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Saturday, February 19, 2011

~2C₈H₁₀N₄O₂ + IC₂ + KQ~ A Custard Iceberg Drowning in a Caffeinated Sea!

Just a quick post today.  I've had this one in the works for some time but I just never quite got around to posting it with full photos.  One of my favorite desserts and one which I first came across at Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley CA, the flavors and textures balance perfectly between tangy, sweet, creamy, toothsome, bitter, and soft.  I just had to post my own version here.  I added the candied fruit paired against the bittersweet chocolate, added as a side instead of shaved over the top, for the sake of palate pacing and I think its all for the better:

~Affogato with Candied Kumquats~

2 fl oz fresh pressed espresso
Small (1 oz) Scoop vanilla ice cream or gelato
1 oz chopped dark chocolate
Candied Kumquats or Tart Seasonal Fruit

SPECIAL TOOLS: Italian Espresso Press or Countertop Espresso Machine

Yield - This recipe for ONE serving

This is one of those super simple yet elegant recipes that can really wow at a dinner party or fine dinner date for two.  If you like coffee this is for you but even if you or your guests shy away from the black stuff, you can make these a la Cafe au Lait with drip coffee in place of the stronger espresso.  Well get back to that in a minute though...

Start with the ice cream:

To keep the ice cream from dissolving at near light speed when you pour on the steaming hot coffee, chill it and it's glass (plastic wrapped) in the freezer for about 25 minutes.  If you are making dinner, just toss the prepared glasses in the freezer when you start and take them out just as you serve dessert.  The frosty glasses also add some visual flavor.

Next for the Chocolate bits:

The tradition with this dessert is often the pinnacle of simplicity, omitting everything but the coffee and ice cream.  When chocolate is used, its usually just shaved on top but I like chocolate with coffee so I use chopped pieces.

When it comes to picking what chocolate to use, think like you would when selecting a fine wine.  What are you having for dinner, if at all?  What kind of fruit is in season that will be on the plate, if any?  The most important factor though is the coffee, with dark 54% pairing much better with an espresso and a milder 30 - 40% pairing better with milder drip coffee.  All that aside, just like wine, don't buy anything you wouldn't just eat on a regular day!

Just before brewing your coffee, prepare your dessert plates with whatever combo of fruit and chocolate you like and set aside.  Plating is still one of my favorite things because you get to be as artful or crazy as you like with color, height, texture...  lots of fun!

Now for the glorious coffee! ...I like coffee...

I personally prefer the quality of coffee from an Italian stove top espresso press.  That not withstanding, the simplicity of cleaning/assembly, the small footprint and finally the price (about $30 vs over $100 for an automatic) is enough for most folks out there including myself!

The only thing to worry about with this little gizmo is too much heat applied too quickly.  Fill the base up to the fill line and fill the coffee cup, tamping just a tiny bit to even it out only.  Screw the top on and put it on the smallest burner you've got to brew.  For both gas and electric, I would even suggest placing the brewer half way over the burner on medium to medium high heat.

When the coffee bubbling through the stand spout starts to get a frothy light foam (the crema for those in the know... I looked it up as I was not one,) remove from heat and get ready to pour!  Pull out your ice cream, plate the glasses and serve.  Pour the hot espresso over the chilled ice cream table side for a little bit of fancy!

So simple and elegant, I know I've used this recipe many times and I get great reviews every time!  With as many varieties of coffees, chocolates, fruit, ice creams...  so many combinations open up in this one.  Even try flavored coffees if you like them!  Try it, you'll like it!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

~Sticky Sweet on the Flip Side~ Deliciously Caramely Oaty Goodness... -y

...Back in business and ready to roll!!  Welcome to our first ever post about food of 2011!  Let's get going while the going is good I say!

 ~Upside Down Caramel Glazed Bran Muffins~

Adapted from Oui Chef's "Bran Muffins Even Your Kids Will Like"

I knew I had to come back from web hibernation with a great recipe for all my readers, so here is my humble homage to the in Coast Cafe in Bolinas, CA and the BEST BRAN MUFFINS IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE!  What a way to break back into the blogging world, eh?  I think my little muffins are pretty darn close and not too shabby by any means.  Definitely muffins to turn a branophobe to a die hard fan!  No time but the present:

2 cups unprocessed wheat or oat bran
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 Teaspoon Cardamom
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cups brandied raisins
3/4 cups crushed Pineapple
1 cups water
1/2 cup buttermilk
Zest of one half medium orange
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg white

Caramel Glaze
3/4 C Packed Light Brown Sugar
1/4 C Granulated White Sugar
2 Sticks Salted Sweet Cream Butter
1/3 C Light Agave or light corn syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Orange Zest
Walnut or Pecan Pieces

SPECIAL TOOLS: Large Mouth (3/4C) Muffin Tins

Yield - about 8 large muffins

First, grease your muffin tins and pre-heat your oven to 370f.  Position a rack just below the center position for baking to ensure the even cooking and final doneness on both the glaze and the muffins themselves.  If you do have a top heating element in your oven, place the rack near the middle.

In a shallow dish, soak raisins and orange zest in just enough brandy to cover them and let sit wrapped about 20 minutes or overnight in the fridge.  These raisins can be made much ahead of time, (and keep for quite a while) if you like, by soaking them in a mason jar with a lid but for a quick soak, anything will do.  I like to make these for Christmas and holiday breads!

Next, toast your bran for better texture and to help bring up the subtle toasty flavors!

Spread the bran on a large sheet pan and toss it in the oven for 5 - 7 minutes, tossing halfway for even roasting and to prevent burning.  Remove the sheet pan from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes, then it into a large mixing bowl or bowl of an electric stand mixer.

Add your raisins (along with brandy and zest) followed by water, pineapple and brown sugar. Combine oil, egg, egg white and buttermilk and add. Stir to combine thoroughly.

I have to stop here to make a point about crushed pineapple...  I think there is always a place for crushed pineapple in almost any heavy gluten or spiced cake, muffin, scone, etc.  In this case it adds a lot of moisture and sweetness while balancing out the often woody, rough texture of bran with a very floral, bright acidity.  For a moister muffin you can add whatever pineapple juice remains when measuring instead of pressing it off and retaining it or drinking it.  Right then...  back on task.

Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices then re-sift into the bowl.  Mix until just combined but not over mixed and frothy.  Too much air incorporated can make them cook unevenly and too quick for the caramel glaze to darken properly...  dark sticky caramel = much better than light greasy undercooked slush.

For the glaze:

Start by creaming together your butter (I like to use cultured European butter when I can get it) and both sugars about 3 minutes until it has lightened in color and fluffed up a bit.
Add syrup and zest and continue to cream another 4 minutes until very fluffy and light in color.
The zest is totally optional but I think its a nice touch; mirroring the orange in the muffin and balancing the rich sweetness of the glaze.  If your not a huge fan of orange, you can leave it out or reduce it by half or just use a small amount of lemon zest.
This glaze will keep refrigerated in an air tight container for up to a month and has many uses including sticky buns and great sugar cookies!

Spoon a small amount of glaze into your prepared tins and press, just enough to make about a 1/4" layer on the bottom. Top the glaze layer with walnut or pecan pieces if you like.  I went with walnuts this time as they tend to remain toothsome in the glaze longer than pecans.

Fill your muffin tins with batter so they are nearly overflowing, mounded slightly in the center and Bake for 25 - 35 minutes. They should be well set and have a nice brown color and the glaze should begin to bubble around the edges and caramelize.

~Food Science Notes [syrup]: Invert Sugars Inhibiting Sugar Crystallization~

This cooking time depends a lot on the oven and on how dark you like your glaze so it may take once or twice to get it exactly how you like.  Let them stand to cool about 3 minutes then invert the tins onto a parchment lined (for easy cleanup) cookie sheet or large serving dish.

Again I say that these things are pretty great and as always; food is versatile! go experiment!  Change the glaze up by using the pecans and mixing in a bit of dark molasses with the agave.  Change up the muffins with any spice you can think of.  Toss in some cranberries with the raisins.  Never compromise and never tell yourself "no one would like that..."  They just might after all :)


Friday, February 4, 2011


Wow, It has been a while.  But through the dust, ash, stain, caulk, shims, blood, tears, rusty nails, rusty caulk, rusty tears, and more than a few confused arguments there is now A BRAND NEW KITCHEN!!!  I have to say I'm really wild about this place!  Lets get the ol' blog back on-line with a short tour:

First and certainly one of my favorite additions:  A spooling 30' extension cord providing safe, out-of-the-way power for...

A great big central Island with roll out drawers and... extended lip and stools for guests to sit

Added a pot rack for convenience in a small space.  I love having it, especially in the mornings making hot cereal

A brand new 33" Espresso granite composite sink.  Went the extra mile for a 9" depth.  The sprayer head faucet is pretty great too, especially for cleaning out the sink tubs after loading the dishwasher.

These knobs are SOOO cool!  I've had them for years but never brought them out.  Now they finally have a home!

...Numbered 1 through 3 all throughout the kitchen.  Helpful that I can say "grab that flour from the number 3 pantry" when someone else is helping in the kitchen.

My Mom gave me this great maple butcher block table years ago but I havent had space until lately.  Being stored for years didn't do it any favors but some heavy grit sand paper, a sharpened bench knife, and a quantity of mineral oil and voila:  Back to life and ready for use!

Ikea to the rescue once more as far as storage space goes.  Two glass-pannel bookshelves turned pantry and lighted glassware case!

I still geek out about finally having a brand new slide-in gas range!  Gas convection, 4 top burner, convection bake/roast, proof and warm settings!  Made a bit of a new years dinner on its first day.

The benches for the breakfast nook are done!  All we need now is the table!  See that morning sunlight!

Here we end with just a shot I really liked of the whole kitchen triangle!

So that ends the tour for now.  I want to end this return post by once again thanking everyone who has stuck with us through the long absence.  Just as a little returning fanfare (and a bit as a goofy photography experiment thought up in a half-dream) I also made

Now get those aprons laced, ovens warmed up, pans seasoned, knives honed, and torches fueled up cuz' we're ready to jump back in!!  See you all again soon!