Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More Macarons and a 22 Hour Plane Ride

Tomorrow I am going on vacation. A long vacation. Two and a half weeks to be exact. Cambodia and Thailand here I come. Ancient ruins, beautiful landscapes, scuba diving, amazing food, and 100-degree weather are all in my very near future. Oh, and a 22 hour plane trip. Ugh. Hope Korea Airlines is well stocked with those cute little mini bottles of wine.

Before I go, I wanted to share the last of the three desserts I made for the wedding shower festivities. A third try at macaron making has put me even closer to the finish line of macaron-mastery.

In this version, ground dried raspberries were blended into the batter and vanilla beans were added to the buttercream. It was a delicious combination and one that I would make again in an instant. Once more, I shall defer you to the master of macarons herself for the recipe, but I assure you, I am getting close to my own version and will shout it from the rooftops (and post it here) when I do finally nail it down.

I look forward to getting back and firing up the stove and sharing some pictures with you, but until then: râat-dtree sà-wàt (goodnight) and chum riep leah (goodbye).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different.

Okay, not completely different (I may have been watching a leeetle too much Monty Python as of late). But it is definitely on the opposite side of the spectrum than the other dessert I made for the bridal shower I attended this weekend, the chocolate raspberry truffle tart. While the chocolate tart was deep, rich, thick, and gooey, this lime coconut macadamia pie is light, citrus-y, tart, and refreshing. This is my kind of dessert, not too rich, with bright flavors and a crumbly, not-too-sweet crust.

It is also extremely easy to put together when you make the original 9-inch round pie. Unfortunately when I transferred it into individual tart form, they didn't hold up very well. The filling soaked into the crust, softening it too much to stand on its own. When I tried to lift them off the pan, I ended up with little lime pie piles. They still tasted incredible, but weren't so pretty, especially sitting next to the cute little pink-ribbon embellished chocolate tarts.

I have made this recipe many times before in a 9-inch pie tin and it works beautifully. The key is keeping the pie or tart in a vessel so it will stay intact when the crust softens. I plan on trying these out again with more of a pie-type crust, because they are so delicious, and would be perfect for a summer party.

Coconut Macadamia Lime Tarts
recipe from

For the crust:
35 vanilla wafer cookies (about 5 ounces)
1/3 cup dry-roasted macadamia nuts (about 2 ounces)
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 15-ounce can cream of coconut (such as Coco López, look in the liquor department)
2/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
3 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

To finish:
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 lime, thinly sliced into rounds
Additional powdered sugar

In a food processor, pulse the vanilla wafers and macadamia nuts until finely ground. Add the coconut and pulse a few times just to chop a bit. Pour mixture into medium bowl and mix in the melted butter, stirring to incorporate evenly. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan (or 5 inch tartlet pans if you feel like living on the edge) and bake for about 20 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Pour three tablespoons cold water into a small metal bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, until the gelatin has softened. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the cream of coconut, lime juice, and lime zest and set aside.

Place the bowl with the gelatin over a small saucepan of simmering water, and whisk until gelatin has dissolved into the water. Whisk gelatin into the cream of coconut mixture, and pour into prepared crust.

Chill for at least 4 hours, until filling has set.

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, whisk the whipping cream and powdered sugar on medium-might speed until light and fluffy and stiff peaks form. Spoon or pipe onto pie, and garnish with lime slices. Then try not to eat the entire pie in one sitting.

I think I am going to go dig a lime macadamia nut pie pile out of the fridge right now...

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I think spring has sprung here in Chicago. Well maybe it is still in the process of springing, but close enough right?

This year it seems spring = wedding season. Not mine of course, but I am involved in one of my close friend's wedding festivities. This morning her bridesmaids threw her a shower, full of friends, flowers, presents, champagne, and way too much delicious food.

I was in charge of desserts and decided to make a few different items to cater to many people's tastes. It was also an excuse to purchase some super cute tartlet pans. For the fruit lovers there was a lime, coconut, and macadamia nut tartlet, and for the chocolate lovers: (including the bride herself) a chocolate truffle tartlet with raspberries. For the cookie lovers, I brought some green and pink macarons, to coordinate with her wedding colors.

Also, we were asked to decorate wine bags, with a bottle wine wine inside for the bride-to-be to guess who brought it. I may or may not have gotten a little ambitious here...but look at how cute my little sushis turned out :-) Me (unemployed designer) + craft store + too much time on my hands = sushi wine bag.

The shower was gorgeous, the bride was beaming, and the guests' tummies were full and happy.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tartlets
adapted (barely) from

This makes 6 5-inch tartlets or 8 4-inch tartlets.

The crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

The filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brewed coffee, use a dark, flavorful roast for this
4 eggs

The ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

To finish:
1 1/2 pints of raspberries (or about 15 raspberries per tarts)
powdered sugar for dusting

For the crust:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar together and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and salt and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix just to combine. Turn dough out onto floured surface, and knead breifly just until the dough comes together, about 10-15 turns. Flatten dough into disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Place your tart rings on a heavy baking sheet.

Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out 7-inch rounds from the dough and press them into the tart pans. If there is not enough area for 6 rounds, re-roll scraps once and cut from there. If the dough tears while you are putting it into the tart pans (and it most likely will) just press it back together. Gently prick the tart dough with a fork all over the bottom surface, this will help the bottom from bubbling up too much.

Bake shells for 12 minutes, turning the pan front to back halfway through the baking time.

For the filling:
While the tart shells are par-baking, place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the butter, sugar, and coffee in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring just to a boil then remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for 2-3 minutes.

Whisk the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time while whisking, until incorporated and smooth.

When tart shells have finished par-baking, remove them from the oven and gently press down the bottoms if they have bubble up at all. Divide batter evenly among tart shells, leave about 1/4 inch room from the top for the ganache. Bake for another 12 minutes until filling is set and cooked through.

Let cool completely then remove from tart pans.

For the ganache:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until just boiling. Pour over chocolate and let sit undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Whisk until smooth, then add in the butter, whisking vigorously until smooth and shiny.

Divide evenly among tarts and smooth with an offset spatula. Let cool for about 5 minutes before adding raspberries.

To Finish:
Arrange raspberries in concentric circles on the tarts and dust with powdered sugar. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

These guys are pretty sturdy and can be made a day or two in advance, just keep them covered and chilled, saving the powdered sugar dusting for immediately before serving.

These were a huge hit at the shower. Poor little lime tarts were completely neglected next to these beauties (not to mention two flavors of macarons).

But its okay, that just left more for me to eat, and I will share them with you in the next post. Crap, I have to be in a swimsuit in two weeks...this isn't good.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I am Turning into an Italian Grandmother.

Yes it is true. I am slowly but surely turning into an little old Italian lady. Pay no mind that I am in fact mostly of Norwegian descent, and that I am the ripe old age of 25.

I know because of the look I got when I told people I spent almost 10 hours in the kitchen last weekend making lasagna. Why did it take you so long they asked. Well because I took the long way. I made a near-traditional meat Bolognese sauce. I made a béchamel sauce. I made my own egg noodles. I made the ricotta. Yeah you heard me correctly. I made the ricotta.

Have I gone insane you ask? My mom asked. Some of my friends asked. Maybe I have. But man was it fun. And rewarding. And by rewarding I mean this lasagna was so damn good. Insanely good. Standing for 10 hours stirring sauces, and kneading pasta dough, and straining curds and whey? Yup, it was worth it. SO worth it.

No Hold's Barred Lasagna
recipe adapted (barely) from Serious Eats

The bolognese sauce cooks for a good 3-4 hours so I would prep as much of the ingredients as you can, and then start with the sauce. While the sauce is simmering, make and drain the ricotta and make and roll out the pasta dough. Right before you are ready to assemble, put together the ricotta mixture and make the béchamel sauce. Lots of multi-tasking, but that's the fun part right?

Special Equipment:

Cheesecloths, pasta roller, food processor, deep 13 X 9 baking dish

For the ragù Bolognese:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound 85/15 ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3-4 ounces chicken livers, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
3 large ribs celery, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
large pinch red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups homemade chicken or veal stock (or 2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced basil
1/4 cup minced parsley

For the ricotta:

One gallon whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the ricotta mixture:
3 cups fresh ricotta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons minced basil
2 tablespoons minced parsley

For the pasta:
6 eggs, divided
6 egg yolks, divided
5 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
6 tablespoons of water, divided

For the béchamel:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound dry whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated or finely chopped (buy the ball of cheese, stay away from pre-shredded stuff here)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:
Fifteen 4" by 8" sheets fresh rolled pasta (or sized to fit your pan)
4 ounces parmigiano reggiano, finely grated (About 2 cups)
1 tablespoons minced basil
1 tablespoons minced parsley

To make the bolognese sauce:

Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pork, beef, and chicken livers, stirring to break up meat, and cook until no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer meat to strainer set over a large bowl. Transfer about half the liquid back to the pot and reduce heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, celery, sage, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook until vegetables are softened, but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Return the meat back to the pot, along with the tomatoes, red wine, milk, stock, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered, about 3 hours stirring occasionally.

When sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, remove bay leaves, add soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and heavy cream and simmer for about 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir in parsley and basil, set aside until use. If making ahead of time (do it, it only gets better) reheat until warm before assembling lasagna.

To make the ricotta:

In a large pot, using a candy thermometer, bring a gallon of whole milk to 180 degrees F, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. When it reaches temperature, remove from heat and gently stir in the vinegar. Curds should start forming immediately.

Cover and let sit for about 2 hours. Line a colander with a few sheets of cheesecloth or food safe paper towels, and set over a bowl. Transfer the larger curd to the colander with a slotted spoon, then slowly pour the remaining curds and whey into the colander.

Let drain for 1-2 hours, depending on desired texture and consistency.

If using that day mix ricotta with the eggs, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, and set aside. If making ahead of time, place in air tight container and refrigerate for up to 7 days, mix with eggs and herbs directly prior to assembling the lasagna.

To make the pasta:

This much pasta should be made in two batches. In a food processor, combine the 2.5 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt, pulse a few times to combine. In a small bowl lightly beat together 3 eggs, 3 egg yolks, and 3 tablespoons of water. With the food processor running, slowly stream in the egg mixture and run until a sticky dough forms. Add water by the teaspoons if mixture is dry. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and pliable, about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. Repeat with the other half of ingredients.

Take each ball of dough and divide it into four pieces. Flatten 1 piece of dough with heel of hand into a rectangular shape. Put through pasta roller at widest setting 5 times, folding edges over to retain rectangle shape.

Reduce the setting by one, and roll the rough three times on each setting, until you reach the 3rd thinnest setting (this is on a 7-setting roller).

I prefer my lasagna noodles thick, but feel free to go to the second thinnest setting if you like. Repeat with each piece of dough. Flour sheets of dough and let dry on dry dish towels until ready to use, at least 20 minutes.

Cut round edges off of dough and then cut pasta into square or rectangular sheets to fit your pan. I used two slightly smaller pans, so your ratios may vary a bit. You will most likely have lost of leftover pasta, cut into shapes and freeze for later use. Don't you love it when there are bonuses?

To make the béchamel sauce:

Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it stops foaming, about 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and continue stirring until mixture turns a light tan color, about 1 minute. Add garlic, whisk to combine. Slowly stream in the milk while whisking, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese and nutmeg and whisk until cheese is completely melted. Return to a simmer then remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

Almost there, time to assemble! If you are using the 9X13 pan, you should end up with five layers of noodles. If you are using smaller pans, you may end up with less noodle layers in each. Exact measurements are not important for each layer, but I will give you an approximation. Just use your best judgement and hope you don't run out before you reach the top!

To assemble:

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Add about 1 - 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce to bottom of baking dish and drizzle with about a 1/2 cup of béchamel. Top with three sheets of pasta. Add another 1 - 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce and 1/2 cup béchamel sauce, and sprinkle with 1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese. Add three more sheets of pasta. Spread 1/2 of your ricotta onto the noodles and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula. Top with another 1 cup of meat sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of parmigiano reggiano cheese. Repeat the noodle-meat-béchamel-parm and noodle-ricotta-meat-parm layers. Top with the last layer of noodles, the remaining meat sauce, the remaining béchamel, the remaining parmigiano reggiano. Now, stand back and bask in the glory of this almost-overflowing dish of cheesy, delicious, wonderment.

Place baking dish onto a foil-lined baking sheet (to catch all the bubbly overflow) and place on middle rack in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes- 1 hour until hot and bubbly and cooked through. Tent with tin foil during baking if the top is getting too dark.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with basil and parsley. Be sure to let the lasagna sit and rest for at least 10-15 minutes at room temp before cutting into it.

Seriously just try not to pull off the little almost-burnt corners of pasta and pop them in your mouth while you let the lasagna rest. Just try, its hard.

Serve if you must have some greens with a light salad, but I say the best side dish for this lasanga is just another piece of lasagna and a big 'ol glass of Chianti. If I am indeed turning into a grandma, there's gotta be wine.

Oh and one last thing...get off my lawn.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lemon Poppyseed Scones

This may be the first year that I have uttered the words "I don't think I am ready for winter to be over". It may be the Minnesotan in me, but I am pretty content with the dreary freezing weather and blustering snowy days right now. I am just not ready for spring. I have been thoroughly enjoying cold saturday mornings spent in the kitchen with some bubbling soup on the stove and a cup of coffee in my hand.

Spring means waking up and heading outside, going to the farmers market, taking a bike ride, and enjoying the warm sun. As excited as I am for all this, I won't mind the excuses to make soups, lasagnas, short ribs, and various other hearty heavy food for a little while longer at least. It is only March 1st for christ sakes.

I have been letting spring creep in slowly though. Very slowly. The citrus fruits are in season, and no matter how gray the sky outside is, a little meyer lemon zest under your nose immediately conjures visions of green grass and cherry blossoms.

Meyer lemons paired with poppyseeds and a boatload of butter creates some absolutely sublime scones. I didn't know I liked scones until I actually made them myself and realized how buttery and delicious they can be. A simple citrus juice and confectioners sugar glaze tops these scones, and seeps in to keep them impossibly moist and tender, and adding just the perfect amount of sweetness.

Meyer Lemon and Poppyseed Scones
recipe adapted from Ina Garten

I have made these by hand, in a food processor, and in a stand mixer, but my favorite by far were the scones that were made in the food processor. The sharp blades cut the butter in perfectly, without over mixing, creating moist, buttery layers similar to biscuits.

4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated meyer lemon zest
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of a food processor (or stand mixer fitting with the paddle attachment) combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Combine the eggs and cream in a small bowl. While pulsing, slowly add the cream mixture, mixing just until blended.

This will be very crumbly, but thats okay! Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead just until mixture forms a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough out until it is 3/4 inch thick. At this point you can cut it into the more common triangle shapes, or use a cookie cutter of your choice. You can re-roll scraps once or twice as needed.

Place cut scones on a parchment paper or silicone mat lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each scone lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, switching the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through the cooking time. The scones should be light golden brown on top and firm to the touch.

Let scones cool for 15 minutes on wire racks. Meanwhile whisk together lemon juice and confectioners sugar in a small bowl. Transfer to a piping bag or ziploc bag with a very small pice of corner cut off. Once scones have cooled, drizzle or pipe glaze onto scones. Let glaze dry for another 10-15 minutes (if you can wait that long).

Happy March!

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