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Archive for the ‘Sweet Treats’ Category

No, not me! Though some would beg to differ.  I’m talking about pancakes. Or even better Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. A precursor to what is other wise known as Shrove Tuesday. Though Fat Tuesday sounds like a lot more fun. And if you’ve ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans (or can at least remember it!) you know it’s all about wretched excess. But oh so enjoyable. So are pancakes. They satisfy on all levels of comfort and delight. Most pancakes are considered a quick bread, as they contain some form of leavening to help them achieve that light fluffy melt in your mouth texture. National Pancake week kicks off on March 1st. It also  heralds the start of Lent which officially begins on March 8th.

Shrove Tuesday’s original intent was to use up pantry staples that were considered rich or decadent. Sounds good to me. Which after indulging in, one was to spend the first day fasting and in prayer. I’ll just take the pancakes. Sweet or savory, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a midnight nosh, there is no wrong time to whip up a batch. Delish! And im not talking I-Hop here. No way. Cardboard discs with whipped fake margarine belong in the garbage, not on your plate. So get out grandmas pottery mixing bowl, your whisk and a few simple ingredients and you are on your way to making your mouth really really happy. Not to mention your tummy.

So first, a tiny bit of history. Drum roll if you please. In Russia the pre-lenten pancake feast, known as Maslenitsa, is celebrated by indulging in thin buckwheat crepes known as Blini. Often topped with caviar, honey, jam, sour cream or butter. YUM -O! These are traditionally based on little symbols of the sun. Golden, round, warm, they signify the end of winter and the beginning of spring.  Hell Yes! After one of the longest and snowiest winters in the history of the east coast I am more than ready  for spring to arrive. In America the original pancake was called the “johnny-cake” and made from cornmeal. In France they are known as crepes. The Swedish make a pancake with rice & saffron and baked in the oven. In China, its “cong you bing” an incredibly popular street food otherwise known as a scallion pancake. You can make it sweet by adding red bean paste. Though my personal favourites being the Danish “Aebleskiver”. Little round puffs cooked in a special pan stuffed with jam & cream cheese. Heaven. I add a zest of lemon and warm brown sugar syrup. Fantastic.

Alright now for some ideas. Sweet. Savory. Short silver dollars, stuffed or dinner size plates, whatever stack you make will fit the bill. Some of my favourite combinations follow.  In no particular order. Just enjoy. Only try not to drool on your Mac. :O

Cheddar & candied bacon w/ whipped maple butter.

Lemon/ white chocolate & warm blueberry compte.

Cranberry & orange topped w/ duck hash.

Sweet potato & pecan w/ toasted coconut & melty marshmallows (homemade plz)

Apple & cinnamon w/ whipped cream & warm pomegranate syrup.

Dark Chocolate w/ sun-dried cherries & sweet cream butter.

Ricotta pancakes w/ candied ginger & lingonberry sauce.

Peking pancakes w/ duck confit/hoisin drizzle & scallion whipped cream.

Potato pancakes w/ sliced brisket & onion balsamic jam.

Poppy seed w/ lemon curd and fresh raspberries.

Pinneaple “upside -down” pancakes w/ toasted macadamia nuts &  coconut anglaise.

Cinnamon w/ carmelized bananas & carmel peanut butter sauce.

Scallion pancakes w/ sautéed shiitake & spicy short rib ragu.

Stuffed pancakes.. while the batter is on the griddle lay in a pre-cooked maple glazed sausage.  Cook. Roll. Top w/ butter & warm syrup. Nice.

You get the general idea. Let you imagination take you away.  Create. Experiment. Have fun! Cooking, if not fun, well then .. whats the point? We need to eat to live, yes. But hell why not have a good time doing so!

So to conclude my love of pancakes… I’m including my grandpa’s pancake recipe and one for all my gluten intolerant friends. Feel free to use what ever recipe that makes you happy, or has been passed down to you.

Grampys Pancakes ;

2 cups a-p flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sel

3 tbsp sucre

2 eggs

3 cups buttermilk

4 tbsp melted butter

mix the dry. add the wet. let rest at least one hour. have fun!

Okay for my celiac buddies : Gluten free pancakes!

1/2 cup oat flour

1/2 cup rice flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 egg

1 cup soy milk

1/4 cup melted vegan butter

splash of vanilla & pinch of cinnamon.

Mix dry. Add wet. Let rest. Enjoy! No tummy ache !

*I owe the inspiration for this post to @fugimama ( Rachael) on twitter. Who got my creative juices flowing. ((hugs))

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High Time For Tea

Afternoon tea.  Your Grandmother’s lace tablecloth. Delicate bone china cups. Tiny sweet & savory treats. The essence of refined elegance. Classic. Timeless. Almost a lost art. The Brits had it right by having tea & a nosh in the late afternoon everyday. Sort of signals the end of another day. With the evening meal still impending, a nice way to segue from day to-night. Fill the tummy with something light and yummy until a proper meal arrives.

I think its high time  (no not the magazine, though it’s still an entertaining read :O) to bring back this little afternoon ritual. Though really tea can be served any time of day. Not a hurriedly gobbled lunch, nor a  show stopping dinner, or an over the top cocktail party, a “tea” falls somewhere in between. When one thinks of a tea, they almost always think of ladies. Not so anymore. Feel free to invite as many men as you’d like. Not only will the conversation  (and the company) be better for it, they too deserve a bit of pampering now and again. Trust me, they will enjoy it as much as your girlfriends, maybe even more. So dust off the china cups, polish the silver and press your best lace tablecloth and napkins and prepare to spend a leisurely afternoon returning to a time and place when the world moved at a slower pace. Just be sure to turn off the Mac & iphone. 🙂

So whether it’s a tea party in the garden, a cozy gathering around the fire or just quiet afternoon with friends here is my idea of the ideal tea. Grandma never thought tea could be like this. Though she might be pleasantly suprised.

Assemble a nice assortment of teas. My current favourite being Trader Joes Candy Cane Green Tea. Its yum! Though I had a tea in Beverly Hills at The Mosaic Hotel that was simply exquisite. When I go back next week I plan on asking them for some to bring back! The tea bag was in the shape of a pyramid with a small green leaf at the top. Not mention it was one of the smoothest english breakfast teas I have ever had. I digress. Heat or have a large kettle of hot water and a few tea pots or just individual cups. Set out lemon, sugar, honey and a small pitcher of milk. I am partial to soy milk myself. If your making tea in a pot, be sure to heat the pot under warm running water first, add your tea ball of loose leaves or tea bags. Fill with not quite boiling water and steep. A tea cozy serves the purpose of keeping the tea & the pot warm, so if you have one, by all means use it!

The goodies can be as varied as you’d like. A nice mix of sweet and savory works best. Forget the idea of cucumber sandwiches and scones this is a brave new world. New decade too, so get adventurous.  So here is my idea of the perfect afternoon “Tea”.

The Nibbles ~  The Savory

I like to start with a small “shooter” of a super smooth soup. In this instance a Fresh Tomato w/ a drizzle of basil oil. Gets the palate awake and ready for whats to come.

Tiny tea sandwiches of : Prosciutto/ Fig & Arugula w/ smooth and creamy goat cheese on baby brioche buns. I have also done the baby brioche w/ fig jam & a slice of foie gras terrine.

Stilton & Pear w/ sweet cream truffle honey butter on whole wheat.

Smoked Salmon & Asparagus w/ lemon mayo on crostini.

Baby Cheese Scones w/ watercress/ cream cheese & grapes

Tiny puff pastry rounds  w/ caramelized onions & sweet ham

Won Ton Chips w/ ahi tuna tartare/  avocado/ wasabi crema

The Sweet ~

Assorted Macaroons : chocolate/ almond/ vanilla

Summer Berry Tartlets

Dark Chocolate Coffee Truffles

Toasted Tea cakes w/ clotted cream & strawberry jam

Dark and White Chocolate Florentines

Pecan Tassies

Now you have the perfect assortment of savory/ creamy/ crunchy/ crispy/ smooth/ sweet/ delicate and rich. If that doesn’t guarantee a good time I don’t know what will. And lastly , always I repeat, always have a few bottles of ice-cold bubbly at the ready.  Splurge on the good stuff. Veuve Clicquot being a sure thing. It pairs perfectly with the sweets and it can only help to improve the mood! There doesnt it  feel good to pamper yourself and your guests. Just remember to put on your pearls.

Since to include recipes for everything would be rather tedious, I shall include my recipe for baby brioche buns. The rest being rather self-explanatory.

Baby Brioche Buns:

2 1/2 cups ap flour

1 tbsp gran. sugar

1/2 tsp sel

1 tsp yeast

3 eggs

1/2 milk

5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

veg oil for greasing

Sift dry ingredients. Whisk together wet. Incorporate in to the dry. Make a soft dough. Knead 5 minutes. Use a little more flour if to sticky. Place in a greased warmed ( run under hot water first & dry) bowl. Brush the dough w/ veg oil. Cover bowl w/ Saran wrap. Let rise 1 hour.  Turn dough out and knead briefly. Form into 12 small ball. Lightly spray a mini muffin tin. I like to place a small piece of parchment paper in  each tin. Making sort of “cup”. Place dough balls in each tin.  Wrap w/ Saran and let rise 30 minutes.  Brush the tops of each bun w/ milk or cream .  Bake @400 degrees  for about 15- 20 minutes. Let cool. Split and fill. If you want to use them for something sweet .. sprinkle the tops w/ demarra sugar before baking.

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This is going to be  a “quickie”.  Not that kind of quickie silly.  My recipe for pumpkin bread is surprisingly quick and easy. Though since my original recipe makes 30 mini loaves or 10 large ones, I have adjusted the proportions accordingly. The following will make 3 average loaves or 6 mini ones. I usually make the mini ones, then you don’t feel so guilty when you polish one off all by yourself.

Pumpkin Bread  ~ Muffins ~ or Cupcakes

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg &  ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup H2O

6 eggs

1 quart Libby’s canned pumpkin ( Not I repeat NOT pumpkin pie filling)

I do this in a large mixing bowl. Add all the dry ingredients. Make a “well” in the center. Add all the wet ingredients. Stir well. Or use a hand mixer to incorporate. Do not over mix. It activates the gluten in the flour and makes a less tender loaf.

Pour into sprayed and parchment or wax paper lined loaf pans or muffin tins. I do not use cupcake papers. I line the muffin/ cupcake tins with parchment paper to make a little “hat, makes for better presentation.

Bake @350 for 45 minutes for a loaf pan or 20-25 minutes for muffins / cupcakes. It is done when a wooden skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in loaf pan & then remove to a rack to finish. Muffins & cupcakes cool completely before filling and frosting. This freezes beautifully as a bread or muffins. Though it never lasts that  long in my house.

White Chocolate Ganache ~

1 lb. quality white chocolate *

2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon grand marnier liqueur

Warm the cream over LOW heat. Add chocolate ** Stir to melt. Stir in the liqueur.

Cool completely. I leave mine in a bowl, covered on the counter for at least 2 hours.

To make the filling ~ take the ganache and put  it in a kitchen aid mixer (a bowl with a hand-held mixer works just as well). Slowly beat in 1/2 cup softened sweet butter. That’s it. If it looks too soft, I add 1/2  cup of powdered sugar that has been sifted. ***

Fill a pastry bag w/ the buttercream and pipe into the cupcake from the TOP. You could also split and fill the cupcake. Top with remaining buttercream. Sprinkle with toasted salted pumpkin seeds that have been drizzled with caramelized sugar. Yum!

* I use Hershey’s White Chocolate Chips

** You could also use dark or milk chocolates

*** To make cream cheese icing add 4oz softened plain cream cheese.

Now invite Linus  & Snoopy over and maybe the great pumpkin will make an appearance.

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