you bite into the carefully crafted art piece and sends happiness to your heart!

On a rainy day I bake to share with friends.

Spiced Apple Crostata

This recipe is very easy to make when you have a surplus of apples. Use tangy granny smiths and balance their strong flavor with the sweet brown sugar.

To make the crust you will need 1 1/2 cups of AP flour, a pinch of salt, a stick of chilled butter, 5 TBS of chilled water. Mix the salt and flour and cut the butter into cubes. Rub the butter into the flour mix until the butter is pea sized. Finally add the chilled water only until the dough comes together. Flatten into 5 disks and refrigerate.

To make the filling simply peel and core 3 granny smith apples. Dice the apples and toss them in a bowl with spices (nutmeg, cinammon, 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Allow to sit for 30 minutes so the flavors can develop.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. on a floured surface roll out the disks until they are about 1/4 of an inch thick. Scoop apple filling into the center, leaving an inch sized border. fold the border into the center and bake until golden brown. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Enjoy!

All this citrus!!

It’s funny how after a long 40 hour week of work in a kitchen I just want to come home and relax…….IN A KITCHEN! Ah yes! I enjoy the soothing hum of my KitchainAid as it obidiently carries out my orders to mix, blend, and whisk and the precision of my scale to guide me through my science/art experiment acurately. Why do I love this so much you ask? Because baking is just like an art project that requires science and that can be eaten afterwards. Because it always makes SOMEONE happy, baking is always a win!

The baking bug bit me this weekend as I wondered what to do with the pounds of oranges and lemons that had made their way into the kitchen in only a couple of weeks. My friend Rhea brought over some oranges at one point, then lemons went on sale ( an offer I could not resist). And so this is the story of citrus season in Florida. Oranges are everywhere to be found; they have been since Christopher Columbus brought the first citrus plants to the new world in 1493.  Ponce De Leon transported the citrus seeds into the St. Augustine area years later where they thrived and became a booming industry. They still remain an important part of Florida as they can even be found on license plates!

Determined to make good use of the fragrant “golden apple” I decided to make me a little pound cake to go with my morning coffee.

To make Florida Citrus pound cake start by zesting 2 oranges and mixing the zest with 200 g of sugar.  Rub the zest against the sugar with your hands. It’s really fun, it smells amazing and it will release all the orange oils into the sugar making it much more fragrant.  Set aside for about a half hour so it may infuse. Meanwhile, gather 190 g of fresh eggs, 100 g melted butter, or vegetable oil  (heck, even brown butter if you’re feeling like a rock star), and 90 g freshly squeezed orange juice. I used a self rising cake flour for this recipe, which already has the baking powder in the mix. I used 260 g of self rising cake flour.  Add a pinch of salt!

Start by setting the oven to 350 degrees F. Then mix the sugar + zest + eggs. You can do this by hand or using the mixer, either way, make sure that these ingredients mix until creamy, then slowly pour in  the fat. Mix some more until the fat emulsifies with the rest of the egg and sugar mixture. By now, you will have a separate bowl with all your dry ingredients.  Fold in dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix just until you create a creamy batter. Be gentle when you mix and careful not to OVER-MIX. stop as soon as everything is incorporated. add orange juice.  pour batter into a 9 inch loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes or until its golden on the outside and the toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Be careful not to open the oven too frequently to check on your cake otherwise the center will collapse. It happens to me all the time =(

A delicate drizzle of dark chocolate goes amazing with this. Happy baking!!

Check out this article on citrus and hopefully get more ideas to use up your citrus.

 

 

Sweet Bites

Yes!! You made it to the weekend and now you deserve a reward for all the hard work you had to put in during the week. And lets face it, the best rewards out there are the ones that have to do with food, specially sweet food.There is this amazing show that airs on Sunday on NPR, it is called Splendid Table.  In this show, host Lynne Rossetto Kasper talks about all things food. SHe also receives calls from listeners asking her for tips on cooking some of the most basic ingredients. Her tips show just how vast her culinary creativity can be.  About two weeks ago a caller was asking her how to use up some grapes. I was blown away by her suggestion to roast the grapes. I don’t know why I had never tried this but it was a fabulous idea.

Since I have a surplus of grapes, I decided to freeze half and roast the other half. I added some basil buds to the roasting tray and just drizzled a bit of olive oil. I roasted them until they became nice and wrinkly with a strong sweet aroma from the caramelization.   Roasting them really brings out the sweetness, its delicious.  I decided that these grapes would taste amazing with a soft goat cheese. because the goat cheese has an acidic taste, the intense sweetness of the roasted grapes would balance it out. I fitted some filo sheets (found in the frozen aisle of the supermarket)  into mini cupcake pans by cutting out circles with a cookie cutter, then I spooned in the goat cheese and the grapes, careful not to overfill.   I baked at 350 degrees F until the filo sheets turned a golden brown. That’s it, a very simple 3 ingredient dessert that will show your weekend house guests just how creative food can be. The best part is that it is no extra sugar was added, all the sweetness is natural thanks to the red grapes!  Below are the pictures of my sweet grape bites baked to crispy perfection. Oh and I must warn you, they can be addictive, so plan on indulging! Enjoy.

Healthy chef tip

I like to think of myself as a fairly healthy eater/cook. Now, that can either send you running as far away from me as possible, or lure you straight into my kitchen where I will probably be cooking something relatively healthy. I am also a dessert junkie, I need to have it after every meal. In order to keep up with that obsession I do little things here and there to trick myself into thinking im having dessert. This past weekend my friend Rhea reminded me of a delicious way to enjoy grapes, FROZEN! It’s as simple as that, you wash them, put them in a ziplock bag and when it starts getting too hot outside, just bring them out and pop’em in your mouth. It seriously feels like you’re eating a frozen otter pop.

Grapes were on sale today at my local market, so I’m expecting to do a lot of grape experimenting in my kitchen this weekend!

Oh, and one more thing, you know how they say to never trust a skinny chef? Yeah, total lie!

As American as apple pie

We have all heard it before, ” …few things are as American as apple pie”. So, today, January 23rd, referring to the easiest pie crust recipe: 1-2-3 dough ( which I will talk about later) we have yet another sweet excuse to bring out the American appetite in all of us and have some pie!

Pie as we know it in America is a recent creation with its myriad of sweet fillings. The original pies appeared in ancient Greece and Rome and refered to doughs made with olive oil which were then used to hold several meat and seafood fillings. The pie then made its way into Europe to make its first recorded appearance around 1300. Again, pies baked in England around this time were mostly savory meat pies. English settlers brought their pie baking traditions with them as the American colonies emerged and from that point on they adapted their recipes to the local ingredients available.

The pie is something so common in today’s popular culture that even McDonald’s sells it. However, it is one of the most complex pastries to make because it requires accurate technique to get the flaky crust that melts in your mouth the moment the very first bite is taken. In my opinion, the pie has become so widely available, that we have taken it for granted. So, in honor of National Pie Day, I am going to share a simple pie crust recipe and some tips that will give you flaky pie success!

To the science first!

Cooking is nothing more than a delicious science. If cooks are scientists, then bakers can be compared to rocket scientists because there are so many conditions that the baker must deal with to acquire desired texture, mouthfeel, appearance, and taste. A flaky pie crust dough is made of three basic ingredients: water, flour, and fat. The very first challenge that we face is the development of gluten, which is a protein that gives dough structure. A pie dough calls for minimal gluten, too much and you might as well take out your hockey sticks and hope for ice. When water and flour come together, the gluten is formed by use of a mechanical action or mixing. The best flours to use for this type of dough are all purpose flour and pastry flour, both of which have a lower protein content because they are made with a softer wheat. The addition of fat inhibits the formation of gluten strands by saturating the flour before water is added. In a way, this acts as a coating that will keep the flour from absorbing the water as soon as it is added. Finally, when adding the fat, make sure you do not mix it in all the way, but rather leave pea size bits of fat so that they can melt as the crust cooks. This will allow air gaps to form and contributes to the flaky texture.

More tips for flaky success:

* Add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to the water used for dough as acidic conditions will make it harder for gluten to develop
* Once dough comes together, form it into a disk and refrigerate until ready to roll out.
* Make sure all ingredients are chilled before using.
** if you feel really adventurous, try substituting half of the water content with vodka. It is flavorless and when heated, it simply evaporates without forming the gluten when mixed into the flour.

1-2-3 Dough
The 1,2,3 refers to the ratio of ingredients by weigh. 1 part ice water, 2 parts fat, 3 parts flour.

450g flour
300g fat ( I enjoy using butter)
150g ice cold water ( I use 75g vodka/ 75g ice water)

Add a tbs of sugar to the flour if it will be a sweet pie. Cut the butter into cubes and one by one drop into flour. With your hands, rub the cubes into the flour until they are about the size of small peas. Incorporate the ice cold liquid and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate.

National Pie Day is a fun way to break free from the Monday routine and to keep an American tradition alive. We are becoming a society that is rapidly forgetting the art of cooking, one which relies on fast food for nourishment. This is why it is important to take the time to make something with lots of love so that it can be shared with others.

It’s strawberry season in Florida, so I took the opportunity to make strawberry pie with cardamom and lime. Now I hit the gym, too much pie in my belly!

Happy eating.

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Fun in the kitchen

I was looking through my photo album and found a couple of pictures that reminded me of just how much of a kick I get from being in the kitchen!

This is a gnocchi dish that I made several days ago. Gnocchi is a potato dumpling typical of Italian cuisine. It consists of potato, (boiled, peeled and milled),eggs, and just enought flour to hold it together into a stiff dough. They are so delicious with sage and brown butter.

These were made to satisfy my friend’s potato cravings. She really enjoyed them… Although, while she was helping me roll the dough into dumplings, she did mentioned she would not make them on her own, too time consuming. Haha, that is definitely fine with me, as long as there is wine I’ll be doing all the rolling!

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This traditional French fruit tart is my favorite pastry of all time. It has a sort of elegant simplicity to it, which makes it perfect for special occasions like Christmas and other get togethers. I really love that you can play around with the fruit to decorate in a very unique way. I’ll tell you, no two fruit tarts ever look the same.

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