Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Arroz con leche - Vegan and gluten-free stylie!

A few of my friends have requested vegan and gluten-free desserts, so I've decided to start a new category on my blog that specifically caters to them. And for my first post I thought, rice pudding totally fits the bill.

Rice pudding was a staple sweet in our household when I was growing up. My mom frequently made it using leftover precooked jasmine rice. It's such a classic dessert, and it seems as though every country in the world has their own version. My personal fave is arroz con leche from Spain, which usually includes a hint of lemon flavor.

If you don't mind dairy, you can replace the soy milk with whole or skim. A batch will make approximately 6-8 servings.

Arroz con leche
Adapted from Gourmet, February 2009 Issue
  • 2 cups cooked jasmine or short-grain white rice
  • 4 cups soy milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 (4-inch) strips lemon zest
  • 1 (3-to 4-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Stir in milk, rice, sugar, zest, and cinnamon stick and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until thickened and rice is tender, 40 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in vanilla. Cool to lukewarm in a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon before serving.

Eat up, my vegan and gluten intolerant friends! To be continued...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ultimate Chocolate Marquise with Raspberry Coulis

A chocolate marquise is a heavenly rich dessert that is prepared in a terrine mold (or loaf pan) and does not require baking. It has an amazing, truffle-like flavor and consistency.

Take note of the amount of eggs that are needed. That's not a misprint folks...many, MANY uncooked eggs are used in this recipe, so anyone with health concerns may want to think about using pasteurized eggs. Despite it's less than wholesome ingredients, it's the perfect make-ahead dessert - just leave it in the freezer until ready to serve. I eliminated the liqueur from the recipe and paired it with a simple, yet tasty raspberry coulis.

On a side note, I finally kicked my old point-and-shoot camera to the curb and replaced it with a nifty, Nikon DSLR. It takes amazing photos, but is easy enough to use even for the novice photographer. I'm hoping to get a few more oohs and aahs from my food shots.

Ultimate Chocolate Marquise with Raspberry Coulis
Adapted from Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham

For the marquise:
  • 1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or other brandy or liqueur (optional)
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
For the raspberry coulis:
  • 3 cups of fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of confectioner's sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
To make the marquise:
Butter an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and line with 2 sheets of plastic wrap, one going the long way and one going the short way, leaving an overhang of several inches on all sides.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of about 1-1/2 inches of nearly simmering water, whisking until smooth. Whisk in the sugar and Cognac, if using, until well blended.

Remove the bowl from the heat and with an electric mixer on low speed, beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Beat the egg whites and salt with clean beaters on medium-high speed in a large deep bowl just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. With a whisk or a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 batches just until well blended.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, pushing it into the corners and smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap and then wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Freeze for at least 6 hours.

To serve, unwrap the pan, fold back the plastic wrap, and run a table knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the marquise. Place a serving platter over the pan, invert the pan onto it, and release the marquise by pulling on the edges of the plastic wrap. Remove the plastic wrap and smooth the edges of the marquise with a small warm metal spatula if necessary. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a sharp knife dipped in very warm water and wiped dry between each slice, and place on chilled dessert plates. (You can tightly rewrap and freeze any leftover marquise.)

To make the raspberry coulis:
Puree the raspberries in a food processor. Sift the sugar over the berries, add the water, and pulse until smooth.

Pour the mixture through a large course strainer set over a bowl, pressing hard on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in the lemon juice to taste.

Transfer to a glass jar and refrigerate, tightly covered, until ready to serve. (The sauce will keep for up to 1 week.) Shake well before serving the sauce chilled or at room temperature. The sauce will thicken a bit on standing; add water as needed to think to the desired consistency before serving. This recipe makes a scant 2 cups.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good morning sunshine!

Ah, the traditional American breakfast - there's nothing like sitting down to a huge platter of eggs, pancakes and greasy, gristly meat at the crack of dawn.

Blech. I've never been a breakfast person, and I'm even less of a morning person so on most days a jumbo latte gets me through until lunch time. However, a nice light combo of fruit and yogurt is very appealing to me...better still with a little granola. Breakfast parfaits have become so popular that even fast food chains are selling them, but you can easily make them at home. They look lovely, taste delish, and are perfect for those rushed mornings. 

Breakfast Parfait with Homemade Granola
  • 2 cups of fresh fruit (I used blueberries and strawberries)
  • 2 cups Greek plain or vanilla yogurt
  • Granola (recipe to follow)
You can assemble the parfaits as you wish, I made a single layer of yogurt, fruit then topped it off with the granola. Makes 4 servings.

Easy Homemade Granola
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole or slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins*
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries*
*NOTE: I omitted the dried fruit in the granola since fresh fruit was used in the parfait.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined. Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola. The granola will keep for 1 week in an airtight container.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's better than a four-leaf clover?

I know I'm in the minority when I say that I just don't like beer. In fact, I don't believe that I have ever been able to consume one single bottle or full glass of beer. Gin has always been my spirit of choice. My husband Kevin on the other hand, is an avid beer fan - Guinness being one of his favorites.

Now I have heard that stout beer, when paired with chocolate really enhances the flavor and what better time to test out this theory than for St. Patrick's Day?

Oh, did I mention that this recipe also has buttercream frosting made with Baileys Irish Creme? Muhahaha...

The original recipe, (which you can view on also contains a little pocket of ganache, which I omitted since I did not have any whiskey on hand.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Baileys Irish Buttercream
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For cupcakes:
  • 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  For frosting:
  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Creme
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth.

Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes. I used a piping bag with tip, though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off works just as well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ciao Italia!

We just returned from Italy and I think I'm still suffering from a bit of jet lag. We spent a little bit of time in Florence and Rome; both were amazing cities full of history, art and good food! Italy has about as many gelaterias as they do churches, and I think I tried them all.

The Italians do not mess around when it comes to their sweets...oh, or their coffee and wine.

So, I thought I would make something for my co-worker's birthday that uses mascarpone and a dessert wine that I recently discovered called Vin Santo. The original recipe calls for Fino Sherry which I substituted with the Vin Santo because it's delicious and I wanted it to be Italiano-inspired (sorry Spain, maybe next trip).

Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries
Adapted from Gourmet, July 2008 Issue

For cake:
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
For berries:
    • 1/2 cup Fino Sherry [I substituted it for Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine]
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 4 cups mixed berries, cut if large
    For cream:
      •  8 ounces mascarpone (1 cup)
      • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • confectioners sugar (to garnish, optional)
      Make cake:
      Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Line bottom with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

      Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

      Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer at low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing after each addition until just combined.

      Spread batter in cake pan, smoothing top. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

      Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Discard paper and reinvert cake onto rack to cool completely.

      Macerate berries:
      Bring wine and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Put berries in a bowl and pour hot syrup over them, gently tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.

      Make cream and assemble cake:
      Beat mascarpone and cream with sugar in a large bowl using cleaned beaters until mixture just holds stiff peaks.

      Halve cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Carefully remove top half and reserve. Put bottom half on a plate, then spread evenly with all of cream and replace top half. Serve with berries.