Monday, September 27, 2010

September Daring Bakers' Challenge

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

We could decorate them however we wanted but the theme had to be September. So I took the fashionista approach and decorated my cookies with september outfits. The weather gets colder and we switch from comfy and laid back flipflops and mini tank tops, to high heels and dresses. Scarves, hats, and of course our best friend when the weather gets chilly.. starbucks coffee!!

I started out with this recipe for sugar cookies:

Basic Sugar Cookies:
200g Butter, at room temperature ( I actually used salted to bring out a little more flavor)
400g All Purpose Flour
200g  Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp flavoring such as vanilla extract, I used lemon extract.

• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.

• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sifted flour and mix on low until the mixture crumbles together.

Pour the dough onto plastic wrap and wrap it. Press down to form a rectangle. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

• Once chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. You may need to add extra flour if the dough breaks as you roll it or if it sticks to the rolling pin.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.

• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets or silpat (mi favorite) and refrigerate for  30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.

• Preheat oven to 350 F
• Bake about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies. They should still feel soft because they firm up when they come out of the oven. they should be blonde underneath whete the cookie touches the parchment.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

• Leave to cool on cooling racks.

• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

I decided to use pink as the main color since it's my favorite color.

And Taadaa! It's a lot of work to ice all these individual cookies but they do look stunning don't they?!
Bring on the Next Month's Challenge!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Peanut Butter Choc-Chip Cookies

It's that time of the year when we all want to start baking and staying at home instead of going out in the cold- ok maybe we are not there yet but we will be there soon!! And with halloween coming up, you might want to consider giving kids something other than sugar, so make them cookies instead. I do that every year since parents are more likely to allow their kids to eat a cookie (sugar in desguise) than a wad of sugar wrapped up in a pretty colorful wrapper called a dum dum!

So here is a PB Choc Cookie Recipe you might enjoy.  This is a large batch enough for about 15 monster sized cookies or 40 kid-size cookies.


420g butter
150g peanut butter
336g brown sugar
268g regular sugar
3 eggs
7 g salt
6 g baking soda
1.5 g baking powder
600 g flour
270g mix of white and/or dark chocolate chips or chunks


  1. Cream the butter and peanut butter for 4 minutes
  2. Add the sugars and cream for 6 minutes
  3. Add eggs and cream for 5 minutes
  4. Add all the dry ingredients just until incorporated
  5. Add the chocolate chips just until incorporated

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Portuguese Croquetes

This is the best meat left over recipe ever. But in this case it's just a great recipe because I didn't use left over meat.
In Portugal  this is eaten as an amuse bouche or as a main course with some rice. It's delicious and the more meat varieties you have, the tastier.
Super easy, here's how:

1 cup of Bechamel sauce ( Recipe from the soufflee posting)
1 lb left over meat or any type of ground meat, pre cooked.
1/2 chorizo
1 tbsp parsley

Flour for coating
Egg for coating
Breadcrumbs for coating
Oil for frying

If you haven't done so already, cook the meat with some salt and peppet.
Add the Chorizo to it and cook till no longer pink.

Meanwhile, make the Bechamel sauce.

Mix everything including the parsley in the food processor until ground and uniform. Add the bechamel slowly, you only want to add enough to make the meat stick together.

Refrigerate until cold enough to handle.

Mold into little logs about 3 inches long and coat them in flour.
At this stage you can freeze them for later use or refrigerate to firm them up before frying.

Roll the croquettes in egg and then in breadcrumbs, and fry at 375 F (while still frozen). Depending on their thickness the cooking time will vary. But it might be around 2 minutes. Bite into one and check if it's defrosted or not.
Note: Don't crowd the pot or it will bring the temperature of the oil down and cause the croquettes to absorb too much oil. Cook 2 or 3 at a time.

Serve with some pea rice or any other type of rice.

As we say in portugal, Bom Proveito!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Have you been to Eataly?

Eataly quickly became my favorite food place as soon as I walked through the door and saw the vast array of Italian products.
I walked through the door and after walking in a few feet I am greeted with this:
And who can resist that right?
Walking in a couple more steps I was in the Piazza watching hungry business people enjoy their beautiful cheese and meat plates with a nice glass of Italian wine.
You can tell with one quick glance at anything you see in that store that the highest quality is there!

There is a different section for meat, fish, veggies, pasta & pizza, bakery, wine and beer. Not to mention the endless shelves of specialty olive oils and anchovies and jams.. the list could go on and on. And you must check out the yard long pasta. I am still trying to figure out how big a pot I would need to cook it in.
Eataly gives you a fun and interactive food shopping experience. The prices are normal gourmet NY prices but when you take into account the quality and the fact that the products are imported, then it all makes sense and ytou accept it and enjoy it even more.

I have to tell you, I am super excited for Christmas season when Italian specialty products come about. Panettone is at the top of my list.
Hopefully it will not be as large as this one I saw at the Fancy food show this year, but just as tasty would be good.

An Italian experience has never been nearer, just hop on the train and you are in Eataly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Basic Pizza Crust

Pizza is delicious and so easy to make and so customizable that we should all know how to do it. Emergency dinners at my house consist of pizza. I always make a large batch and freeze the dough for later use. Here is my recipe based out of Peter Reinhart's Pizza Napoletana.

15 oz all purpose flour
5 oz whole wheat flour
0.5 oz salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2 oz olive oil
14 oz water

1.First you mix all the ingredients in a bowl except for the water.
2. Then you add half of the water. Never add all the water in at once, Chances are you will not need the full amount. Mix on first speed with  a dough hook. You can also make this dough by hand by kneading it. It will take a few minutes longer but it works just as well.
3. When the dough feels hydrated and not slippery wet, that's when you stop adding water. But do it at minute intervals as it takes a while for the starch to absorb the water. If you add it all in at once the chances are you over wet the dough. If this happens, add more flour gradually until the dough is not slippery wet.
4. When the dough starts to rise up the hook and peel off the sides you are in very good shape.
5. Poke the dough. If it springs back up then you are done and ready to portion the pizza dough.
I do individual pizzas at 6oz each but you can portion them at any weight.

6. Freeze the dough individually wrapped. When you want to use it, take it out of the freezer and leave in the fridge over 8 hours to defrost.

7. Take dough out of the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for about 1-2 hours.
Stretch the dough and add whatever toppings you like!
My favorite toppings are a little seasoned olive oil that I season with herbs ahead of time, then a little tomato sauce, cheese and marinated artichokes.

8. This pizza bakes for 11 minutes in a preheated 500 degree oven.

Locanda Verde

Last night I was pleasantly surprised and very pleased that Locanda Verde delivered higher than my expectations. After getting drenched in the rain and having my feet sogged with water, the Dinner was so nice and so bursting with flavor that I was satisfied beyond what my stomach could handle.
We started out with three appetizers, this one is the Steak Tartare which was my favorite. It had a hint of herbal oils and was very soft and tender. It was served with slives of toasted bread.

The Focaccia Served with it was the softest most fluffiest and most amazing I've ever had.

You will order seconds, trust me! The best I say!
These pastas are served in pretty small portions but after having eaten 3 appetizers and 2 trays of bread, this is the perfect size.
This is the parppadelle with the lamb ragu. It was the best of the three dishes. Full of flavor with hints of mint leaves. Delicate meat sauce. 5 Stars is what I give it!
This is the Garlic spaghetti. A bit TOO much garlic for my taste but served with pieces of shrimp.
And the special of the day is a ravioli in a creamy sauce. The photo doesn't do the dish justice.
And no delicious meal would be complete without a bit of dessert. Stuffed I was but I had to try one of the desserts. I had to see what the competition was up to.

A Chocolate creamy tart with pistachio Ice cream. The presentation is simple but it works for it being a slice of tart and not a full mini tart. It was delicious but I couldn't taste the pistachio in the ice cream.
Overall I give Locanda Verde a 5 Star rating. It impressed me and it was outstandingly delicious. I was surprised how full it was for a monday night, so make a reservation before heading over there!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Isabellas on the Upper West Side

What a lovely place for brunch. Isabella's is a very popular place for brunch as you will see the huge line outside the restaurant every weekend. But it's worth the wait if you are looking for a comfort filled breakfast. The staff is oh so friendly that it seems like you are in disney world.
They start you out with an amazing basket of bread goodies. A sweet bread with caraway seeds which reminds me of Italian Panettone. And a moist sweet bread with currants. On the side you also have a very bright pink strawberry butter. It's just so lighthearted and fun!
I ordered the farmers omelet and the pasta of the day:
The pasta was house made and in a light lobster sauce with seafood and spinach.

This omlet was filled with fresh veggies with a side of home fries (which were the best thing on that plate!) and turkey bacon.

The portions aren't skimpy at all so plan to take a walk after your brunch.
So you are asking were is dessert now.. I have to confess I didn't order any. They were typical simplistic desserts and I was honestly way too full to stomach any more. But the food is delicious and comforting. A fantastic summer day to eat by an open window breeze.

I thought the strawberry butter was very cool so if you would like to make your own, here is how:

Mix softened (not melted) butter with strawberry puree and a little bit of strawberry flavoring in your food processor and allow to harden in refrigerator. Voila!! You have strawberry butter. You can do this with any flovor. Just note the butter will never be as hard as plain butter because you are adding water content from the puree into it. But that works out in your favor when you want to spread it.

Chocolate Truffles are Amazing

Do you love chocolate truffles? I certainly do and this is what I am loving right now...
Godiva's Bakery Dessert Truffle Collection just released this week is spectacular.
It has flavors like red velvet cake, carrot cake, tiramisu, lava cake, cheesecake and strawberry tarte.
I had an entire box, yes an ENTIRE box yesterday because they were so amazing...
If you want to know how to make your own version here is a quick recipe for a cheesecake truffle:

4 oz Cream cheese
18oz white chocolate
3 oz butter (very soft)
4.5 oz cold cream
1 vanilla bean scraped

1. Beat cream cheese with scraped vanilla bean till soft.
2. Melt the white chocolate and cool to 90 degrees
3. Combine chocolate and butter in food processor and pulse to mix. Scrape the bowl down.
4. Add the cream in a slow stream while the food processor is running.
5. Add the cream cheese slowly till combined.
6. Scrape the ganache onto a plastic wrapped sheet tray and allow to cool while covered.
7. When cool, place ganache in piping bag and pipe little dollops onto a parchment sheet.
8. Refrigerate till hard enough to handle and then shape into balls.
9. Refrigerate and when set, dip them into tempered chocolate.
10. You can leave them covered in chocolate or you can cover them in any desired toppings after that.

You can make your own flavors by switching the flavoring ingredient. Instead of cream cheese you can add  the same amount of raspberry puree or add a small amount of coffee powder and increase the white chocolate to a total of 20oz.