Cardamom Rosewater Bread Pudding

Lately we’ve been doing a lot of this….

Luca

Just watching this little dude, and feeding him, and changing him, and feeding him, and changing him. And staring at him. I can’t believe that he’s finally here, and how in love with him we are.

And as we near his one month birthday, we’re finally hitting a bit of a rhythm. Part of feeling back to some semblance of ourselves has meant being able to cook and hang out with friends. Tonight we had friends over for Indian on the front porch–daal, chana masala, and sarson ka saag (Indian greens, which I’ll post a recipe for soon).

I wouldn’t normally make dessert, but I had a ton of leftover hamburger buns from a weekend cookout, and decided to make an Indian-inspired bread pudding from them. I know that a nice sourdough or challah would be more classy, but I hate wasting food. The cardamom and rosewater were a nice touch, and the hamburger buns made a surprisingly custardy and light pudding. I would definitely make this again for dessert or breakfast/brunch with whatever bread I had around.

Bread Pudding

Cardamom Rosewater Bread Pudding

  • 8 hamburger buns
  • 3 C. whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 2 Tb. melted butter
  • 1 tsp. rosewater
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/8 C. golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350. Tear the buns into large pieces and place in a lightly greased Pyrex. Sprinkle the raisins over the bread. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, and butter. Add the rosewater, vanilla, and cardamom and whisk well. Pour over the bread and let it soak in evenly. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the pudding is set and pulls away from the edges of the pan.

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Almond Orange Cookies

I’ve been talking about waiting for this baby to come, and one of my atypical waiting activities this past week has been baking. Baking is usually too tedious for my tastes, but I had some leftover egg whites from another recipe, some leftover almond meal from a Passover cake, and a slight hankering for the German almond cookies our family friend Erika makes at Christmas. Not too sweet, chewy, delicious. Hers are made with spices or even with lemon, and I haven’t found the exact replica yet–I’m just going to have to ask her for the recipe–but I found another recipe online that sounded like I should give it a go.

These cookies turned out great. If I’d had an orange in the house, I definitely would’ve included the zest. The recipe also called for almond extract, but there’s nice almond flavor with the almond meal alone, so I added orange extract instead. I’m assuming that there would be room to adlib here and add cinnamon, cardamom, or lemon zest to the batter instead, so I’ll be doing that in the future.

Hope you enjoy these! I think they’re perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, or a light post-dinner sweet.

Almond Orange Cookies

Almond Orange Cookies

Adapted from Almond Biscotti, Leite’s Culinaria

  • 2 1/3 C. almond meal
  • 1 C. superfine sugar (if you don’t have superfine sugar, blitz some granulated sugar in a food processor till finely ground but not powdery)
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Grated zest of 1 orange, preferably organic (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. natural orange extract
  • 1/2 C. sliced or flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the almond meal, sugar, egg whites, optional orange zest, and orange extract in a bowl, stirring well.

Using two spoons, drop tablespoons of the cookie mixture on the parchment-lined sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Sprinkle the biscotti with a few of the almonds per cookie. Bake the biscotti for ~12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Will keep in an airtight container for up to several days. Makes about 20 cookies.

Flourless Chocolate-Almond Cake

Thanks Cat for keeping the blog alive and as I end my month of fun-employment, I wanted to at least have one-post!  Having just returned from an amazing yoga/cooking retreat in Southern Spain (highly recommend it for anyone interested!), I am eager to try out all of the gourmet vegetarian recipes that I learned.  I especially loved learning about quick, easy techniques that elevate your plates into something from a fine-dining establishment.   For example, using small metal round disks for plating/making parmesan crackers to adorn your dishes.  I also discovered the beauty of an ice cream machine.  We made delicious home-made vanilla ice cream, but also more exciting savory mustard ice-cream for an appetizer paired with red cabbage to a light rose-water sorbet.  I am inspired.  I only wish that the three of you could have been with me!   It was so fun to cook with others, but definitely made me miss you all.

As my last hurrah before plunging back into work, I am going away on a girls weekend.  It’s almost become a tradition for me to bake something whenever I leave since a) I like leaving a little love behind; b) I don’t particularly like baking; and c) I don’t like sweets/cakes so it’s an added treat for K when I am away.  Consequently, this week before my trip, I decided to try to re-create one of the dishes we had at the retreat, which was a flourless, almond (or hazelnut), chocolate cake.

Ingredients 

– 200g dark bitter chocolate

– 1 tbsp of strong coffee

– 1 tbsp of rum, brandy, cognac

– 1/3 cup of sugar

– 150 g butter

– 3/4 cup of almond meal

– 5 eggs separated (make sure you don’t get any yolk in the whites)

Directions

– Melt chocolate, coffee, alcohol, sugar and butter on low heat in a sauce pan until everything is mixed; remove from heat, transfer to large mixing bowl and make sure that it is cooled enough for eggs not to cook, but not so cooled it starts to harden.

– Add in almond meal

– Beat egg yolks then add to the chocolate mixture

– Beat egg whites until it becomes stiff with an electric mixer

– Fold into the chocolate mixture

– Put it into a cake pan at 180 degrees Celsius for 40-50 min or until the cake stops wobbling

– Consume with chocolate gancahe, frosting, ice cream or plain since it’s quite rich

YUM.

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Cake with home-made ice cream and sugar adornment from the retreat

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Photo of the retreat courtesy of a fellow yogi/cook from the week

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Almond blossoms in full bloom!

Holiday Cocktail Party for (almost) 50

New Year's Tree

Last night we were excited to host our first big party at our house, and I promised Sara that I’d share the menu. It’s the first time I’ve hosted that many people (almost 50), and I have to say, we had a blast.

Artful arrangementWe spent a few nights slowly wrapping presents and decorating the tree and the mantels with holly, magnolia leaves, and hemlock branches from Mom & Dad’s yard, and we especially enjoyed these gorgeous red and white tulips, courtesy of Ryan and Sara. I never buy fresh flowers for the house and so they were such a treat.

The TableWe forgot to take pictures during the party, as we were busy filling drinks and socializing, but it reminded us of how many lovely people we’ve met in Knoxville, and how we’ve really started to make our home here. The only thing missing? My BFFs. I sure do wish we could’ve had you all there–I miss you guys, especially around the holidays.

I put some thought into making the menu budget-conscious and as easy as possible, so I’ll share below in case it helps anyone plan a big cocktail party in the future! I’ll post the recipes separately and link to them so they’re more easily searchable. Truly, you can spend a lot of time arranging items on a table, but none of these recipes took very much time, most of them could be made ahead, and you could take some additional shortcuts (buy already-baked rolls; store-bought hummus; etc.).

Happy holidays to everyone!

Cocktail Party Menu for 50

Apple Cranberry Crack… I mean… Crumble!

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On a roll here… 2 in 2 days! As you all know, I’m am not much of a dessert maker or (god forbid) baker. Which is ok because my favorite desserts are often seasonal fruity in nature, and leave more time and kitchen space for making the more exciting savory elements of a meal. Last night my mom made an amazing southern dinner complete with buttermilk-soaked fried chicken, mashed potatoes and greens. Yum! So of course we needed some sort of dessert to complete the festive meal. As she had a bowl of apples that were getting squishy and long past their prime, this seemed a perfect sweet-and-tart way to end the meal. A crisp is sort of the dessert version of shakshuka – a good end point for many things that you may have in your kitchen and be wondering what to do with. You can use just about any kind of nuts, oats or granola for the topping, and any sort of fruit for the filling. I like the cranberries because they add a nice tart compliment to the sweetness of the fruit, and you can keep a bag in the freezer and it will last forever and ever.

A word of advice to whom it may concern: don’t skimp on the butter! You know who you are…

Ingredients:

– For the fruity part

  • 5 apples – peeled, cored, and cut into ~8 slices
  • Generous handful frozen cranberries
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1-3 tbsp brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • Zest of 1 lemon

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– For the topping

  • 6 tbsp butter cut into ¼ – ½ in cubes
  • ½ C flour
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¾ cups rolled oats and/or chopped nuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Combine all the ingredients that go with the fruit in a large bowl, then put them into a baking dish. (I don’t bother buttering the dish for a crisp.)
  3. Mash the topping ingredients together in a bowl until they are evenly distributed with the butter.
  4. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit mixture.
  5. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes (until the top is golden brown and the fruit mix is bubbly hot.

Banana Rum “Ice Cream”

Has it really been more than a month since anyone has posted?? Way too long. If you all are like me, work has been crazy, life has been good but nutty, and you’ve been ticking down the days till holiday break.

We’re headed home to family in Kentucky and Texas in the next few days. I’m already counting on the fact that we will be eating a ton of sweets and very rich food between now and New Year’s. Couple that with the unfortunate reality that I’ve been eating gross lunches from the cafeteria at University as I’ve struggled to have time to prepare something homemade to take to work–and well, it called for some healthy dinner before the holiday debauchery. I came home tonight and cooked a huge pot of quinoa salad and a big green salad. It was satisfying, but we both wanted something sweet at the end of the meal. Fortunately, I always have a few overripe banans in the freezer. Instead of banana bread, which is delicious, but not necessarily health food with the copious amounts of butter and sugar I put in my own recipe, I instead often make this faux ice cream that has been making the rounds on food blogs for some years now.

I think I mentioned banana “ice cream” previously on this blog, but I figured I’d take the time to write the recipe out in hopes that it will bring you a delicious healthy dessert in the near future. Also, if you’re kind of lactose intolerant like me, ice cream is a rare treat that you pay for afterwards. This, on the other hand, has a rich, creamy texture that’s exactly like soft serve, that you can eat any time without making your stomach hurt. I’m not even particularly a fan of overripe bananas, but this “one ingredient ice cream” (I’ve added a few more ingredients…) doesn’t even really taste strongly like banana if that’s possible. Finally, there’s no added sugar or fatty stuff here. Basically, it’s pretty much like magic.

After a few times of making this, I can tell you adding a tablespoon or so of liquid helps the banana come together into the soft serve like texture. When you first put it in the food processor it will just seem like it’s going to stay in chunks of frozen banana, but have patience and add a tiny bit of liquid (I vote for some kind of alcohol and/or real vanilla extract), and if you leave the processor going for a few minutes it will become creamy quickly. Any add-ins are encouraged (nuts, fruit, etc.), but the following combo is pretty much my favorite.

So, without further ado….

Banana Ice Cream

Banana Rum “Ice Cream”

  • 2 bananas, frozen
  • 1-2 Tb. of rum (bourbon or Cointreau or Frangelico would all be nice too)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tb. high quality Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • coconut flakes

Break the frozen banana into large chunks and throw into the food processor. Start the food processor and let it run until the banana starts to break down into small chunks. Add in the rum (or water in a pinch) until the banana starts to get smooth. Add in the cocoa powder and process till fully incorporated. When the mixture has the texture of soft serve, stop the food processor and put the mixture into two dishes immediately. Sprinkle with coconut flakes and serve.

Eton Mess

Trader Joe's Vanilla Meringues.

Trader Joe’s Vanilla Meringues.

I’m lame and we’re in the middle of packing up our house, so forgive me for the only photo I have to go with this post, which is an empty box of meringues. Oh well.

Nevertheless, even without good photos, I couldn’t resist sharing this incredible recipe, which will definitely be on my dessert rotation. That is saying a lot, because as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not so much of a dessert person.

We were having friends over last night, one of whom is gluten-free and so I was searching around for a recipe for something gluten-free. I hate baking, and I’m not a fan of heavy desserts, so for whatever reason I was thinking I could do something with store-bought meringues, which are gluten-free (at least Trader Joe’s brand is…). I came across this recipe for Crushed Raspberry Creams at BBC’s Good Food blog, which basically mixes crushed meringues in with Greek yogurt and creme fraiche and layers that with raspberries. I recognized it as kind of modified Eton Mess–a British dessert that has the same ingredients with whipped cream instead of yogurt/creme fraiche. Traditional Eton Mess uses strawberries, but the following recipe would taste great with any kind of summer berry. However, I really do think the tartness of raspberries or blackberries are best here.

The recipe can be slightly less guilt-inducing when made with yogurt, depending on what kind you use and how much creme fraiche you add. I think next time I make it, I might omit the creme fraiche to see what I can do with a lighter version since heavy cream and creme fraiche/sour cream don’t sit so well with my stomach. That said, the version below was delicious and oh so easy.

Eton Mess-

adapted from Crushed Raspberry Creams, BBC Good Food Blog

  • 1 box Trader Joe’s Vanilla Meringues (210 g or 7.39 oz.) or 3 or 4 large meringue shells
  • pint of raspberries 
  • pint of blackberries
  • organic sugar to taste
  • 16 oz. 0% fat or lowfat Greek yogurt (full fat would work great too)
  • 4 oz. of creme fraiche (optional–if you don’t use, increase yogurt amount to 20 oz. and don’t use 0% fat yogurt)

Blend together the yogurt and creme fraiche. If you wanted to, you could add in some lemon zest or a pinch of a spice, like cardamom–I can see all kinds of ways to experiment here. Chill this mixture in the fridge.

Combine the berries in a bowl, but save 4-10 raspberries and/or blackberries for garnish. Sprinkle remaining berries with a tablespoon or so of sugar, and macerate them lightly to release some of their juices, keeping the berries more or less whole. I didn’t add any herbs, but mint or basil could be delicious added in here. Let sit at room temperature.

In the meantime, chop up the meringues into pieces with a knife. I tried to do this in the food processor, but I found that the meringues were turning to powder, and so I finished the job by hand.

Just before serving, pull the yogurt mixture out of the fridge, and fold the meringues into the yogurt mixture. I didn’t add any additional sugar, but you can taste the mixture and add some if you’d like. In 4 or 5 small teacups, or clear glasses (which will allow you to see the pretty layers), layer some yogurt mixture, then berries, and then end with more yogurt. Garnish each cup with a berry or two and serve.

The recipe said that these can keep for four hours assembled in a fridge, but I wouldn’t add the meringues to the yogurt until last minute, so you can keep some of their crunchy texture in the mix. Enjoy!

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Everyone knows I’m not much of a baker. I love fruit for dessert, and a treat every once in a while, but for the most part, I’d rather have more salty than sweet. Also, baking is much more limiting in my mind than regular cooking, since you really do need to follow a recipe and pretty exact quantities to avoid your cake collapsing, or what have you.

That said, here’s a relatively easy dessert recipe that I recently encountered while trying to figure out a tart dessert to make for a dinner party. I do like tart desserts and fruit desserts, but I don’t like making crusts or icing cakes, so this recipe for Lemon Pudding Cakes appealed. You will dirty several bowls making this dessert, and whip some egg whites, which can be a pain if you don’t have an electric beater, but other than that the assembly is a snap.

The low-flour content makes their texture incredible: cake-like at the baked top; souffle-like in the middle; and with a delicious, creamy pudding layer at the bottom. They manage to be both lush and not too heavy all at the same time. They’re also great both warm and chilled–I had them both ways–so you could always make them ahead of time. They don’t need any accompaniment, but some fresh berries on top are both beautiful and tasty. We had it with strawberries, but raspberries would be perfect, I think.

Lemon Pudding Cakes

adapted from Food and Wine

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup whole milk (or whatever kind you have around–the recipe even says skim will work)
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
pinch salt
Fresh raspberries or strawberries, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins or teacups with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Fold half the egg whites into the lemon mixture, combining thoroughly but gently. Gently fold the second half of the egg whites into the lemon mixture, careful to not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer them to a small roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the pudding cakes for 35 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack or wooden cutting board to cool for 20 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins warm, or at room temperature, with the berries. Serves 6, and can be refrigerated for up to two days.

Yummy Banana Bread

Although I am not a baker, Kileken loves banana bead and I hate throwing away old bananas, but there comes a certain juncture when they are too mushy and brown for my granola and yogurt breakfast-banana bread to the rescue. This is a recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated. My Aunt gave me ten years of bound Cooks Illustrated and it’s fun to read since they actually describe the science of cooking. For example, take caution when mixing. If you stir to a smooth batter, the loaves turn out tough and small. Flour contains protein and when protein mixes with water, gluten develops. The more you stir/mix, the harder the loaves. My mom has first hand experience with this as she accidentally used a mixer. The other reason why I like this recipe is that it uses yogurt and I have found you can cut the amount of butter. The yogurt also creates a much softer and tastier bread than conventional recipes.

Ingredients
Wet Ingredients
– 3 very ripe darkly speckled bananas (1.5 cups)
– 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
– 2 large eggs beaten lightly
– 4 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
– 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
– 2 cups of all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup of sugar
– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Optional:
– Chocolate chips
– Coconut flakes
– Nutmeg
– Orange Zest
– Walnuts

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Grease loaf pan
3. Mix wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
4. Mix dry ingredients in a larger bowl
5. Lightly fold wet/banana mixture into dry mixture until thick and chunky. This is when you would add any of the optional ingredients.
6. Pour into loaf pan and wait 55 min or until golden brown/chopstick does not come out gooey when you poke the center
7. Enjoy!

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Honey Poached Pears

Honey Poached Pear

A Honey Poached Pear

Pears are in high season at the farmers market in France over the past few months. Over Thanksgiving when I was in Maine, we had dinner with friends who made a lovely dessert of Poached Pears.  They are light and perfect for winter post-meal, especially with a dollop of ice cream or fresh whipped cream.  By cutting the pears flat on the bottom, you can stand them up on a plate. You can make it a day or two in advance and given the simplicity of the recipe yet elegant presentation, it’s great for dinner parties. If you have extra sauce, you can also save it and pour it over yogurt.

You can also use red wine and the peaches turn a beautiful rouge color, but I personally prefer white wine since I find it to be lighter and more delicate in flavor.

Honey Poached Pears

  • 4 large pears, peeled, stems intact
  • 1/2 cup of mild honey
  • 1.5 bottles of white wine
  • Half a fresh lemon squeezed
  • 4 springs of fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 5 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon or 2 tablespoons of cinnamon powder

Directions:

In a large pot, put all the ingredients together and ensure that the pears are snug. Put it on moderate heat and simmer until you can put a fork into the pear (20-25 min). Do not cover.  Take the pears out and put them on a plate.

Strain the liquid into a pot and discard all the spices.  Reheat the liquid at high heat to reduce for 10-15 minutes.  The liquid should be light and syrupy.  Allow the liquid to cool slightly, then pour over the pears when you serve with ice cream.