Archive for ‘Baking’

September 27, 2013

Zucchini Nutella Swirl Muffins

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Summertime in Strasbourg means discovering gardens. As a Long Islander, born and raised, the only two times anything grew in my backyard was when 1) a pool appeared and 2) my Italian great uncle Cono managed to make a cucumber grow out of the sandy soil.

As you can see my experience with fresh produce, literally in my own backyard, was fairly limited up until this year.

The Beard’s mom has a garden. And she has zucchini plants. Flowers? What do we call those anyway? Alls I know is that we received zucchini deliveries by the crateful. The weekly task is therefore to find ways to use them all up before they go bad.  There was therefore a lot of cake made in our household…

..but it is zucchini, so it is healthy, right?

Or so I told myself…

This recipe was unbelievable, my only qualm was that it didn’t make yield nearly enough muffins!

 

Zucchini Nutella Swirl Muffins

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ½ cup Nutella (or the German knockoff NUSS-something or other)

Now what?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large enough bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Whisk to mix well.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Beat the egg in.
  3. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until just combined.
  4. Stir in the zucchini and lemon zest.
  5. Use a ¼ cup scoop to evenly distribute the batter between the muffin liners. They should be 2/3 full.
  6. Dollop 1 teaspoon of Nutella on top of each scoop of batter and swirl with a toothpick.
  7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Check the centers with a toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean before removing the muffins from the oven.(I am sure this would make a wonderful zucchini loaf, to be baked for about 35-50 minutes, depending on the loaf size.)

Bon app!

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(look at that swirl!)

August 8, 2013

chocolate caramel bark aka lovexcore cookies

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These treacherously delicious cookies have several names. My father calls them “heart-attack” cookies. My friends and I used to call them “lovexcore” cookies. Traditional society would probably call them “bark.” Whatever their actual title, these cookies were a big favorite growing up on the Long Island peninsula. Whenever Kelly came over with a tin or a Tupperware, you knew what she had up her sleeve. These puppies.

With such simple, everyday ingredients (but perhaps some shocking quantities?) these are easy to whip up. Just be sure to have the patience to let them cool down in the refrigerator before plunging head-first into the baking tray.

The saltiness of the saltine crackers coupled with the butter and the chocolate make for an addictive and compulsive treat. I suggest that you test these bad boys out when you are going somewhere and you are going to share them. In fact, this was probably Kelly’s technique all along…

The French are normally not a big fan of a salty-sweet combination (WHAT? I live for this happy marriage of flavor) but those who did get a taste gave this treat a healthy, happy, albeit metaphorical two thumbs-up.

Fun fact: In just thinking of a French person giving two thumbs up, I had to ask myself — do the French even do this sort of gesture? According to wordreference, this is not translatable.

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Kelly’s lovexcore cookies aka Chocolate Caramel Bark

What you’ll need:

  • 40 Saltine crackers or something similar (I’ve heard tell of doing this with Matzo)
  • 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
  • 1 cup (220g) packed light brown sugar
  • A big pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  • Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional but who doesn’t love extra sea salt!)

What now?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C. While the oven is heating, line a large baking sheet (11 x 17) with aluminum foil and THEN parchment paper. You want to fit these two perfectly on the baking sheet. I’ve learned that the parchment paper really helps the lovexcore cookies to NOT stick.
  2. Line the now covered baking sheet with saltine crackers. You may have to break them apart in order to completely cover the baking sheet. Don’t worry about it looking perfect, just get that baking sheet covered.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Once it’s come to a boil, let it continue to boil, stirring it often so that it thickens (or becomes a caramel!)
  4. Remove from the heat and add salt and vanilla extract.
  5. Quickly pour caramel over the saltine crackers and spread if you can to cover every part of the crackers.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the outer edges of the crackers start to brown. Pay attention! You don’t want it to burn or get too dark.
  7. Once removed from the oven, immediately cover the saltine crackers with the chopped chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, until the chocolate has become melty and spreadable. Using a spatula, spread the wealth chocolate deliciousness to fully cover everything. If using, sprinkle the chocolate with sprinkles (hehe)/ almonds / nuts / whatever you’d like.
  8. Wait an eternity (or put it in the fridge) to cool. Once cool, break the saltines up into bite sized pieces of your choosing. Try not to taste the entire baking sheet while you are breaking them apart. Been there, done that.

Bon app!

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June 9, 2013

Banana Bread Crepe Cake | gâteau aux crêpes

crepecake

Here is a cake that trumps all cakes.A crepe that trumps all crepes.

The kind of cake that makes the French tremble in their booties.  What a sacrilegious idea to combine crepes to make something other than a traditional crepe, egg and ham dish? Though they all shudder at the thought of a crepe cake, they always come back, eye-ing the photos, interested, wondering if they could put their culinary preferences aside for the moment in order to engage in such an American spin on the crepe.

This is the kind of cake that says “I am sorry but I don’t have a birthday present for you.” This is the kind of cake that says “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. This is the kind of cake that says “squish” when you cut into it. This cake is divine. The recipe seems long and daunting but once you have mastered the crepe technique (which is essentially the pancake technique but easier) this cake is a breeze. No oven needed. Can be stuck in the freezer for faster consolidating results. Even the most anti-banana beards on the planet have approved the subtle hint of banana that infiltrates the palate. It marries perfectly with the cream and the butterscotch. There really is no other way to eat 10 crepes in one bite than this way.

crepecake2

Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

(serves a many, but was eaten by 2.)

What you’ll need:

Crepe batter

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 large ripe banana (should yield about 1/2 cup peeled and squished)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) milk
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Cream cheese yogurt filling

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, well-softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Walnut butterscotch topping

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (about 50 grams) chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, or to taste

Now what?

  1. Crepe batter: Mix together banana and butter in a food processor or with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing until obtaining a smooth liquid. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 1 hour minimum. This part is essential since it helps your crepe batter thicken up significantly. If possible, overnight will yield the best results.
  2. To make the crepes: Heat a non-stick skillet or a crepe pan on medium heat. The best part about France is that a crepe pan will cost you 2 euros whereas in America where it will be deemed a specialty item. Melt a nub of butter in the pan. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the crepe batter in the pan as you swirl the pan around so that the batter spreads out evenly and thinly across the whole pan. Emergency fill in any open holes carefully with fresh batter if need be. The French will argue that an ideal crepe is a thin one. Let the crepe cook, untouched for 2-3 minutes. Once it is ready to be flipped, the crepe will be golden brown and it will peel right off and flip easily. Cook for 30 seconds on the second side, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, you should get 10-11 crepes. Cool crepes completely before assembling the cake.
  3. Cream cheese filling: Beat cream cheese until fluffy, then add the greek yogurt, sugar and vanilla and beat for another minute, until fluff-city.
  4. Cake assembly: Lay the very first cake on your cake platter or plate of choice. Spread with 1/4 cup of the cream cheese filling and then place another crepe on top. Repeat until the crepes or the cream cheese filling runs out, but be sure to end with a crepe hat on top.
  5. Butterscotch topping: Combine the cream, brown sugar and butter in the bottom of a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir occasionally in the beginning and more frequently as it reduces and thickens. After 10 minutes, once it smells toasty and feels thick to the touch, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt, then walnuts. Immediately pour over stack of filled crepes. Spread the butterscotch over all of the “hat” so that everyone gets their share of butterscotch topping.

Bon app!

May 31, 2013

5 ingredient cookies by the lovely Kim

Due to my prolonged absence due to a hurried attempt to finish a masters thesis in a foreign language, a foreign school system and a foreign economic system, Kim has come and saved the day with a guest post. This is how it happened.

Kim: “I am making cookies!”

Me: “snap some pics and guest blog!”

Kim: …….ok! (20 minutes later the drop box folder was shared.)

I present to you all, Kim.

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I cleaned the kitchen yesterday, top to bottom.  It really needed it.  Then I cooked and a beetroot salad and new potatoes somehow managed to leave me in a state of bereavement.  The clean surfaces of yesterday were still marked by the beetroot juice from yesterday’s salad, and the potato pan, the bowl I mixed the dressing in, the colander, the salad bowl, the chopping board…  YEP all STILL dirty.

My good friend at à L’aise fraise sent me a recipe yesterday that had been playing on my mind.  Craving gooey chocolaty stuff as I often do, especially in times of endless “home-working”, as the French put it – which for me meant sitting at my table in my PJs all day looking at articles and feeling lost, I couldn’t get this woman’s recipe off my mind…

I set to accumulating the ingredients and realised I didn’t have everything, and although not difficult, they would add to my washing up rather more significantly than I was prepared to LEAVE the house to GET DRESSED to GO to the supermarket for.  So sat right back down, and tried, my very hardest, to WORK.  Inevitable continued surfing of the food blog entailed until I set my eyes on these beauties.

I counted the ingredients: 1,2,3,4… 5!  I had everything I needed.  No less than 2 minutes later, I had forgotten about those papers and my mind was focussed on COOKIES, (In another life I must have been blue, furry and had someone’s hand up my arse).  I set to work and they really did only take 10 minutes to make as promised on the blog.  I popped them in the freezer, and set to the washing up from last night’s salad.  I had finished by the time they came out of the freezer, all I had to do was pop them in the oven and WAIT… EIGHT WHOLE MINUTES.

Got them out, sprinkled them with salt and bob is very much your mother’s brother…

THE best motivation I have EVER found, bar none, to do washing up:

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup nutella (135 grams for me and my UK/FR readers)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour + 1 tablespoon (around 65-70 grams)
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Monique at Ambitious Kitchen, reckons that there are 12- 14 cookies to be made from this batch… maybe I was a little too generous as I only got 10 out of it – but whatever the case…

All you do, is:

1.Mix up the ingredients (apart from the salt)

2.Put it in the freezer for 10 minutes (while you wash up)

3.Cut the dough  into even portions to make 1 inch chocolate balls

4. Stick it in the oven at 180° C or 350° F for 8-10 minutes

You will never ever buy a cookie again when it is THAT simple to make one.

February 1, 2013

Veganism Day 1: Chickpea and Apricot Tagine

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Coming back after a two month + hiatus.  A lot has happened in two months.  I took a trip to the United States and indulged in so much pizza that I didn’t even know what to do with myself.  I confirmed the fact that, although the US has foods that quench my hunger in a cultural sense, the quality of the vegetables and the fruits have rien à voir (nothing to do) with the ones in France — (a quick google search translates ‘rien à voir’ to ‘it’s apples and oranges!’ heh.)  I couldn’t believe the choices in the supermarkets, but when push comes to shove, nothing is more odorous than the fresh market produce that I get once a week at the Boulevard de la Marne.  But anyway, passons.  Let’s get back to the topic at hand.  My return.

My return is special.  Because I am coming back with a new flavor of the month – as we should say. Veganism. Hmm.  Veganism? For someone who has eaten not one but TWO fondues this week alone? It doesn’t seem to add up.  Which is exactly why I am doing it.  Cheese and I have a tumultuous relationship.  As in, it ruins me.  After watching two particularly enlightening documentaries on the food industry and the effect of dairy products on our health, I have mulled over the idea for some time.   Let’s add the fact that hereditary can be cruel to us.  And so I’d like to ideally take the best care of my body that I can – that is to say before my genes decide for me!

And if I were to actually be a practicing yogi (oh how I miss my yoga classes these days) I would be taking the nonviolent route.  Essentially, I want to see if kindness to my body and to other sentient beings will affect me, for the better.  Bref.  My thoughts are unclear. In order to help with unclear thoughts, this next month shall be co-blogged by The Beard.  He has decided to follow me in my pursuits. For someone who eats a whole lot of mozzarella, I’m just really impressed by his kindness to join me.

The Beard, everybody.

Cheese is my dope. But there’s nothing you can’t put aside, really. At the origin was vegetarianism –which seems to have accompanied my life forever. There’s no way back, but there is a way forward. Veganism. Veganism? For I believe that the voiceless should talk. Not only animals, but anyone. But this is not it. Anyone who has ever experienced this strange moment when, full of animal protein, you feel like you owe it to someone. And as a Frenchman, let me tell you: we don’t like to owe anything to anyone, especially not on food-related matters. Someone opens your eyes. You agree. If you gotta talk the talk, you also gotta walk the walk. I’ve therefore become a follower. Because my guide to veganism is wise and tempered. Not a radical. Not like me. This move toward veganism –even though I don’t intend on becoming a permanent one today– is therefore an initiating journey into ethical and culinary improvement. Out of curiosity. And out of love.

To celebrate February 1st, one whole day of veganism, I give you the utmost delicious way to start 28 days of a plant based diet thanks to Ms. Kim.  Kim is a British colleague/marvel who knows how to cook with flavour (see what I did there, with the spelling of that word?) I want her to teach me everything she knows.  For those of you who don’t know : a tagine is a typical Moroccan dish that often incorporates a surprising fruit ingredient into a slow cooked dish.  The addition of the cinnamon is surprisingly welcome!

Chickpea & Apricot Tagine

(serves 5-6 people)

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 carrots, cut into large pieces
  • 1 big sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • a bayleaf
  • 16 fl oz vegetable stock
  • as many dried apricots as you’d like, cut up
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes

Now what?

  1. Fry the onion and garlic until fragrant.  Add the spices and cook for a few minutes.  Then add the remaining ingredients in that order, mixing for about a minute in between each addition.
  2. Let is simmer for around a half an hour. “Cook until scrumptious” to quote Ms. Kim.
  3. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper and mint (or parsley or coriander).
  4. Serve over whole wheat couscous.

Honestly, the choices are endless, you can swap in or out any of the vegetables for other root or non-root veggies.  The vegan sky is the limit.

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