So my first two weeks back at work have been clarifying, gratifying, and good for shaking off the last traces of lethargy that had settled in my body after a year off in babyland. The pace can feel sometimes like air traffic control, the shifts can run from noon to midnight, there’s always something that can be better organized… and it feels like a beloved old boot that fits just right and I’m hitting the ground running. There are also some new additions to the menu that I can’t help but want to test variations of at home. Continue reading
Do you ever choose a recipe just for the chance to break out a piping bag and challenge yourself to get closer to swirly perfection (never attainable, but always fun to try)? Gosh, I adore piping things out, I should really get a job at a bakery one of these days….
The inspiration for these cookies also came, I must admit, from hanging out on my sister’s couch watching – for the first time! – The Great British Bake Off. There’s something about those technical challenges, where each contestant has the same recipe and must execute perfectly, that just fires me up so much! One of the first episodes I saw had them piping out dozens of identical sandwich butter cookies, and I think I was already in the kitchen before the show ended, cause, butter cookies! With shapes! Continue reading
My one giftee this year loves minty chocolate, and that kind of candy I can pull off without shopping flurry. It’s easy enough that I’ll hardly explain the process (and I’m also itching to jump back into bed and steam-roll over his loafy sleeping body so I can open my presents which includes a DURIAN, merry merry, merry Christmas!). Continue reading
layer of Lucky Charms marshmallow treats
peanut butter granola
Blueberry muffin Mini Wheats
milk chocolate covered raisins
Heritage Khorosan wheatie flakes
This was a bad idea at inception. This was a untold extravagant success and/or mass room-mate-icide attempt at the hands of an over-drunk me and Cloudy. This was Friday night made manifold and manifested into a glucose patty of hideous candyshop proportions.
Weirdly, it actually tasted good. *shakes head in utter disbelief*
Basically I wanted to make Susan Feniger’s millet puffs at 10:58 at night – a healthy (kinda) track that got a bullet train smashed right through it – explosions ensued obviously – mostly when I spied the Lucky Charms for sale at the grocery store. Two minutes left ’til closing and with 3 of the 4 major players in hand (butter, marshmallows, cereal… only candy is missing. so far.), we ran home and built a quick recipe of the timeless marshmallow treat.
But… wait. It’s not right. It’s too sweet. Man, this sucks. Well let’s put it in a pan anyway. Hey wait. Just a second *runs runs runs to her room* *laughs manically while cascading a giant bag of jellybeans over the pan*. Can we do this? Is this allowed?
*more rummaging ensues*
Basically the entire contents of my candy drawer AND cereal closet get pored over, cracked open, sprinkled, crushled, jammed and dotted with little bits of butter and left in a low oven for 20 minutes, creating….
um, basically the best late-night snack food ever. It only took us 6 days to finish it, is all. :)
In early December, in time for gift-giving, I spent an evening with Laloux pastry chef Michelle Marek learning all about how to candy fruits and preserve them, at one of the Depanneur Le Pick Up culinary workshops.
We learned how to candy quince, pineapple (+vanilla), kumquat, old shoe (just kidding), orange peel, whole tangerine, satsuma, quince again because it is delicious and tastes of jungle perfume, lemon, meyer lemon, mango (I’m assuming this is possible although t’wasn’t in the company that night), grapefruit and … well, anything fairly sturdy would be fair game for this process, I think. I don’t remember the ratio, but if you boil these things in a sugar syrup for a very long time, until they are saturated with this syrup, then you will have candied fruit… a very versatile substance. You can even make the syrup a personal thing, flavoured with spices, whole ones, bits of clove and pepper and anise and nutmeg…
I remember thinking that Michelle had such a delicate way of handling her food, almost a reverence. Natasha of Popcorn Plays was there to melt chocolate and otherwise smooth the events as they passed. Cookies were consumed. Spicy and crackly ginger things. A ridiculously dense and heavily spiced panforte was introduced the room like a large black quarry stone of deeply spiced Valrhona infused candy. Wait, I have to show you that in full glory:
It hurt the teeth but bolstered the soul, infusing the tongue with a lilting denseness that spoke of christmases without pretense but with a lot of singing and crackly fires/candles/good friends and family who know how to bake whilst sitting in red-plushy corner chairs, watching snow and swirly guitars move past … carollers with style. The kind of Xmas I think I probably experienced once or seventhrice, as a broadbeaneyed starry kid with feety pajamas and country-life to live.
Anything else? Oh ya probably but really is good for now to enjoy the sight of a whole candied LittleFruit. wee!
Disemboweled what for your viewing pleasure. sweet, redolent, orangey.
The next workshop was all about SAUSAGES you guys. omg
Panforte di Siena
from David Lebovitz’ book Room For Dessert
- 5 tablespoons cocoa, plus more for dusting
- 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate
- 2 1/2 cups nuts (hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts), toasted and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup candied citrus peel, citron is ideal but orange and lemon is okay
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper (cayenne)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup honey
- icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC.)
Line the bottom of a 9- to 10-inch (22-23cm) springform pan with parchment paper. Spray the pan with nonstick spray and dust the inside with cocoa powder, making sure to get it up the sides.
In a large bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, nuts, flour, candied citrus, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, and red chile powder.
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir it into the nut mixture.
In a pan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar and honey until the temperature reads 240ºF (115ºC.)
Pour the hot honey syrup over the nut mixture and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. I start by using a spatula and as the mixture cools, once it’s cool enough to touch, I use a dampened hand to get it flat.
Bake the panforte for 35 – 40 minutes; the center will feel soft, like just-baked custard, and if you touch it, your finger will come away clean when it’s done. Let the panforte cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. Remove the springform carefully (sticky edges might tear, so keep an eye out), then let cool completely.
Once cool, remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel away the parchment paper. Sprinkle the panforte with powdered sugar and rub it in with your hands.
Storage: Panforte can be kept for several months, well wrapped, at room temperature.