Friday, January 28, 2011

Gooey Butter Tarts

This post will be a short one. I've been working on an exciting new food-related project that has been taking a lot of my time. I will fill you in as soon as I can - it's a good one!

These little tarts are sure to make anyone feel better after a hard day. They are little bites of gooey, sweet caramel goodness and are a wonderful Canadian staple. The contrast between the flaky pastry and the soft velvety filling makes for the perfect sweet treat at any time of day.

On another note, I got many emails about the glass milk carton I featured in my Coffee Cake post. For any one who would like to purchase it, it's made by Fred and Friends and can be bought on here. It's been a great addition in our kitchen!

Gooey Butter Tarts

Makes 8-10 mini tarts

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) of all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons (100 grams) of very cold butter
2 tablespoons (30 grams) of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons of water
For the filling:
1/2 cup of golden raisins
2/3 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup of butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tbl of light corn syrup
Sift the flour, sugar and salt directly onto a work surface (a cold surface such as marble works best). Cut the butter into small pieces. The butter must be very cold before you add it to the flour. Mix the butter into the flour using a pastry scraper. You can also use your fingers, but work quickly to ensure that the butter stays cold. Once the dough has the texture of coarse sand, create a well in the center by using a cup or glass. Add the egg and water to the well. Using a fork, swirl the egg and slowly incorporate the flour into the centre. Once most of the flour has been incorporated you can start using your hands. Knead the dough into a round ball. At this point, take a small handful of the dough at a time, and, using the palm of your hand, smear it out completely onto the counter surface. This process makes sure that the butter is fully incorporated into the dough. Repeat with the rest of the dough until you have a pile of chunks of dough. Gently knead and form into a flat disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Take out 10 minutes before using.
In the meantime, make the filling. Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Leave to soak for 20 minutes. Drain well and reserve. In a small saucepan on medium low heat, add the butter and sugar and stir until just melted. Add the corn syrup, vanilla extract and drained raisins. Beat in the eggs and whisk over the heat for 5-6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook.
Preheat your oven to 375F. Roll the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out large circles of dough to fit individual mini tart molds. Butter the molds and gently place the dough inside. Pour in the filling until 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes. Set to cool on a cooling rack and unmold a few minutes later.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chaussons aux Pommes (or Apple Turnovers)

If I had to name the one food-item I miss the most about France, it would have to be the 'boulangeries' at almost every street corner. Growing up, no Sunday meal would be complete without a trip to our local bakery to pick up a fresh - and warm when we were lucky- baguette and a couple chaussons aux pommes, pains aux raisins and pains au chocolat for breakfast. Every time I go back home and visit my parents, the first thing I do is head for my neighborhood market, with a mandatory trip to the boulangerie. I really miss having access to homemade baked bread so close to home - there are bakeries around Montreal, but the French in me never finds them quite as good as the ones at home.

Chausson aux pommes have always been one of my favorites. This buttery, flaky puff pastry semicircle filled with apple compote is pretty close to perfection. This recipe makes an easy make-at home version, made with triangular pieces of puff pastry and chunky apple sauce. These gorgeous treats are then puffed up in the oven until golden. These are perfect to enjoy for a nice afternoon snack or to start out the day. The best thing about them though, is that they freeze wonderfully well. Place a couple chaussons in freezable bags, brush with egg wash and cook straight from frozen when you're ready for a nice homemade fruity treat. I love this type of cooking - you put a little effort in now, and your freezer is then filled with goodies to enjoy at a later time.

Chaussons Aux Pommes

2 10x10 inch sheets of frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Granulated sugar, to dust the chaussons

Apple Compote
6 golden delicious apples
1 knob of butter
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Thaw the puff pastry according to package instructions.

Make the compote. Peel, core and cut the apples into bite-size chunks. In a small pan on medium low heat, add the apples, butter and sugar. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar coats the apples. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice and cook for 10 minutes or until the chunks of apples have softened. Remove from the heat, and using a pestle or large spoon, break down the larger pieces of apples. The compote should be think and still chunky. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Lay out a puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Cut the squares into 3 lengthwise strips, and cut each sheet into 3 rectangles (you can cut them into 2 rectangles for bigger chaussons). Cut each rectangle in half diagonally, to form triangles. Place about 2 tablespoons of compote at the center of of one triangle, and top with the other, making sure the compote doesn't spill. Using a fork, press down the pastry to seal the top triangle with the bottom one. Repeat with all the triangles, and repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the top triangle with egg wash. Using a small knife, lightly score a crisscross pattern on the top of the triangle and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake on a parchment-line baking sheet for 10-12 minutes or until the triangles are golden and crisp.
Tip: If you find that the puff pastry if not as golden as you would want it, broil the chaussons for 1-2 minutes until golden. Keep a constant eye on the oven if you do this as they will go from perfect to burnt very fast!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

I'll be honest, cabbage rolls are definitely not the most glamorous or sexy dish out there. I don't think this would be a meal of choice for any first date or that it's the kind of dish you would want to be served at a hip restaurant. However, it's an incredibly comforting meal and with the snowy, windy winter we've had in Montreal so far, it's just about the most perfect dish to serve on a cold night. It's also a great meal to make in large quantities and have in the freezer for a quick meal at any other time. The only real tedious part of the meal is softening the cabbage leaves in simmering water, but the rest of the process is fairly straight forward. The result is a pot filled to the brim with cabbage rolls stuffed with a mix of onions, rice and meat and covered with thick tomato sauce. It's also a beautifully complete meal that needs very little around it.

I'm usually most inclined to make dishes that are not only incredibly tasty and flavorful but also aesthetically pleasing. This dish is a little bit of a let down in the aesthetics department but it definitely makes up for it in comfort. If you want to freeze an extra batch, freeze the rolls raw in ziploc bags and cook directly from the freezer by adding the rolls to a pot and covering with tomato puree as indicated in my recipe below.

Cabbage Rolls

1 large savoy cabbage
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp of dried oregano
2 cups of cooked long grain rice
8 ounces of ground beef
6 ounces of ground lamb
1 can of tomato puree, 28 ounces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Using a paring knife, remove the core of the cabbage. Bring a large pot filled with water to a gentle boil. The pot must be big enough to fit the whole cabbage. Turn the cabbage several times during this process to make sure all parts of the cabbage are submerged in water. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the outer leaves are tender. Carefully remove the cabbage from the water and remove the softened outer leaves. Return the cabbage to the boiling water, and repeat the process to tenderize all the leaves. Using a peeler, peel the rigid center core of each leaf so that the leaves are easily pliable.

Add a good drizzle of olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and oregano and cook until the onions are tender and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the onion mixture to a large bowl. Mix in the cooked rice, beef and lamb and generously season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Prepare a work surface to roll the leaves. Add about 1/3 cup of filling on the bottom third of a leaf. Fold the bottom edge over the filling and tightly fold up the sides. Continue rolling as tightly as possible and lay the rolls fold side down.

Add the tomato puree to a Dutch oven and add the rolls. Depending on the size of the rolls you may have to add more tomato puree. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour or until the rolls are entirely cooked through. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chocolate and Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

This coffee cake was a real delight to have over the weekend - it was moist, beautiful and the swirl gave it that something special you look for in a weekend treat. When I first moved to North America and heard about coffee cakes, I was disappointed to find that they didn't taste like coffee at all. Cutting a piece and enjoying it with a warm cup of coffee brings the coffee flavor into the cake though and makes it just about the perfect balance of flavors. I've tasted a lot of coffee through the years and visited a lot, a lot of coffee shops while traveling. My favourite to date has to be Blue Bottle in San Francisco- their cold brewed coffee has to be the best I've ever had. Lately, however, some coffee shops have started taking themselves too seriously and that can take away from the experience of relaxing and enjoying one of the best drinks there is. I greatly value a warm and cozy ambiance when getting an afternoon cup of coffee but have found that many coffee shops have, sadly, become pretentious and have ended up making coffee seem inaccessible and and an art not everyone can understand.

On a recent trip to New York, I was happy I found Stumptwon Coffee Roasters at the Ace Hotel. This place is worth the trip if only for the eclectic decor of the hotel itself- it's filled with worn in furniture, low lights and different nooks and crannies to comfortably sit in. The cappuccino I had there was the smoothest and frothiest coffee I've had. It really was. They also had velvety iced coffee and fleur de sel chocolate bars. We also sampled some of the treats there and their pretzel-like bread filled with ham, sharp cheese and mustard was absolutely amazing. I will definitely be making my way back to the Ace Hotel when I go to New York next.

Chocolate and Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

Adapted from Baked, I made the cake in a round cake pan instead

Crumb Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of hazelnuts
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
16 ounces sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Crumb Topping:
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor and pulse to combine. Add the hazelnuts and pulse until they are finely chopped and incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until mixture looks like coarse sand. Cover and refrigerate.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl:
Mix ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Sour Cream Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Scrape down bowl and add sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl as needed.
Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping down the bowl before each addition and beating only until each addition is just incorporated. Do not overmix.
Pour one third of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread batter evenly in pan. Sprinkle half of the chocolate cinnamon swirl mixture over batter, covering the entire surface of the batter. Spoon half of remaining batter over the swirl mixture and spread it evenly. Top with remaining swirl mixture, then the remaining batter, and spread the batter evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake in the center of the oven for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serves 16.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year Cookbook Giveway!

The holidays may be over, but who said giveaways had to be over too? To keep the holiday spirit going a little longer, I'm giving away a copy of a fun cookbook called FoodFest 365. This book is written by Food Network competitor Yvan D. Lemoine and is filled with fun food-trivia as well as celebrations of different types of food for everyday of the year. You can enjoy Chocolate Mint day on Febuary 19th, Coconut Torte day on March 13th or Cotton Candy day on July 31st.

To enter the contest, comment on this post and tell us what your favorite foods to celebrate with are. For a second entry in this contest, add a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page. This content is open to US and Canadian residents only and ends on January 9th, 2011. Good luck!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best of 2010

Chocolate Shavings readers,
Here's a toast to 2010 and some tasty recipes from this year. From clams steamed in white wine, to mango and chicken stir-fry and chocolate poached pears it's really been a great food year. Thanks for being such loyal readers and making this blog such a pleasure to write. Here's t0 2011 and many more delicious treats!

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