Saturday, August 29, 2009

Keep It Simple Saturday: Clotted Cream

When I think of cream, I think of England...

I did not really develop an appreciation for cream until after I tasted my first scone with strawberry preserves and Devonshire clotted cream.

Clotted cream is one of those special little delicacies that is readily available in England, but harder to find in the U. S. Most of the people that I share it with have never heard of it before. It is an essential ingredient if you are hostessing a cream tea. And I guarantee that once you have it on a scone with strawberry jam, you will not be willing to have another scone without it. It is quite heavenly.

Clotted cream looks like butter, but it should not be lathered upon a scone like butter. Dress the scone with your favorite preserves and then dollop the clotted cream on top.

This is a simple recipe because it requires only one ingredient: CREAM.

You can use any good quality cream for this, I use heavy whipping cream because it is carried in most every grocery store.

The process of turning your cream into "clotted cream" is also very simple, but it takes some time. I like to make mine the evening before I plan to use it. This will give it time to set up in the refrigerator. To make clotted cream you will need a double boiler, a spoon and a small bowl.

Clotted Cream

1c Good quality cream (or Heavy Whipping Cream)

  1. Pour the cream into the top of a double boiler set over water that is simmering.

  2. Wait patiently

  3. As the cream heats you will see a light yellow crust that starts to form on top. With a metal spoon skim the crust from the cream and deposit it in the small bowl.

  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

You will find that you can go and work on other activities while waiting for your cream to crust. Come back and check on it throughout the evening and keep skimming until you have about 3/4 cup of crust in your bowl. I will generally pour the remaining quarter of a cup into the small bowl when I am finished and then place the bowl in the refrigerator. Do not worry if the consistency seems too thin...By morning you should have a nice batch of thickened clotted cream for your scones.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Bake N : August Challenge: Dobos Torte

Well if I knew you were coming, I would have baked you a cake like this one....

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

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

As you can see above, I made two small cakes by cutting the recipe in half. Me and Mr Cook are watching our waistlines (grow, unfortunately) and we certainly did not need any rich Hungarian desserts lying around to tempt us.

I added a bit of grand marnier to the sponge and used some fine dark chocolate that Simon brought me from Luxembourg to chocolatify (new word) the buttercream. The sponge and the buttercream frosting were heavenly. The hazelnuts were also a nice touch.

The challenging part of this "challenge" was applying the thin carmel layer.

But for me, the most challenging part of the carmel was eating it, not spreading it. It was a little to stickey for my new implants (let me clarify here : dental implant, I only have the dental type!) and frankly the thought of eating more carmel after I finally pried the first taste off of my dentrifices caused me a bit of stress. I don't think I was alone in this- other DB's had the same complaint.

Overall- a very nice cake if you remove the carmel top. I would definately consider experimenting with a softer carmel in the future. This cake was a bit time consuming as well. I think I would save the recipe for a special occaision.

If you would like a copy of the recipe let me know.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Keep It Simple Saturday: Chipotle Mayonnaise

A little over a week ago, I attended a cooking class at the Pacific Culinary Studio. This was one of those things that I had wanted to do for a while, but with school and work...and a hundred other excuses...I just didn't fit it in.

But this time, I called up a few of my foodie fiends ("r" intentionally removed here) and scheduled the tapas and sangria class. The chef of the evening was Conni Brownell, owner of The Charmed Radish .

It didn't take a lot of prodding to get the fiends to come along when "sangria" was mentioned. Lisa and Shelli were immediately "in". Chrissy-on the other hand- was not given a proper invite as she was on vacation and we were sure that no amount of fiendishly good company would be enough to tear her a way from the beach in Hawaii where she (no doubt) was savoring other tropical libations. We didn't want to put her in a position where she might have to decide between tropical vacation with hubby and fiendishly good time with sangria and girlfiends...(tough one!). We will definately insist on your attendance next time, Chrissy.

Back to K.I.S.S. post:

While many great little tapas were shared, one particular simple concoction stood out for me enough that I have prepared it no less than 3 times since class (less than a week and a half ago).

Conni served up this simple Chipotle Mayonnaise to accompany some very delicious corn fritters. I have served this with taco salad, as a dip for sweet potato fries (the best!) and as an amazing topping for chipotle and manchego cheese burgers.

This mayonnaise has a smokey-sweet flavor. All 3 fiends in attendance gave it a thumbs up. I am sure you will find many uses for it. You will definately want to give it a go with sweet potato fries!

The Charmed Radish Chipotle Mayonnaise

1/2 c mayonnaise

1 TBSP canned chipotle chilies in adobo, minced (or to taste)

2 tsp adobo sauce from chilies (or to taste)

1/4 tsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp of brown sugar or honey (or to taste)***

Mix the ingredients can make this more spicy, smokey or sweet depending upon what tastes right to you!

***the addition of brown sugar or honey was a recommendation that Conni added to the recipe on class night- I definately prefer it this way.

Let me know what you think! What else would it taste good with?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just a little warning...

How do I tell you this?

I was driving home from work today...the sun was shining...I was minding my own business, listening to the radio and thinking about barbequing burgers tonight... when, suddenly, out of the blue... one very red...very bold...little whisp of an autumn leaf...leapt from its perch upon a branch overhanging my path....twirled and floated downward...stopping only for the most brief second before my windshield (to taunt me, I think)...and then disappeared.

It looked very much like this.....

....only it was alone.
Consider yourself warned...if you have summer type stuff to do...better get 'er done now! Autumn is coming.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Cook N: Tropical Chardonnay Cake

Three things you should know about me:

1) I am trying desperately to balance my love of dessert and good food with my need to get in better physical shape (I am sure I am not alone in that pursuit!)

2) While I love things made from scratch- I am not above enhancing a product that comes in a box. I do eat mostly unprocessed foods, but every now and again I come across something new that I just have to try...

3) Wine is something that usually isn't leftover in our home.

So Sunday's dessert should be pretty easy to explain now.

I decided to allow myself dessert on Sundays. Simon and I spent the entire week working out on our Wii Fit to balance the calorie upswing from that delicious spanish rice the other night and a few other delightful courses this week.

I bought this bottle of Cabernet Cake mix a few months back while at a conference at Skamania Lodge in Southern Washington because I liked the packaging and thought "Cabernet in my cake sounds good"

Surprisingly, I had some leftover chardonnay from our Spanish rice night. I prefer red wine, but the rice recipe called for white and the Oak Grove Chardonnay was very nice. Just not as good as the Rex Goliath Merlot that we polished off instead.

The ingredients in the Cabernet Cake bottle were flour, coconut, vanilla (and a few other more scientific ingredients that shall remain nameless) The leftover Oak Grove Chardonnay had a nice tropical fruit essence, with vanilla tones. I thought that these two products would merge well together. (And then I could enjoy a whole bottle of Cabernet with my cake)

First, let me note that while the packaging for this cake mix was, indeed, creative. Removing the cake mix through the narrow neck of this bottle was not easy. It took forever and a mix of techniques to extract the goods- for this reason alone I do not recommend this product! The rest of the cake was fairly easy though: a little chardonnay wine, a few eggs, water and canola oil and...voila...chardonnay cake. I believe you could easily modify a simple butter cake recipe and achieve the same result. (maybe better, even). The cake was moist and rich and the flavor was very vanilla-like.

I topped the cake with a mix of tropical fruit. This was a Del Monte jarred product containing passionfruit, pineapple, mango and papaya (lightly sweetened with sugar and passion fruit juice). The fresh tropical fruit at our local grocer was overpriced and didn't look good. I drained the fruit, added some brown sugar and the rest of the chardonnay and brought the mix to a boil. I threw in a few bananas as it cooled.

A dollop of whipped heavy whipping cream flavored with a bit of vanilla and just a pinch of sugar balanced the sweetness of the dessert. A final sprinkle of toasted coconut and we couldn't wait to dig in. A very nice dessert.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Daring Cook N: August Daring Cook's Challenge: Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes

Oh my goodness did we dine well this evening!

Disclaimer for Jake: No cuttlefish were harmed in the creation of this wonderful Spanish dinner. I used squid and shrimp in its place, because I know that you have a soft spot in your heart for those cuddley cuttlefish.

Now, on to dinner....
This was fabulous! It was so good that I immediately felt like speaking Spanish as I was eating it. Making this dish was also a great opportunity for to try a few new things in the kitchen, which is the whole goal of the Daring Kitchen community. To learn more about the Daring Kitchen, click on the link at the right side of my post.

The host for August's Daring Cook Challenge is Olga from Olga's Kitchen. Click on Olga's link for the full recipe.

I enjoyed preparing this dish because many elements of the preparation were new to me. It made my house smell great and it challenged me to use some ingredients that I had not used before.
For instance, I had never heard of "sofriget" before, even though I am sure that I HAVE made that before. Essentially, this is a mixture of fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions and olive oil simmered until all the vegetables are soft. Other vegetables can be added as well. The recipe called for the addition of green pepper and a bayleaf. Isn't it pretty? It smelled good too!

The next step was something I had heard of, but had the courage to try before: cooking squid.
I used frozen squid- which worked fine for this recipe. (Someday I will disect my own - but in the interest of time and effort, frozen squid will do) The actual recipe called for cuttlefish, but ever since my son told me how awesome these creatures are...well, I just didn't have the heart (although I am a bit curious about how these might taste)...and SQUID? well, squid are just ugly little sea creatures that taste they seemed like a logical substitution.

Squid was also suggested by Olga as a viable substitute as well, and she seemed to be spot on about a lot of things related to this dish.

I followed Olga's recipe, but added a few of my own special touches. I chopped some chorizo sausages (the spanish salami type, not the mexican ground stuff) and added some shrimp to the mix.
Olga added two recipes for garlic aiolli- one traditional, and one modern. The aiolli is served along side the rice and adds a new dimension to the rich tomatoey flavor of the dish.
I took the opportunity of having squid in the house to prepare some calimari (easy, easy, easy!) Just dredged the remaining squid in flour and dropped in hot oil. A little salt and pepper and a sprinkling of paprika and we were good to go. (oh, the manchego, chorizo and olives were also nice.)
This dish paired well with a nice green salad and a bottle Oak Grove Chardonnay. Muy Bueno!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wobbly Wine Wisdom Wednesday: Ne Pas Brett, Si'l vous plait

As mentioned a few posts ago....we attended a tres magnifique wine tasting at our friend Jeff's home. We were asked to bring an amuse bouche and a bottle of French wine to sample.
So, Simon and I pranced over to our local Central Market and picked up a random bottle of Burgundy. We grabbed our strawberry amuse bouche, and gallyvanted off to the party.
You will certainly be impressed to learn that I cannot- for the life of me- recall the name of this wine now! Yet, I have decided to boldy go forth and blog about it anyway. (We make our own rules here on Wobbly Wine Wisdom Wednesday and I felt the message was too important to not share).
The name is forgotten, but the label is very much engrained in my head due to its very odd sketch of a rabbit....or a lady- I could not tell which one -and the name was something like "dame noire", but I could not find it on line to confirm that either.
While I would love to at least give you a heads up, I am pleased that we will not be advertising here, as I am convinced that the burgundy we bestowed on this lovely event was the worst of the history of all wine tastings our little wine group has ever experienced. (thank god for the strawberries amuse bouche!)

Our bottle of Burgundy was a complete (and utter) disappointment. I poured myself a glass, gave it a quick swirl, admired its legginess and then stuck my nose in the glass. It smelled of pure foulness! A fragrance of barnyard so shocking that I dare tell you I had to smell it again several times just to be sure that I was not imagining it!
And then I passed the bottle around for confirmation! Simon had a whiff, our friend Dave had a whiff and so did his wife, Carol, Todd and Jeff both took a smell, and while they did not all agree that the scent was "manure-ish", a few other unsavory terms were thrown about..."musty" and "like livestock" and a very kind "earthy"

Now, the first thing I considered was that perhaps I got a bad bottle (okay that was apparent), but we were experiencing a heat wave in Seattle last week and we had struggled to keep our non-airconditioned home cool. In fact on a few days last week our home was quite heated and it was my fear that perhaps our growing wine collection might have been spoiled from the temp.

(An aside: Heat can destroy wine. Many people store thier wine in a rack or cupboard above thier refrigerator. This is a bad place to store wine because it tends to be warm up there.)
I did a little research (which did include a desperate tasting of a few more bottles of our own wine to ensure that they had survived the heat wave) and I learned that several wineries in the French Burgundy and Bordeaux regions are afflicted (this may be a harsh term to use) with a naturally occuring yeast called Brettanomyces or "Brett" for short.
There is much discussion on whether or not Brett is a sign of traditional and pure wine technique, or the just the simple result of poor hygiene. You can read more about this here .
Brett is not harmful, in fact, a small amount of Brett is credited as being essential for good fermentation and is attributed to the success of some of the best wines in the world.

If you plugged your nose while sipping, the flavor of the burgundy was actually not bad. Sometimes too much Brett can make a wine taste metallic or as foul as it smells.
While Brett is common in some French wineries, of about 10 bottles available for tasting that evening. ours was the only one with the stench. There really was not a terrible one in the bunch if you removed ours from the mix.
My favorite wine of the evening was Chateau Nenine (if we must have a wine touted in my post). Several others commented favorably on it as well. Another observation, ours was the only bottle without a chateau on the label-which is no guarantee against Brettanomyces, but may guide you in your future selection.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Few Marvelous Things: Just a few things I have been thinking about...

Marvelous Date: Simon and I got dressed up and went out on a date on Saturday. We try to do this on the second Saturday of each month. I think it is good to get out for a romantic evening alone on a regular basis. It doesn't have to be an expensive night out either- the importance is on being together more than on what you do. We took the opportunity of using a gift card that my aunt and uncle gifted us for graduation to have a nice meal out and we caught a matinee of Julie & Julia.

Marvelous Movie: Julie and Julia was as good as I expected. Funny and charming and who can't identify with a story about being in a rut and wanting to do something remarkable that you are passionate about? Simon pulled out my Julie Child's Entertainment cookbook and started to pick our several challenging dishes he thought he might like to taste...he was also asking if I need the Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbooks (I do!)
Marvelous Book: In all my spare time lately, I have managed to fit in a few good books as well. My favorite recent read was "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry" by Kathleen Flynn. This is the true life account of a woman who follows her dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I love to read about people following thier dreams and challenging themselves and this book did not disappoint. There are also great recipes at the end of each chapter- which I thought was a pleasant little bonus.

Marvelous Idea: Girls Night Out. On Thursday, two girlfriends and I are finally going to attend a cooking class at the Pacific Culinary Studio. I have wanted to do this for some time now, so I am quite looking forward to it. The topic is Sangria and Tapas. I will be sure to post a recipe of two from that.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Keep It Simple Saturday: Strawberries & Marscapone Amuse Bouche

We attended an annual wine tasting soiree last night at the home of our friend Jeff. The theme was French, and Jeff asked each guest to bring a bottle of French wine and an "amuse bouche".

Amuse Bouche is french for "amuse mouth" (per Yahoo Babelfish). I have also seen it defined as a "palate teaser"

Amuse Bouche should be a bit heartier than an appetizer- one or two bites of a gourmet miniature is the intent. And presentation is essential. While it is often served at the beginning of a meal, many chefs are daring to amuse the mouth in between other courses as well.

I pondered the downsizing of several of my specialties before settling on stuffed strawberries. We have been in the midst of a serious heatwave up here in Seattle (where most people cannot rationalize buying an airconditioner for the two weeks we are treated to summer in average years) The last thing I wanted to do was heat up the oven. When I came across flats of beautiful strawberries at Central Market on Saturday morning, I immediately knew that my amuse bouche would have to include framboise.

I have made stuffed strawberries previously, but this is the first time I used marscapone cheese instead of cream cheese. The result was magnificent. The recipe is simple (a good candidate for this post) and the results are elegant.

Strawberries stuffed with Marscapone

(makes 12)

4 oz Marscapone cheese
1/2 tsp superfine sugar
A few drops of vanilla
12 Strawberries

Optional: grated good quality dark chocolate, small mint leaves, fine ground vanilla wafers, a sliver of almond...let me know if you think of something else!

For best appearance, prepare just an hour or two before you serve them.
  1. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each strawberry so that they can stand on thier own.
  2. Using a paring knife, or a strawberry "huller" , cut around the stem and scoop out the top of the strawberry to form a little strawberry cup. (I have a pampered chef one and it makes the job super easy)
  3. Mix together the marscapone, sugar and vanilla. Chill the mixture-this is optional- I just found that it pipes better cold.
  4. Using a pastry bag, (a plastic bag with a clipped corner works well too), fill each strawberry with the marscapone mixture.
  5. Sprinkle top of each strawberry with a pinch of grated dark chocolate and a small mint leaf.

I have also used cream cheese in place of the marscapone in the past which provided a bit of a cheese cake effect. This is especially good with a sprinkling of vanilla wafer. Or add almond extract to the cheese mixture and top each with an almond slice.

If you don't want to go to all that trouble to make it pretty, this is another one of those great little combos that make a great informal snack over the kitchen sink. Simon and I polished off the leftover marscapone and strawberries tonight in that very fashion. Delicious.