Monthly Archives: August 2010

Lavender Beverages

Here’s another one from Goodbite, folks!

Iced Lavender Mocha (makes one serving in a 20 oz. glass)

-1 cup of milk (preferably 1 or 2 percent)

-1 tsp. of dried lavender buds

-1 shot of espresso or ¼ cup of strong, cold coffee

-about 4 Tbsp. of chocolate syrup (varies upon taste)

-ice

-whipped cream (optional)

Directions:

Heat the milk and lavender in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a slight boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce to a simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the lavender steep and the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.  Strain and discard the lavender.  Fill a 20 oz. glass about half way with ice and add either a shot of espresso or ¼-1/2 cup of strongly-brewed, cold coffee.  Add the chocolate syrup and the lavender milk and mix well.  Add a splash or two more of milk if desired and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of lavender.

Honey Lavender Lemonade (makes a full pitcher)

-2 cups of lemon juice (roughly 12 lemons)

-4 cups of cold water

-honey-lavender simple syrup (see recipe below)

-sprig of lavender

-slice of lemon

Honey-Lavender Simple Syrup:

-1 ½ cups of honey

-1 cup of water

-2 Tbsp. of lavender buds

Directions:

Combine the honey, water and lavender in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring well.  Make sure the honey is dissolved, and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let syrup steep and cool for about 10 minutes.  Strain and discard the lavender.  Pour the lemon juice, water and simple syrup into a large pitcher and stir.  Garnish with a sprig of lavender and/or a lemon slice.

Lavender Lemondrop Martini (makes one cocktail)

-2 oz. of Absolut Citron (or your favorite citrus vodka)

-1 oz. of lavender simple syrup (see recipe below)

-splash of tonic

-twist of lemon

-lavender sprig (optional)

*you can also substitute limoncello for the vodka*

Lavender Simple Syrup Recipe:

-1/2 cup of granulated sugar

-1/2 cup of water

-1 ½ tsp. of dried lavender buds

Combine the sugar, lavender and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring well, until sugar is dissolved.  Reduce to a simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let syrup steep and cool for about 10 minutes.  Strain and discard the lavender.

Directions:

Combine the vodka and syrup with ice in a shaker and shake vigorously.  Pour into glass, top with a splash of tonic and garnish with a lavender sprig and/or a twist of lemon.

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Pizza with Mint Pesto, Grilled Chicken, Provolone and Peaches

This is a recipe I adapted and put together for Goodbite.com and I’ve been meaning to put those posts I’ve contributed on this blog, so here goes one of them!  Enjoy!

There have been many pizzas that have crossed my plate.  Eye-rolling, dramatic sigh-inducing pizzas.  Pizzas with caramelized onions, prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella, pizzas with ricotta, bacon and tomatoes.  These pizzas are deserving of praise in their own right and I could go on, but I’d rather talk to you about one pizza in particular.

About a year or so ago, at a restaurant in Raleigh, N.C called Zest, I had such a pizza (it was eye-rolling and dramatic sigh inducing indeed).  In awe of such a bewitching pizza that has since been perfectly ingrained in my memory, I was recently inspired to do my best to recreate this pizza.  With a little help from Giada De Laurentiis and Ree Drummond, I ended up tweaking a dough and pesto recipe and got all the right flavors together, comingling to make a satisfying summer pizza.  This pizza encompasses some of my favorite flavors of summer – mint, peaches and basil.  I decided to add mint to the pesto, to enhance the flavor even more.  The basil-mint pesto is refreshing and exotic, the grilled chicken and provolone cheese savory, and the peaches sweet.  Peaches should appear on pizzas more often.

Pesto Pizza with Grilled Chicken, Peaches and Provoloneinspired by a pizza from Zest, located at 8831 6 Forks Road, Raleigh, N.C.

Ingredients:

  • Pesto recipe
  • Dough recipe
  • Grilled chicken
  • 3-4 peaches, peeled and sliced.
  • 6 or 7 discs of sliced provolone cheese (or about 1 cup of shredded provolone)

Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s “My Favorite Pizza Dough” recipe).

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 packet of active dry or instant yeast
  • ¼ cup of Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 ½ cups warm water

Yields 2 crusts

Instructions:

Pour the yeast over the warm water and let sit.

Mix flour and salt together in a mixer with a paddle attachment or dough hook, at low speed.  Drizzle olive oil with mixer still running – mix until well combined.  Then add the yeast and water mixture and mix just until combined.

Form a ball with the dough and give a light drizzle of olive oil in a separate bowl.  Start working and shaping the dough in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a towel and keep warm – setting it near a warm stove (or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Dough can be made up to 4 days in advance).

When you are ready to assemble your pizza, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, spray a large pizza pan or baking sheet (or drizzle with olive oil) and take apart half of the dough.  Work the dough out on the pan, pressing with palm and fingertips, stretching and flattening out to the edges of the pan.  The dough should be fairly thin.

Grilled Chicken

Marinade (enough for 1 chicken breast)

  • ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. of Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar (either light or dark)
  • 1 tsp. of less sodium soy sauce
  • Pinch of mixed dried herbs

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Place the chicken breast in a shallow dish or zip lock bag, pour marinade over and make sure the chicken is fully coated.  Let sit in the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour an up to overnight.

Grill on each side over medium high heat for about 5 minutes on each side.

Slice in thin pieces.

Basil-Mint Pesto (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’s “Everyday Italian”).

  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • 1 ½ cups basil leaves
  • ¼ cup of toasted pine nuts (toast on a baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees).
  • ¼ cup of shredded or finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • About 2/3 cup of Extra Virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Combine basil, mint, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped.  With the food processor still running, gradually add olive oil until the pesto is thick and smooth.

Assembling the Pizza

Use a spatula to spread the pesto thinly and evenly over the pizza dough.  Sprinkle the edges of the crust with some parmesan cheese.  Place chicken over pizza, followed by the peach slices and the provolone cheese.

Bake (at 475 degrees) for about 10-15 minutes.

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Hot Fudge

David Leibovitz is basically the culinary version of David Sedaris.  He’s an ice-cream maker, chocolatier (he went to chocolate school for God’s sake!) and a wiz in his tiny little Parisian apartment kitchen.  He’s also got a stellar sense of humor – one that is quite arguably reminiscent of the humor found in Sedaris’ writing.  Thank goodness I read his culinary memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, because not only is this ex-pat turned Parisian pastry chef witty and a genius with desserts, he is also friends with director Nancy Meyers – who just so happens to have the recipe for the most exquisite hot fudge I’ve ever tasted.

After some recent hot fudge making (and subsequently one hot fudge sundae later),I was taken back to my childhood.  I have fond memories of frequent ventures to United Dairy Farmers with my grandfather whenever I would travel to Ohio to visit family.  UDF is an original Ohio ice cream chain, often housed in convenience stores, but don’t let that deceive you.  They’ve been in business since 1939 and deliver the best homemade ice cream and some of the best hot fudge out there.

I remember alternating between the handspun strawberry milkshake and the classic hot fudge sundae (hold the nuts) – I like them but not on my sundaes.  To me, the key to the perfect hot fudge sundae is already in its name – it’s all about the hot fudge.  Sure, homemade ice cream and whipped cream are necessary, but the hot fudge is the crucial component of the whole sundae.  I like for the chocolate flavor to shine through the hot fudge and for it to be as thick and velvety as possible, draped over a couple generous mounds of ice cream and a cloud of real whipped cream and a nice old fake maraschino cherry to seal the deal.  Nancy Meyer’s hot fudge is just that.  Somewhere in between the rich, silky flavor of a ganache and the texture and thickness of hot fudge lies this sauce.

As a child, I also remember making trips to Cream and Bean, a downtown Raleigh ice cream shop, right across from North Carolina State University.  Originally it was Doug’s and then Steve’s, then Cream and Bean, but the name was the only thing that changed.  It was the real deal – homemade everything.  Situated in a popular little college town joint with hand painted chairs and tables, an antique ice cream maker and an old piano with worn ivory keys for any customer to entertain.  I remember stealing tastes of my dad’s favorite treat – a hot fudge sundae with coffee ice cream and hot fudge so deliriously good, you could actually taste the sugar granules in it.  I suppose as a child it is odd to take a liking to coffee flavor, but I did and I also fell in love with their sundae, so my dad’s favorite treat also became my favorite treat.  This sundae was a constant staple for me until Cream and Bean closed down about ten years ago, much to our dismay.  Every time I visit home and drive by this former ice cream shop now turned scooter shop, my heart sinks a little over the fact that the former destination of the best sundae I’ve ever had now sells scooters instead of homemade ice cream.  Still, my sundae eating memories are fond and I’ve even found a way to revive this sweet nostalgia.

Awhile back, I tackled Nancy Meyer’s surprisingly simple recipe for hot fudge and was shocked to find that something so simple to make could taste so perfect and remind me of both UDF and Cream and Bean, making me feel somewhere between four and twelve again.  There’s a reason these sundaes are still ingrained in my memory.  You can add a Tablespoon of espresso powder to this fudge, for a little glam and a nice hint of coffee or you could probably add a Tablespoon of bourbon to kick it up a notch.  Personally, I wouldn’t try and alter such perfection.  There isn’t much to it but its simplicity is part of what makes it so magical.  It’s lovely just the way it is.  Draped over some homemade coffee or vanilla ice cream, used to top profiteroles or éclairs, or licked right off the spoon.

Nancy Meyer’s Hot Fudge

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup of firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Ghiradelli)
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream
  • pinch of salt

*optional: you could also try adding some espresso powder (dissolved in hot water)  or add a little bourbon or vanilla*

-Put all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and stir over low heat until butter has melted.  Continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly (about 5 minutes or so), until all of the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is smooth.

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Stiff Peaks

I just made cupcakes.  Exquisite cupcakes.  Probably the best cupcakes I’ve ever made kind of cupcakes…and I’ve made plenty of cupcakes.  They’re so yummy, they’re just begging to be written about, so I’m getting on that, right now – I haven’t even iced all of them yet.  Nor have I started to clean the kitchen, which looks like it got hit with a hurricane of flour and granulated sugar.

And I’m wearing an apron.  A cute little 1950’s 1/2 apron with flowers and red ric rac outlining the two front pockets, that my granny sent me.  Do you know what ric rac is?  I didn’t.  Pretty nifty.  I’m convinced it helps my baking.

I’ve been in search of the perfect yellow cake or buttermilk cake recipe for awhile now and the last time I made yellow cupcakes, they were pretty disappointing, dry and crumbly.  Not what you want when you’re making cupcakes.  One of the places on my “must visit” list for NYC was Butter Lane – an adorable and favorable cupcake shop in the East Village.  I wanted to try their Swiss Meringue buttercream.  However, much to my dismay, they were closed when I tracked them down (due to a sidewalk parking violation or some nonsense).  So, for the last week or so following my trip, I’ve been wanting to try & make this buttercream with my own to hands.  I scoured the Internet for some Butter Lane cupcake recipes and found one for their chocolate cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue buttercream.  I decided if I can’t come to Butter Lane, Butter Lane can come to me.

I attempted to make Swiss Meringue buttercream (of French buttercream) for the first time, the other night (using the Butter Lane recipe I found), but I failed.  I was anxiously dying to remake the icing (but do chocolate instead).  See, I don’t own a Kitchen Aid mixer.  I wish I did and I intend to amend this problem as soon as I can, but in the mean time, I am visiting my parents and taking advantage of their kitchen aid mixer.

The reason why my vanilla bean swiss meringue icing was a failure is because I lacked a whisk attachment for my mixer and the icing that I patiently whipped for about 15 minutes was runny and stubborn and decided not to form stiff peaks.  My boyfriend and our friend Mark enjoyed laughing at me every time I said “stiff peaks.”  I made them eat my mediocre cupcakes.

So, going against my typical method for recipe finding, I typed  “chocolate cake” into the Google Image search and found a temptress of a cupcake.  The icing was from Cooks Illustrated and it looked perfect.  Wanting to pair it with a yellow cake, I sifted through my giant recipe binder (also known as “the Bible”), and looked for a suitable recipe.  I decided on Deb’s “best birthday cake” from Smitten Kitchen, and made cupcakes instead of a layer cake.  I made this cake about a year ago, for my grandma’s birthday and it was a big hit, but I remember not being too crazy about the icing.  I remember liking the cake, so I thought I’d try it again.

…And the search for the perfect yellow cake/buttermilk cake recipe has ended, folks!  Deb, you win.

Let me tell you.  This is the kind of cake batter you can’t stop licking from the bowl.  It’s incredibly moist and has the perfect flour and sugar ratio.  It’s also easy to make and has one of my most favorite ingredients ever in it.  (Buttermilk).  Just think, you have buttermilk fried chicken, buttermilk in pancakes, buttermilk biscuits, and buttermilk cake.  Buttermilk makes everything better.  I really love it.  These little babies were beautiful.  Rich, moist, bursting with buttermilk flavor with the slightest hint of tangy, incredibly fluffy and most importantly, not dry or crumbly.  These are much better in cupcake form.

As for the icing, it is the fluffiest, lightest, most spreadable icing I’ve ever had and is not that difficult to make (when you have a whisk attachment, of course).  It’s silky and shiny and has enough butter in it to choke a horse.  It’s deceiving though, because it’s so light, you can’t even tell – it has the consistency of chocolate mousse.  If you’re old-fashioned and prefer a more traditional kind of icing (no egg whites, and powdered sugar instead of granulated), this not might be your cup of tea, though I can’t fathom anyone not liking it especially for its flavor.  I like icing so sugary it’s a bit grainy, just as much as the next person, but I think this is even better.

Do yourself a favor and make these, now!  Now if you’ll excuse me, I must tend to the naked cupcakes I’ve abandoned on the kitchen counter.  They need their French buttercream.

For the Cake (as seen on Smitten Kitchen)

*Again, I followed this to a t, except I made cupcakes instead of a layer cake, and it made closer to 30 cupcakes*.

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

For the Icing (From Cook’s Illustrated *seen on The Recipe Fairy*)

Creamy Chocolate Frosting:

Makes about 2 1/4 cups

1/3 cup (2 ½ oz) granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
pinch table salt
12 tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-tbsp. pieces
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to 85-100F.
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150F on instant-read thermometer, 2-3 minutes. Place bowl in stand mixer
fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1-2 minutes. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla, mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.

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