Monday, August 31, 2009

Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms & Cream

***WARNING: If you make this dish, you may be tempted to lick the remaining sauce from the pan! The mushroom and cream sauce that smothers the chicken breasts in this recipe is so divine. I found this in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I. She never fails to impress me (as you can probably tell from the numerous Julia recipes I've been blogging about lately!)

Just think...cream, mushrooms and butter...Mmm....sauces don't get much better than that, folks! It's creamy, luxurious and satisfying...all at the same time.

Furthermore, the way that the chicken breasts are prepared produces incredibly tender and moist chicken. Because I used my Le Creuset dutch oven, I did not follow Julia's suggestion of covering the chicken with a piece of buttered wax paper (gasp!). I simply covered the dutch oven with the heavy lid and popped it into the oven. The results were fantastic!

I served this chicken with asparagus...perfection! Brad and I both are looking forward to having this dish again!***

Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons
(Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Cream)
Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961)

4 supremes (boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Big pinch white pepper
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot or green onion
1/4 pound diced or sliced fresh mushrooms
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:
1/4 cup white or brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/4 cup port, Madeira or dry white vermouth
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons freshly minced parsley

Directions:Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a heavy, oven-proof casserole, about 10 inches in diameter until it is foaming. Stir in the minced shallots or green onion and saute a moment without browning. Then stir in the mushrooms and saute lightly for a minute or two without browning. Sprinkle with salt.

Quickly roll the chicken in the butter mixture and lay a piece of buttered wax paper over them, cover casserole and place in hot oven. After 6 minutes, press top of chicken with your finger. If still soft, return to oven for a moment or two. When the meat is springy to the touch it is done. (Please Note: Although Julia suggests to check the chicken after only 6 minutes, I (as well as several of my readers!) feel that this amount of time is inadequate to thoroughly cook the chicken. I cooked it for closer to 30-40 minutes. Please use a meat thermometer to ensure the correct temperature before serving!)

Remove the chicken to a warm platter (leave mushrooms in the pot) and cover while making the sauce (2 to 3 minutes).

To make sauce, pour the stock and wine in the casserole with the cooking butter and mushrooms. Boil down quickly over high heat until liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly. Off heat, taste for seasoning, and add drops of lemon juice to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Source: “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I” by Julia Child (Knopf, 1961)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dobos Torte - A la Daring Bakers!

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

***It's that time again! This month's challenge was none other than a fabulous Dobos Torte...a five layer sponge cake that's filled with a decadent chocolate buttercream and topped off with a beautiful display of wedges coated with caramel. Sounds yummy, right?

This particular cake was invented in 1885 by a man named Jozsef C. Dobos...a Hungarian baker. The recipe was kept under lock and key until Dobos retired in 1906, at which point it was finally shared. Boy, am I glad this recipe is not still a closely guarded secret. The taste was fabulous!

The steps to make this cake are took several hours just to complete the cake. That's one reason I'm so proud to be a Daring Baker though. I never, ever would have made this cake if not for this wonderful group of foodies. They challenge me in so many ways, and I learn something new every single month.

This month, the most complicated aspect of this recipe was certainly the caramel topping. I actually cooked the caramel a little too long the first time. After finishing my first attempt at the caramel topping, I wasn't completely satisfied with the way it looked. Because I had cooked it too long (a candy thermometer would have helped with that!), the caramel was just too dark of a color...not the beautiful caramelly color I was seeing on the Daring Baker discussion board. So, I dumped some more sugar, water and lemon juice into a saucepan and tried again. After all, if at first you don't succeed...

The second batch came out perfectly. The color was spot-on, and I was happy with it. The finished caramel was really hard to eat (very chewy!), though. From what I've read, it sounds like this problem was caused by the humidity. Anyone who lives in the Southeast USA knows what I'm talking about. It was still tasty, but next time I'll probably leave out the lemon juice....I wasn't crazy about it in the caramel.

After all was said and done, this cake was a huge hit. The chocolate buttercream is simply's so incredibly delicious, and the layers of spongecake were also amazing. Thanks to Lorraine and Angela for a wonderful challenge this month!!!

Please check out the other Daring Bakers' incredible creations at the Daring Bakers Blogroll. You'll be blown away by the creativity of this group!***

Dobos Torte:
- 2 baking sheets
- 9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
- mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
- a sieve
- a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
- a small saucepan
- a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
- metal offset spatula
- sharp knife
- a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times:
Sponge layers: 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge cake layers:
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream:
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping:
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches:
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:
Note: The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
Note: This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.

3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Directions for the caramel topping:
1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.

2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos:
1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Store in the refrigerator. Otherwise, the buttercream icing may become too soft.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reine de Saba avec Glaçage au Chocolat (Chocolate & Almond Cake)

***Ladies and gentleman, I present to you - Julia Child's wonderfully scrumptious Reine de Saba cake. The texture of this cake is quite incredible and perfectly chocolately. I made this in celebration of Julia's birthday on August 15th...along with the Boeuf Bourguignon and Pain Francaise posted below.

The pulverized almonds in this cake give it such a nice flavor. I simply ground some slivered almonds in a food processor, until they were the correct size. ***A great tip is to add about a teaspoon or so of granulated sugar to the bowl of the food processor before pulsing the almonds. This will prevent the almonds from turning into a paste!***

Because this cake is baked in one 8" cake round and is only one layer tall, it's really a simple cake to make. I put it together the night before our big Julia celebration. It kept perfectly in the fridge for several days.

The texture of both the cake and the icing is wonderful. It really does sort of melt in your mouth. The addition of raspberries really made the flavors pop. I've been on a chocolate + raspberry kick lately....seriously delicious!! I also used Frangelico liquer in place of the rum in the cake batter...I also used freshly brewed coffee in the icing....WOW!

I definitely look forward to making this again!***
Reine de Saba avec Glaçage au Chocolat(Chocolate and Almond Cake with Chocolate Icing)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I by Julia Child, Simone Beck & Louisette Bertholle.

This extremely good chocolate cake is baked so that its center remains slightly underdone; overcooked, the cake loses its special creamy quality. It is covered with a chocolate-butter icing, and decorated with almonds. Because of its creamy center it needs no filling. It can be made by starting out with a beating of egg yolks and sugar, then proceeding with the rest of the ingredients. But because the chocolate and the almonds make a batter so stiff it is difficult to fold in the egg whites, we have chosen another method, that of creaming together the butter and sugar, and then incorporating the remaining items.

For the Cake:
4 ounces or squares semisweet chocolate melted with 2 Tb rum or coffee
1/4 lb. or 1 stick softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 Tb granulated sugar
2/3 cup pulverized almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter

For the Icing:
2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
2 Tb rum or coffee
5 to 6 Tb unsalted butter


A round cake pan 8 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches deep
A 3-quart mixing bowl
A wooden spoon or an electric beater
A rubber spatula
A cake rack
A small covered pan
A larger pan of almost simmering water
A wooden spoon
A bowl with a tray of ice cubes and water to cover them
A small flexible-blade metal spatula or a table knife


For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Butter and flour the cake pan. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe. Measure out the rest of the ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.

Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.

Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.

Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2-1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.

For the Icing:

Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife, and press a design of almonds over the icing.

Yield: For an 8-inch cake serving 6 to 8 people

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Julia Child's "Pain Francaise" (French Bread) - Revisited!

***I've decided something...there aren't many recipes or dishes in the world that are better than fresh bread right out of the oven. One of the only things that can make it better is if you've made it yourself. There's something oddly rewarding...and comforting at the same time...about all of the mixing, kneading and muscle that goes into making this bread. It can be hard to find a scrumptious loaf of authentic French bread here in the USA. That's where this recipe comes in.

Julia Child spent A LOT of time trying to come up with the perfect loaf. She writes in her memoir, My Life in France, that "it would eventually take us two years and something like 184 pounds of flour to try out all the home-style recipes for French bread we could find." thing is for certain...Julia had patience!

She eventually traveled to Paris from Cambridge at the request of Professor Raymond Calvel...a wonderful baker and teacher at the Ecole Francaise de Meunerie. There, Professor Calvel taught Julia everything that she needed to know. Julia's husband, Paul, even took photos of the precise positions of the baker's hands during each step. She went back home to Cambridge, and immediately started putting Professor Calvel's techniques to good use. There were only a few problems she had to overcome - First, what type of flour could be used in the place of the French flour (which has a lower gluten content)? Second, how would she simulate a baker's oven?

She did overcome these obstacles and ended up with a superb recipe to include in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II. Now, anyone can bake a beautiful French batard...with only a little patience and practice! Please don't let the length of this recipe scare you. The recipe itself is extremely simple...most of the recipe is technique and notes. If you're serious about baking French bread, I highly recommend purchasing a copy of MtAoFC, Vol. II....the illustrations helped me tremendously. The first time that I made this bread during THIS DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE, I only had the recipe to go by...not Julia's illustrations. I've made this bread several times already this month, and the results are much better than my first attempt.

Next time I make this bread...which will be pretty soon...I'll take more photos of the process and add them to this post!!***
Pain Francais (French Bread)
Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck

Recipe Quantity:
3 - baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”) or
6 – short loaves, ficelles, 12 – 16” x 2” or
3 – round loaves, boules, 7 – 8” in diameter or
12 – round or oval rolls, petits pains or
1 – large round or oval loaf, pain de menage or miche; pain boulot

Recipe Time: 7 – 9 hours

Additional Information About the Recipe:
Flour: French bakers make plain French bread out of unbleached flour that has gluten strength of 8 to 9 per cent. Most American all-purpose flour is bleached and has slightly higher gluten content as well as being slightly finer in texture. It is easier to make bread with French flour than with American flour.
(Note: This was true when this book was written in the late 50s but today it is very easy to find unbleached AP flour. In addition, you can source French style, lower gluten AP flour from several specialty millers such as King Arthur Flour)

Bakers’ Oven Versus Home Ovens: Bakers’ ovens are so constructed that one slides the formed bread dough from a wooden panel right onto the hot, fire-brick oven floor, a steam injection system humidifies the oven for the first few minutes of baking. Steam allows the yeast to work a little longer in the dough and this, combined with the hot baking surface, produced an extra push of volume. In addition, steam coagulating the starch on the surface of the dough gives the crust its characteristic brown color. Although you can produce a good loaf of French bread without steam or a hot baking surface, you will a larger and handsomer loaf when you simulate professional conditions.

Stand Mixer Mixing and Kneading of French Bread Dough: French bread dough is too soft to work in the electric food processor, but the heavy-duty mixer with dough hook works perfectly. The double-hook attachment that comes with some hand held mixers and the hand-cranking bread pails are slower and less efficient, to our mind, than hand kneading. In any case, when you are using electricity, follow the steps in the recipe as outlined, including the rests; do not over-knead and for the heavy duty mixer, do not go over a moderate speed of number 3 or 4, or you risk breaking down the gluten in the dough.

Equipment Needed:
Unless you plan to go into the more elaborate simulation of a baker’s oven, you need no unusual equipment for the following recipe. Here are the requirements, some of which may sound odd but will explain themselves when you read the recipe.

(Note: you do not neet to buy all these items if you don't have them already. Just improvise with what you already have)
- 4 to 5 quart mixing bowl with fairly vertical rather than outward slanting sides
- a kneading surface of some sort, 1 1/2 to 2 square feet
- a rubber spatula or either a metal scraper or a stiff wide metal spatula
- 1 to 2 unwrinkled canvas pastry cloths or stiff linen towels upon which the dough may rise
- a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood 18 – 20 inches long and 6 – 8 inches wide, for unmolding dough from canvas to baking sheet
- finely ground cornmeal or pasta pulverized in an electric blender to sprinkle on unmolding board so as to prevent dough from sticking
- the largest baking sheet that will fit in your oven
- a razor blade or extremely sharp knife for slashing the top of the dough
- a soft pastry brush or fine spray atomizer for moistening dough before and during baking
a room thermometer to verify rising temperature

Making French Bread:
Step 1: The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)
  • 1 cake (0.6 ounce) (20grams) fresh yeast or 1 package dry active yeast
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100 degrees F/38C in a glass measure
  • 3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) (490 gr) all purpose flour, measured by scooping dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
  • 2 1/4 tsp (12 gr) salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (280 - 300ml) tepid water @ 70 – 74 degrees/21 - 23C
Both Methods:
Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Hand Method:
Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Stand Mixer:
Using the dough hook attachment on the speed the mixer manufacturer recommends for dough hook use or the lowest setting if there is no recommendation, slowly work all the ingredients together until a dough ball is formed, stopping the mixer and scrapping the bits of flour and chunks of dough off the bottom of the bowl and pressing them into the dough ball. Continue to mix the dough on a low speed until all the bits of flour and loose chunks of dough have formed a solid dough ball.

(Depending the humidity and temperature of your kitchen and the type of AP flour your use, you may need to add additional flour or water to the dough. To decide if this is necessary, we recommend stopping during the mixing process and push at your dough ball. If the dough is super sticky, add additional flour one handful at a time until the dough is slightly sticky and tacky but not dry. If the dough is dry and feels hard, add 1 Tbsp of water a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. Breadchick likes to keep a soup or cereal bowl of flour and a 1 cup measure of water with a tablespoon next to her mixer for this.)

Both Methods:
Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer).

Step 2: Kneading – petrissage
The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out.

Hand Method:
Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly.

In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.

Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two.

Stand Mixer:
Place dough back into the bowl and using the dough hook attachment at the recommended speed (low), knead the dough for about 5 – 7 minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, stop the mixer and push at the dough with your fingertips. If it springs back quickly, you have kneaded the dough enough. If it doesn’t spring back continue to knead, stopping the mixer and retesting every 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to your fingers, toss a sprinkling of flour onto the dough and continue to knead. The dough should be light and springy when it is ready.

Breadchick also recommends always finishing with about 1 – 2 minutes of hand kneading just to get a good feel for how the gluten is formed.

Both Methods:
Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

(From here out in the recipe, there is no difference for the hand vs. stand method)

Step 3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70 degrees)
You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it

(Note: Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl).

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface, marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70 degrees. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70 degrees. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70 degrees, it will simply take longer.

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70 degrees)
The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process. With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them. Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.

Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.

(Note: You may need to lightly re-grease your bowl and plastic wrap for the second rise to prevent sticking)

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves
Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour. Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:
* 3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only)
* 5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves (ficelles)
* 10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls (petits pains, tire-bouchons) or small round rolls (petits pains, champignons)
* 2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only)

If you making one large round loaf (pain de menage, miche, or pain boulot), you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below.

After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves – la tourne; la mise en forme des patons
Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Long Loaves - The Batard:
(Baguettes are typically much too long for home ovens but the shaping method is the same)
After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered. Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge. Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands. Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand. Fold in half again lengthwise. This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand. Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens. Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet.

During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide.The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

Step 7: Final Rise – l’appret - 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70 degrees
The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.

It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet – le demoulage.
(Note: we are only going to describe the unmolding of The Batard but the unmolding process is the same no matter the shape of your loaf or loaves. The key to unmolding without deflating your bread is slow and gentle!)
The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume.

For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta.Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3 inch space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.
The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice.

Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store. For a 16 to 18 inch loaf make 3 slashes. Note that those at the two ends go straight down the loaf but are slightly off centre, while the middle slash is at a slight angle between the two. Make the first cut at the far end, then the middle cut, and finally the third. Remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450 degrees (230 degrees C).
As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

Step 11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours.
Cool the bread on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

Step 12: Storing French bread
Because it contains no fats or preservatives of any kind, French bread is at its best when eaten the day it is baked. It will keep for a day or two longer, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, but it will keep best if you freeze it – let the loaves cool first, then wrap airtight. To thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees. In about 20 minutes the crust will be hot and crisp, and the bread thawed. The French, of course, never heat French bread except possibly on Monday, the baker’s holiday, when the bread is a day old.

Step 13: Canvas housekeeping
After each bread session, if you have used canvas, brush it thoroughly to remove all traces of flour and hang it out to dry before putting away. Otherwise the canvas could become mouldy and ruin your next batch of dough.

The Simulated Bakers’ Oven
Baking in the ordinary way, as described in the preceding recipe, produces an acceptable loaf of bread but does not nearly approach the glory you can achieve when you turn your home oven into a baker’s oven. Merely providing yourself with the proper amount of steam, if you can do nothing else, will vastly improve the crust, the color, the slash patterns, and the volume of your bread; steam is only a matter of plopping a heated brick or stone into a pan of water in the bottom of the oven.

The second provision is a hot surface upon which the naked dough can bake; this gives that added push of volume that improves both the appearance and the slash patterns. When you have the hot baking surface, you will then also need a paddle or board upon which you can transfer dough from canvas to hot baking surface. For the complete set-up, here is what you should have...and any building-supply store stocks these items:

For the hot baking surface: Metal will not do as a hot baking surface because it burns the bottom of the dough. The most practical and easily obtainable substance is ordinary red floor tiles 1/4” thick. They come in various sizes such as 6 x 6, 6 x 3, and you only need enough to line the surface of an oven rack. Look them up under Tiles in your Directory, and ask for “quarry tiles” their official name.

(Note: When this book was written, quarry tiles had a fair amount of asbestos in them. Today, in North America and Europe, they normally are made of clay. Make sure if you decide to go purchase some quarry tiles you only purchase unglazed quarry tiles because most of the glazes used contain lead or some other nasty substance that could get transferred. A large pizza stone will also work but make sure it is at least 1/4 inch thick because the thinner ones can break when used at the high heats that baking bread requires. Make sure you never put wet tiles in the oven because they can shatter or worse as the oven heats up.)

For unmolding the risen dough from its canvas: A piece of 3/16 inch plywood about 20 inches wide.

For sliding the dough onto the hot tiles: When you are doing 3 long loaves, you must slide them together onto the hot tiles; to do so you unmold them one at a time with one board and arrange them side by side on the second board, which takes place on the baker’s paddle, la pelle. Buy a piece of plywood slightly longer but 2 inches narrower than your oven rack.

(Note: Today, you can buy a real baker’s paddle easily online or at a restaurant supply store for about the same money as a piece of plywood and it will have a bevelled edge that will make sliding loaves in and out of the oven easier)

To prevent dough from sticking to unmolding and sliding boards: White cornmeal or small dried pasta pulverized in the electric blender until it is the consistency of table salt. This is called fleurage.

The steam contraption: Something that you can heat to sizzling hot on top of the stove and then slide into a pan of water in the oven to make a great burst of steam: a brick, a solid 10lb rock, piece of cast iron or other metal. A 9 x 12 inch roasting pan 2 inches deep to hold an inch of water and the hot brick.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon!

"Boeuf Bourguignon." Just hearing the name of this dish lets you know that it's something special. Not just special either....It's like sitting on death row and you can only have one more meal special! Seriously....if I could only have one more meal, this might just be it. Julia herself described this dish as "certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man..."

Boeuf Bourguignon is basically beef that has been slowly cooked in red wine, with bacon, onions and mushrooms. I've heard so much about this dish lately. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Julie Powell made it in the new movie Julie & Julia. This was also the very first dish that Julia Child prepared on The French Chef! It's such a classically French meal. The beautifully complex flavors...especially of the sauce!...really makes this dish amazing.

One of the best things about this meal is the fact that you can make it ahead of time and re-heat it just before your dinner guests arrive. If you make this, authentic French baguettes are a necessity. Why, to sop up all of that divine sauce, of course! It's also traditionally served with potatoes or noodles, so I served it alongside Ina Garten's Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

As I recently posted, I made this dish in honor of Julia Child's birthday...Saturday would have been her 97th birthday. I got really ambitious and made this Boeuf Bourguignon, her recipe for Pain Francaise (French baguettes!), and her Reine De Saba cake for dessert. I'll post all about the wonderfully scrumptious bread in my next post, followed by the yummy Reine De Saba cake.

All chopped up and ready to go...I used a Rump Roast, as suggested by Julia...
Nice and seared...remember to dry the meat, or you won't get a good sear!...
Sauteing the vegetables...carrots and onions:
Before adding the sauce back to the pot:

To make this ambitious menu a little easier to pull off, and to avoid any pre-mature graying of my hair, I made the Reine De Saba the night before. I also put together the bread dough the night before and put it in the fridge for it's first (and longest) rising. It rose perfectly overnight. These preparations really made it a lot easier. Otherwise, I would have been up at 4AM mixing and kneading the dough in order to have it on the table in time.

The Bouef Bourguignon turned out better than I could have imagined. The meat was incredibly tender and just melted in our mouths. It really is worth the extra effort to saute and brown the mushrooms and pearl onions before adding them to the stew. The taste is phenomenal! Just be sure to use a red wine that you would drink...don't use cooking wine!

Plus, it's not often that everyone at the table...and I mean everyone...goes back for seconds. We all had to have second helpings of this tasty meal.

The entire dinner was so perfectly French...from the great the red the French music lightly playing in the background, it truly was a nice evening. I think Julia would have been proud. ;)

I found PDF versions for Boeuf Bourguignon over at the Knopf/Doubleday website. Because Julia always includes so many wonderful tips and tricks throughout her recipes, I am going to provide links to these PDFs, instead of simply writing a condensed version here.

Simply click on the titles below for the recipes:

Bon Appetit!!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


So, as you might already know, today would have been Julia Child's 97th birthday. In the grande dame's honor, I'm planning to host a fabulous French dinner tonight. Of course, all of the recipes are from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes I & II.

On the menu:
- The Famous Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms)
- Pain Francaise (Fresh French Baguettes)
- Reine De Saba/Glacage Au Chocolat (Chocolate & Almond Cake with Chocolate-Butter Icing)

All made from scratch!

As we speak, the Reine de Saba is sitting pretty in the refrigerator (I made it last night), and the dough for the baguettes is about to undergo its second rising. Next, I'll be starting the Boeuf Bourguignon. Whew! It will be a lot of cooking, but I like to think Julia would be proud. ;-)

Of course, I'll blog all about each dish in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Bon Appetit!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Athenian Orzo

***Brad and I just love Greek food...especially if it involves seafood and feta cheese. So naturally, I was excited to try this recipe when one of our best friends, Dustin, shared it with us. He found it over at Not only is this dish healthy, but it is packed with intensely delicious flavors! Shrimp, garlic, tomatoes, capers, onions, feta and a dash of red pepper flakes to add a little heat. In fact, this dish almost has a cajun flair to has just the right amount of spicyness.

We recently got to indulge our love of Greek food at a wonderful little place called Nabeel's Cafe. I've shopped at their market several times before, always meaning to eat in the cafe when I had a chance. Well, we happened to be in the area around lunch time last weekend. We started the meal with an amazing appetizer called Feta Theologos. It's actually a recipe from the Monastery of St. John in central Greece. It's essentially a fresh slice of feta cheese wrapped in foil and topped with olive oil, fresh garlic and oregano...and baked. It was served with fresh panini bread...WOW! Needless to say, I plan to try and re-create that appetizer here at home.

Now...back to the recipe at hand...half-way through eating this wonderful dinner, Brad said it was one of his favorite meals...he liked it that much! If you're looking for a yummy Greek-inspired dish, this may just be the one!***

Athenian Orzo
Makes 4 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 tablespoon drained capers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 pound medium shrimp (30-40 per pound), peeled and deveined
1 cup orzo
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch (or other 3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil.

2. Heat oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, capers, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper; cook for 5 minutes. Drop in shrimp and cook, stirring, until barely pink, about 2 1/2 minutes.

3. Cook orzo in the boiling water until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Toss with the tomato-shrimp sauce. Sprinkle with feta and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley.

4. Bake, uncovered, until the feta is bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies - Amazingly Easy!!

***Chocolate chip cookies have always been an absolute favorite of mine...for as long as I can remember. But then again, I do adore chocolate of any shape, form or fashion. You might remember these Double Chocolate Chip Cookies or maybe even these Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies that I posted way back in November 2007. Both of these cookie varieties use the same base recipe found here in this post.

This recipe is seriously so easy that it's almost ridiculous. I make these ALL THE TIME. While having a pile of homemade cookies sitting around isn't necessarily a good thing for the waistline, it sure is delicious!

These cookies can be made in 20 minutes flat...with a little practice, maybe even 15! With the help of a simple box of cake mix, these cookies come together in a flash and will bake up beautifully before your very eyes.

The possibilities are endless. Select your favorite ingredients and go from there. Are you a shredded coconut, chocolate chip and pecan fan? Well by all means, add all three ingredients to the cookie batter.

I made these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies last week, adding peanut butter for the first time. The simple addition of the peanut butter completely changed the texture of these an amazing way! The cookies came out of the oven divinely soft and chewy. Not to mention, they will make your entire home smell of peanut buttery & chocolately goodness! I'll certainly be adding peanut butter to the next batch that I make! Also, I used Extra Crunchy Peanut made all the difference in the world. Crunchy little pieces of peanuts made delightful appearances throughout the was delish!***

1 Box Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe "Butter Recipe Golden" cake mix
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup or more chocolate chips
3-4 tbsp extra crunchy peanut butter
Pre-heat oven to 365 degrees.

Pour cake mix into the bowl of an electric mixer. Give the cake mix a short spin by turning the mixer onto low speed for about 30 seconds...just to break up any large chunks of cake mix.

Slowly pour the vegetable oil into the cake mix, and then quickly add the at a time. Mix on slow-medium speed for about 1-2 minutes. Once the mixture comes together into a smooth cookie batter, add peanut butter. Mix for an additional 1-2 minutes to completely incorporate the peanut butter into the batter. Next, add the chocolate chips and mix to combine well.

Use an ice cream scoop to scoop batter onto a greased cookie sheet. Using an ice cream scoop will ensure that all cookies are the same shape/size. Bake for approximately 12-14 minutes at 365 degrees. The first time you bake these, just keep an eye on them and check their progress after 12 minutes...a few extra minutes may be needed. They should be lightly browned on the outside, but will be nice and chewy on the inside. You may have to adjust the time depending on your particular oven.

Cool cookies on the pan for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack another 10 - 15 minutes.

***Be creative with this recipe! You can substitute almost any flavor cake mix or any flavor chocolate chips (ex: use M&Ms or chocolate/vanilla swirl morsels instead of chocolate chips). You can also substitute the pecans with another kind of nut like walnuts...or leave out the nuts completely! I also love to add shredded coconut to the batter!***

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Julia Child's Brussel Sprouts Browned with Cheese

***Okay, so I do realize that there's an infinite amount of other things in this world that are incredibly more exciting than Brussel sprouts. Trust me. Maybe you could take up basket-weaving, learn to play the bagpipes, or maybe even learn to juggle. All kidding aside, the term "Brussel sprouts" has never really inspired a lot of excitement in me.

"Dear, you have to eat your vegetables before you can go play." We all heard this growing up. Many of those not-so-yummy veggies have become some of my favorite things...broccoli, spinach and asparagus all come to mind. Brussel sprouts however, have never been a favorite of mine.

As it turns out though, this particular recipe just so happens to be Amy Adams' (you know...the actress who plays Julie Powell in the new movie Julie & Julia) favorite recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I. Check it out here:

Brad and I were in The Fresh Market recently and we came across a beautiful display of these little Brussel sprouts...after all, they do look like cute little heads of cabbage. For some reason, we decided it would be a good idea to get them, and I just knew that Julia would have a good idea for how to prepare them. And that, she did! I selected a classic-enough dish - Brussel Sprouts Browned with Cheese. I figured any vegetable smothered in butter and topped with cheese couldn't be that bad...RIGHT??

While this dish was really far as Brussel sprouts go...I have to admit that I just don't think I'm a big "Brussel sprouts person" know? However, if you're a fan of this popular veggie, then you'll love this recipe! Give it a try!***

Choux de Bruxelles a la Milanaise (Brussels Sprouts Browned with Cheese)

1 1/2 quarts brussels sprouts braised in butter
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese mixed with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons melted butter

Follow the master recipe for braising the brussels sprouts (below), but when they have been in the oven 10 minutes, turn them into a bowl. Reset set oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of cheese in the casserole or baking dish to coat the bottom and sides. Return the brussels sprouts, spreading the rest of the cheese over each layer. Pour on the melted butter. Place uncovered in upper third of oven for 10 to 15 minutes to brown the cheese nicely.

Choux de Bruxelles Etuves au Beurre (Brussels Sprouts Braised in Butter)
Serves: 6 people

1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
A 2 1/2 quart, fireproof, covered casserole or baking dish large enough to hold the brussels spouts in 1 or 2 layers
1 1/2 quarts blanched brussels sprouts...partially cooked (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper 2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter
A round of lightly buttered waxed paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and smear butter inside the casserole or baking dish.

Arrange the blanched brussels sprouts heads up in the casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and then with the melted butter.

Lay the waxed paper over the brussels sprouts. Cover and heat on top of the stove until vegetables begin to sizzle, then place in the middle level of preheated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sprouts are tender and well impregnated with butter. Serve as soon as possible.

Choux de Bruxelles Blanchis (Blanched Brussel Sprouts - Preliminary Cooking)
1 to 2 quarts Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and washed
A large kettle containing 7 to 8 quarts of rapidly boiling water
1 1/2 tsp salt per quart of water
A skimmer
A colander

Drop the Brussel sprouts into the rapidly boiling salted water. Bring to the boil again as rapidly as possible.

If the vegetables are to be partially cooked and finished off later as directed in the recipe above, boil them slowly, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until mostly tender. Immediately remove with a skimmer and drain in a colander.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake

***Okay, so there are a few ingredients on this earth that I simply could not live without. Cardamom and vanilla are easily on the top of this list. There's something about the warm spicy taste of cardamom...with that delectable little hint of orange that gives it that extra little bit of "specialness". And there's vanilla...who doesn't love the classic and comforting taste of vanilla? Plus, it doesn't get much better than fresh vanilla seeds scraped from the vanilla beans...!

So, because of my love for both cardamom and vanilla, this cake was an extremely easy choice. I didn't have to think too hard about making this one! I'm so glad that I did. The cake was scrumptious, and the combination of the 2 flavors was just over-the-top delicious! Plus, the little flecks of vanilla seeds throughout the finished cake just add another little special touch.

As the magazine mentions, the flavor of this cake intensifies after the first day, so it's even better on the second day! This cake made an easy and delicious breakfast (I know...not exactly a breakfast of champions, but that was the last thing on my mind as I bit into my yummy piece of cake!). I found the texture of this cake to be perfect...just dense enough, but still fairly tender...just like a good pound cake should be.***

Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake
Source: Gourmet magazine, March 2009

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- a 12-cup kugelhopf or bundt pan
- a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and granulated sugar in mixer at medium speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a paring knife into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in lemon juice until combined well. At low speed, add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Gently rap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.

Beat cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla extract using whisk attachment of mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve cake with whipped vanilla cream.

Cooks' notes:
• If you have green cardamom pods, you can grind the seeds using a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee/spice grinder
•Cake keeps in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.