Sunday, November 30, 2008

Eggs Baked in Tomatoes with Prosciutto and Basil Puree

I have been meaning to make this dish for a few weeks now, but had not found the time for a leisurely Sunday morning where I could afford to try it out and take the time to appreciate the result. This morning, the timing was just right: I had a couple tomatoes just asking to be cooked, and Oliver and I were both in the mood for a nice breakfast. I really enjoy making dishes like these that are hearty, fairly easy and fail-safe and that look and feel so deliciously rustic. I've taken a liking to serving food in my cast iron at the dinner table, and this would a great opportunity to do just that.

I got this recipe from Delicious magazine and slightly adapted it. It was truly one of the best meals I've had in the past few months. The salty prosciutto gets crispy in the oven, the tomato flavor intensifies, the basil smells wonderfully fragrant and the egg yolk breaks as soon as you dig in. Need I say more?

Recipe (for 2)
2 large tomatoes
A handful of basil
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Freshly ground pepper
2 slices of prosciutto
2 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the top of the tomatoes with a sharp knife and gently scoop out the seeds and juices with a spoon. Lay them upside down on a couple sheet of paper towels to soak up extra moistness. In the meantime, using a mortar and pestle, smash the basil until it forms a paste. Add a pinch of salt, and drizzle a little olive oil to loosen the basil. Add some black pepper. Check that the tomatoes are dry inside, and dab the inside with an extra paper towel. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around the tomato, and, using a toothpick, seal both ends so they fit snugly around the tomato. Smear some of the basil paste inside the tomato.

Drizzle a little olive oil in a cast iron and lay the tomatoes in the pan. Cook for 15 minutes. Gently add the egg inside of each tomato and cook for another 8-10 minutes or until the egg is cooked to your liking. Remove the toothpicks and add a little salt and black pepper. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Let me preface this by saying that I am a little uneasy with making caramel. Most people are quite aware of how dangerous caramel can be but I really learned the hard way. Let me set the scene. I am making 'creme caramel' at culinary school, and am at the stage where you melt the sugar, turn it into amber caramel and pour the liquid into the bottom of ramekins that will then be filled with custard. In an effort to get a perfectly even layer of caramel, my finger slipped in the boiling hot caramel.. and I lost more skin that I ever thought possible. The whole class stared, I had to be sat down (I was pale and livid and it seemed that I might pass out).. and was obliged to wear a 'finger condom' for the next couple weeks. Restaurant kitchens all have a stack of these tiny little finger condoms (they are literally minuscule latex tubes meant to fit your finger)that cooks wear when they hurt themselves to make sure that they don't infect the food. It's not exactly the most flattering accessory and a clear (and visible!) reminder that you did something wrong. That was by far the worst injury I ever experienced while cooking and probably the most pain I've ever been in!

However, my love for cooking and trying new things has always forced me to go beyond my fears, and when I saw this month's Daring Bakers challenge from Shuna Fish Lydon , I knew it was a great time to face the (delicious)caramel monster again. I had already made caramel a couple weeks ago to accompany a pear clafoutis, and everything had gone why not with this cake? Oliver helped me in the kitchen for this one, and he insisted that he would pour the water in the amber-colored sugar to finish off the mixture. I felt like I was standing in the lab of a mad scientist for a couple seconds, as the sugar started to bubble furiously, the pot fumed to the ceiling, and Oliver jumped back with a somewhat shaky empty glass.

The rest of the cake was easy to make, so easy in fact that I was worried it might taste quite ordinary. Quite to the contrary, the cake was moist, rich in caramel flavor combined with a subtle mix of sweet and salty.

Recipe (found here)
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup (recipe found below) into the bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

The cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (to "stop" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Caramelized Butter Frosting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Classic Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know, you've probably seen a zillion chocolate chip cookie posts on a zillion different food blogs, so why should you care? Well, maybe because I've tested a lot of them. Maybe because sometimes you want a moist and soft chocolate chip cookie and you end up with a hard crackling cookie and you just don't know where the recipe failed you! First, let me share a little secret. I have a newfound love for chocolate shards. I always used to use chocolate chips to make cookies until one day, I found myself out of them. I used a good quality chocolate bar instead, and coarsely chopped pieces of dark goodness that I then folded into my batter. I've been making cookies like this ever since. Sure it takes a couple extra minutes to chop the chocolate, but the end result is a cookie where some pieces are melted and gooey and others are just specks of dark chocolate seeping throughout the dough.

Now for a good, reliable recipe. This one really did the trick. It's a recipe from the Martha Stewart Cookie book and the batter is the best cookie batter I've had yet. It's fluffy, sweet, but not too sweet and absolutely delicious. Should I confess that a few of these cookies-to-be were eaten raw? The cookies were delicious - so good in fact that we had to give them away because the pile of them was mysteriously getting smaller during the course of the day.

Recipe (makes about 3 dozens)
2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
1 teaspoon of coarse salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups of bittersweet chocolate shards (about 12 ounces)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugars. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy for 2-3 minutes. Reduce to low speed and add the salt, vanilla and eggs. Mix until just incorporated. Mix in the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Leave a 2 inch space between each. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until the edges turn golden but the centers are still soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Let them cool on cooling racks. The cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Herb Frittata with Feta, Green Onions and Arugula

We had some of our friends over for brunch Sunday morning."Why don't we make them poached eggs?" Oliver asked seconds after we were brainstorming brunch ideas. Oliver has a sort of obsession with poached eggs and has spent weeks (or is it months?) perfecting his poaching skills. But, true to habit, we still went browsing through our ever-growing cookbook collection when we stopped on one of Jamie Oliver's recipes for a shrimp frittata. I had made it a few months ago and I remembered it being easy and delicious. "Maybe we should make a version of this instead? It would be easier to prepare beforehand, don't you think?". Oliver didn't look entirely convinced, but as soon as I suggested a mix of herbs, feta and green onions topped with market fresh arugula, he was sold.

The thing is, when you have guests over, there is nothing more annoying than having to run back and forth to the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, getting your guests in the kitchen to all cook together is on the top of my list of great entertaining, but sometimes it's just not what you want. Frittata made our brunch preparations a breeze. I had everything ready in a bowl and just popped my cast iron into the oven as my guests were coming in, and 5 minutes later - literally - it was on the table, warm and rustically served in the cast iron. I also made a batch of chocolate and candied orange muffins the day before, our guests brought a lovely fruit, coffee and hot chocolate, and we were set.

Recipe (for 4)
8 eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley
1/2 tablespoon of chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 lemon zest
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
3 spring onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A small handful of arugula
Extra virgin olive oil
Squirt of lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 400F. In bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the parsley, chives, dried oregano and lemon zest. Stir gently. Fold in the feta and green onion. Season with salt and pepper. Place a cast iron (or any oven-proof pan) on medium heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon for 1 minute. Place the cast iron in the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until the egg has set.
In a bowl, add the arugula. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve frittata in the cast iron, topped with the arugula.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sweet Potato Fries with Parsley and Caper Mayonnaise

Oliver and I were contemplating going out for dinner, when, suddenly, I noticed our two lonely sweet potatoes that we hadn't gotten around to using this week. Sometimes, the best meals are built around a single item, and this smelled like that kind of night. I had published these sweet potato fries while working on TasteSpotting a little while ago and knew they would be my inspiration for tonight's dish. We opted for baking the fries (a generally much healthier version than deep frying), keeping it rustic with the skins left on, and serving it with a hearty batch of homemade mayonnaise.

I don't know if it's because I grew up watching my mother make mayonnaise time and time again, or if it's just because homemade mayonnaise is so easy to make, but I never understood why people buy the jarred stuff. Sure, I won't lie, it has come in handy a couple of times in the past, but the real stuff just takes whatever you're making to a whole new level. Trust me, your usual potato salads, sandwiches or dips featuring homemade mayonnaise just have that extra something a mass-produced product can't compete with.

Recipe: (for 2)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled
3 cloves of garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375F. Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices, stack the slices and cut again into sticks. Using a mortar and pestle, mash together the oregano, rosemary and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Once the mixture is well blended add the olive oil, little by little to form a paste. Add the mixture to the potatoes and, if needed, add some more oil to make sure each and every fry is well-coated. Place on a single layer on a baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes, rotating the sheet half way through the cooking time. Increase the temperature to 450F and cook for another ten minutes. Remove from the baking sheet and transfer to a bowl lined with paper towels to suck up any excess oil. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

1 egg yolk,
150-200 ml of canola oil
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon of parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a small bowl, add the egg yolk and mustard and whisk until blended. Slowly add the oil, whisking continuously. After you have incorporated about a quarter of the oil, you should feel the mayonnaise coming together and starting to form a thick sauce. Add the oil very slowly to make sure that it has time to be completely incorporated in the mustard mixture before you add more oil. Once all the oil has been added, add the vinegar and lemon and whisk again. Add the capers and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the fries. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Potato and Leek Soup with Crumbled Blue Cheese

The inspiration for this soup came from a classic Vichyssoise, a potato and leek soup generally enjoyed chilled. During the unbearably hot days at culinary school in New York, my teammates and I had made a cold Vichyssoise as an amuse-bouche for the school's restaurant. It turned out that a shot of cold yet creamy soup was the perfect way to start off a copious meal. Chilled soup would, however, be difficult to want to make at this time of year, so I tweaked the recipe to make it desirable for much cooler days. And what better way to serve it than in little espresso cups?

Montreal is a cold and bitter city come winter, but also a city where people - who are used to the wintery temperatures - still go out, eat out and enjoy life. Any Montrealer's wardrobe includes an extra pair of legwarmers under your jeans, socks up to your knees and fleece wherever you can fit it. The upside is that once you beat the first couple of steps out of the door, your body, although oddly at first - think frozen eyelids, and steamy cold breath - gets used to the cold and resets what normal warmth is. All to say that a bowl of steamy soup is really a great way to welcome the cold months to come.

On a less formal note, I am off to Venice in a couple weeks. Oliver and I were thinking about a small getaway and since were are spending the holidays in France with my family, Venice seemed like the perfect place to go to. I am sure you food lovers and travel lovers can relate to this: when I start booking a vacation, sure I look at the great sights, museums, architecture I want to be sure not to miss, but let's face it, I want to know what kind of food I'm going to be able to sample. Traveling through food is one of the greatest way to really experience the culture of the place you are in, the customs, the traditions and the aura of a place. I've done quite a bit of research and it seems quite unanimous that Venice is not the Italian city where the food is the best. I hear that finding more remote restaurants is the way to go to avoid touristy places with touristy prices. Any advice from you food lovers out there would be more than welcome! I promise to bring back a myriad of photos, and hopefully at least a couple recipes too.

Recipe (for 6)
2 ounces of pancetta, roughly chopped
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 leeks, chopped (use white and light green parts only)
2 bay leaves
2 cups of chicken stock
1 pound of diced Yukon Gold potatoes (about 8 small potatoes)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese of your choice
Chives, to garnish

In a stockpot, add the pancetta on medium heat and cook until some of fat renders (about 3 minutes). Add the onion and stir to coat the fat. Add a drizzle of oil if needed. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic.
Chop the leeks and add to the stockpot. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and cook for another minute. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock. The liquid should just cover the potatoes and leeks. Add water to cover if there isn't enough stock to do so. Add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and blend with an immersion blender until the soup is smooth. Add a touch of water if the soup is too thick for your taste. Strain the soup to remove any lumps and strands of leek. Serve warm with crumbled blue cheese and garnish with chives. Enjoy!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shrimp, Sugar Snap Pea and Baby Bok Choy Soup

Have I been in a bit of a soup-obsessed mood lately?... maybe. Or maybe it's just that when it's getting bitterly cold, the only way to fight back is to get in the kitchen and make a great big batch of soup! I was in the mood for something light, easy and heart-warming. I think this pretty much did the trick: a couple ladlefuls of chicken broth, a myriad of greens and some shrimp all simmering in the cradle of a wok. 10 minutes later... voila. Lunch is served my friends!

Of course, in a more perfect world, I might have taken the time to enrich my stock with added chicken bones and aromatics. I might have added some chicken or sliced pork too. But as time was of the essence, I came up with this easy enough concoction and the result was quick and perfect.

Recipe (for 4)
4 baby bok choy
12 sugar snap peas
12 shrimp, peeled
1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 tablespoon of peanut (or canola) oil
A pinch of dried chillies
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
2 spring onions, sliced
4 cups of chicken stock
Toasted sesame seeds
300 grams of dried udon noodles

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Run them under cold water once cooked, and reserve.

In the meantime, add the bok choy (cut in half lengthwise) and the sugar snap peas to a pot of boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes. Shock the vegetables by placing them in ice cold water. This stops the cooking process and helps the vegetables maintain a nice green color. Once the vegetables are cold, drain and remove excess water with paper towels.

Heat your wok to medium low heat. Add the peanut oil, ginger, garlic and dried chili. Stirfry for 2 minutes. Add the peeled shrimp. Once the shrimp starts to turn pink, add the vegetables stirring constantly. Once the shrimp is entirely pink in color add the noodles. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once the broth has come to a boil, add the soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onions and cook for another minute. Serve topped with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Crispy Sage and Parmesan Grilled Bread

Butternut squash is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with in the Fall. There's just something comforting about roasting its orange flesh until it becomes soft and sweet - and the wonderful color gets me every time. Apple and squash must have been high school sweethearts of sorts as their flavors meld wonderfully but also manage to stand up to one another. The great thing about these kinds of soups is that they fill your kitchen (and whole living space when your apartment is not very spacious!) with a wonderful earthy smell - and while they take a little while to simmer, the end result is grand amounts of luscious soup that can be frozen to enjoy at a later time if desired.

So, grab your favorite fleece blanket, some crusty bread and a bowl of steaming soup and just enjoy being inside and warm on a cold day.

Recipe (for 6)
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size cubes
3 apples, peeled and cored into bite-size cubes
1/2 white onion
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of light brown sugar
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
6 sage leaves, and one extra per soup bowl
3 cloves of garlic, diced
3 shallots, diced
1 1/2 qt of chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Parmesan Bread
One loaf of sourdough bread
Olive oil
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 F. Place the butternut squash and apple cubes on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, the apple cider vinegar and season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to mix the seasoning in. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the cubes are soft. Check on the apples after 20 minutes as they should be be ready before the butternut squash.

In the meantime, dice the onion, celery and carrots into similar size bite-size chunks. In a pot, heat a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the vegetables and stir. Cook on medium low heat for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the chopped garlic and shallots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cooked apples and butternut squash. Add the 6 sage leaves (minced) and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Blend (preferably with an immersion blender) until the soup is smooth. If the soup seems a little too chunky, add some water, one tablespoon at a time into you reach your desired texture. Keep warm on low heat.

Heat a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a pan on high heat. Add the extra sage leaves. Turn them after 1 minute and fry on the other side for another minute. In the meantime, cut some sourdough bread into slices. Drizzle with olive oil and grated Parmesan. Grill for about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve the warm soup with a drizzle of olive oil, some cracked black pepper, a fried sage leaf and a couple pieces of bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Portobello Mushroom, Spring Onion and Pine Nut Pasta

To tell you the truth I wasn't planning on posting this recipe. I was making a quick lunch yesterday, was in a hurry to head out the door and then realized that this was exactly what I needed to write about... the fact that sometimes we have very little time to make ourselves a quick meal, but that with a few simple guidelines it can be a wonderful, heart-warming dish that keeps you going for hours.

I very often turn to pasta dishes when I'm in no shape to cook a lengthy meal. As I have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of pasta with a lot of sauce, especially for everyday lunches. Here are the few guidelines I have been living by: firstly, don't underestimate the power of mixing your pasta in the pan where you cooked the vegetables, meat or whatever else you are using as a garnish. Mixing the pasta in that pan melds in a few seconds all of the flavors together and makes the pasta actually taste flavorful.. because, let's face it, pasta on its own has very little flavor. And, secondly, any pasta can use a little bit of crunch! Whether it's pine nuts like here, toasted breadcrumbs, crispy pancetta or al dente peas - a little crunch adds wonderful texture to any pasta.

All to say, that I ended up spending some time taking a picture of my lunch, ate it cold, and was late!

Recipe (for one!)
100 grams of spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large portobello mushroom, sliced
2 spring onions, diced
2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan, and more for the table
1 small handful of pine nuts, toasted
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the pasta. In the meantime, drizzle some olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the mushrooms in a single layer. Don't move them for 2 minutes. Turn the mushrooms and cook for another minute. Turn the heat to medium low, add the spring onions, garlic and stir with a wooden spoon. Once the pasta is al dente add a teaspoon of pasta water to the pan. Add the drained pasta and stir vigorously. Add the Parmesan and the pine nuts and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and extra Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

I know, pumpkin pie is a North American classic, and has been for years. You all have probably been making them, or sampling them, forever. Most of you undoubtedly celebrate Thanksgiving with a slice of pumpkin pie(or two...or three) and I must admit that I've felt somewhat out of loop knowing I had never had a piece. As you probably know, pumpkin isn't a commonly used ingredient in France.. and Thanksgiving not exactly a celebrated holiday - hence my lack of pumpkin-pie eating growing up. All to say, that I was in dire need of making my very first pumpkin based dessert! I followed Anna Olson's recipe from October 'cooking club challenge', and found myself happily surprised when I was sent a copy of Food 2.0:Secrets From The Chef Who Fed Google as a winning prize.

And what could be better to complement a lovely orange-tinted pie than the scenic view of falling fall leaves?

For the dough, follow my fail-safe pate brisee recipe.

Pumpkin Pie
2 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp fancy molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp fine salt
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to just under 1/4 inch thick. Dust the bottom of a 9-inch pie shell with flour and line with the dough. Trim edges, keeping scraps to roll and cut for garnish, if desired. Blind bake (using beans to make sure the dough does not rise) for 7-8 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling :whisk the pumpkin with the brown sugar, molasses spices and salt. Whisk in the eggs and the whipping cream. Pour into the pre-baked pie shell.
Bake for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the filling puffs just a little around the edges but still has a bit of jiggle in the center when moved. Allow to cool to room temperature, then chill completely.

To serve the pumpkin pie warm, it is recommended to bake and chill completely, then re-warm in a 300 degrees F. oven for 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Double Chocolate Banana Espresso Muffins

I just fell in love with a new cookbook. I'm quite frivolous when it comes to cookbooks, and have yet to be able to name a month where I haven't taken a new one home. True, I am not loyal to each and every one of them at all times, but I find myself remembering an old flame a couple months down the road and browsing its pages with immense pleasure. While I have not tried nearly as many recipes as I would want from each and every book, just flipping through the pages is a constant source of inspiration. This new cookbook is a real keeper. It's the Baked Cookbook, from a bakery in Brooklyn and I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the cover. Yes... I do judge on appearances!

These muffins were the first recipe I tried from the book. They worked out wonderfully because I had been saving a couple bananas for weeks. The thing with bananas is that they really get sweeter as they ripen. When the skin gets really dark brown and the banana really soft, you know it will give you the most delicious base for banana bread or in this case.. banana chocolate muffins! I also chopped the chocolates into coarse pieces instead of using chocolate chips which added a nice rustic look to the final product.

Recipe, for 12 muffins, adapted from the Baked Cookbook

1 1/2 cups of mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium-sized bananas)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon of strong espresso
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
3 ounces of milk chocolate, cut in small pieces
3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, cut in small pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir in the banana, sugars, butter, espresso, milk and egg.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and gently add in the banana mixture. Stir into just combined. Gently fold in the chocolates.

Fill each muffin tin about three quarters full and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Once cooked, move muffins to a cooking rack. The muffins can be stored in an air tight container for up to two days. Enjoy!
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