Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chocolate-Bourbon Bundt Cake with Oven-Braised Figs in Grand Marnier

                                                                      Photography by Rachel Horesovsky

For my 50th birthday, Emma and Rachel put their heads together and created this incredible dessert.  WOW.  what a showstopper!  The combination of super moist bourbon chocolate cake and hot boozy figs was pure genius.  Mama Ozzy couldn't be prouder!

The cake is very dark, flavored with coffee and chocolate and packs a really heavy punch of bourbon.  It is incredible on its own and needs absolutely no icing.  It is beyond out of this world served with hot oven-braised figs in Grand Marnier syrup.  Just top it off with a little freshly whipped cream and you will be in heaven.

Mmmmmmmm... oven-braised figs in Grand Marnier

Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake with Oven-Braised Figs in Grand Marnier
serves 10-12

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 3 Tbsp for dusting the pan
1 1/2 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup Bourbon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs room temp
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Generously butter a 10-inch bundt pan and dust with 3 Tbsp cocoa powder.

In a medium sauce pan combine 1 cup cocoa powder, coffee, bourbon and butter and heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat. Let cool 10-15 minutes.

In a large bowl combine flour, baling soda and salt and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl combine eggs and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Add egg mixture to cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until well mixed.

Pour chocolate mixture into flour bowl and whisk until just combined.  DO NOT OVER MIX.  Batter will be thin and bubbly.

Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake 40- 50 minutes until a cake tester removes cleanly.

Cool cake for 2 hours on a wire rack before removing from pan.  Cake is best when prepared one day ahead and allowed to "ripen" for at least one day, wrapped in plastic rap.

12 fresh figs
1/3 cup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 300F.

Poke the bottom of the figs several times with a fork and place them in a buttered oven-proof casserole or oven-proof skillet.

Sprinkle figs with sugar, then add water to the dish.

Bake figs for 30 minutes, basting with pan juices twice (once after 10 minutes, again after 20).

Transfer dish to stovetop and add Grand Marnier.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then carefully ignite Grand Marnier (this burns off the alcohol and looks very fancy!).

Figs flambe' !

To serve:
 Slice a wedge of cake and place on a plate.  Cut figs in half and garnish cake.  Spoon fig juices over cake slices and figs.  Garnish with lightly whipped cream.

Pork Normandy

This is another dish from my amazing birthday dinner.  I am a huge fan of pork and I particularly love this preparation from Normandy in north western France.  Normandy is famed for Pork, apples and cream and the three combine beautifully in this dish.  It is savory and slightly sweet and absolutely crave-able.

I served this with pumpkin spaetzle and the combination of spicy fragrant dumplings with the apple-infused cream sauce was out of this world.  We balanced it all with a quickly sauteed pan of kale.  A good Riesling is a perfect wine for this meal.

Everybody working in the kitchen to pull together an amazing birthday meal!

Pork Normandy
serves 6

1, 1.5lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch thick medallions (about 12)
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground dried thyme

8 Tbsp butter
4 small sprigs fresh thyme
2 apples (granny smith or golden delicious), cored and cut into wedges
1/4 cup cognac
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups hard apple cider ( like Woodchuck or Original Sin)
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat oven to 200F.

Place pork medallions in a large heavy plastic ziplock-type bag, and pound until very thin.  On a plate combine flour salt, pepper and dried thyme, stir to combine.  Dredge pork in seasoned flour.

In a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium high heat.  When foaming has subsided, add flour-coated pork slices 2-3 at a time and cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side until very lightly browned.  Transfer cooked pork to a foil-lined baking sheet and keep warm in oven.  Repeat with remaining pork.

Add apple slices and thyme sprigs to pan drippings and cook over medium high heat, tossing frequently until apples just begin to brown.  Add Cognac and carefully ignite with a match (this burns off the alcohol and looks really fancy!).

Add flour and quickly stir until smooth.  Add hard cider and cook, stirring constantly until slightly thickened.  Add cream and simmer until a thick cream sauce forms.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove pork from oven and arrange on a serving platter.  Pour apples and cream sauce over pork.  Serve immediately with Pumpkin Spaetzle.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin Spaetzle with Fried Sage

                                                                       Photography by Rachel Horesovsky

My birthday is in October and I love it.  I much prefer autumn to any other time of year.  The weather is cool and crisp, the gardens are completely full and there is an incredible abundance of harvest produce at the farmer's market. Autumn puts me in the mood for earthy comfort foods like this dish.

It seems that the "trendy" new flavor this year is pumpkin.  I have seen pumpkin beer, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin ravioli etc...  So I was thinking why not pumpkin spaetzle?  I served this for my birthday dinner with Pork Normandy (pork with apples and cream). and it was amazing and incredibly easy.

I am going to let you in on a little secret... I didn't use pumpkin in my pumpkin spaetzle.  Gasp!  Inconceivable! Liar!

Cooking pumpkin is a hassle.  First of all the kind of pumpkin used for cooking is not the one used to make jack-o-lanterns.  They are much much smaller and can be a little difficult to find.  Canned pumpkin is too runny.  Truthfully, the flavor we all think of as "pumpkin" has much more to do with the spices than the actual pumpkin flesh.  I used sweet potato, but you could also use butternut squash.  Simply take the cubes of sweet potato or squash, place them in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave until they are very soft.  You can even do this with pumpkin if you want to go through the trouble...but why would you?

Pumpkin Spaetzle with Fried Sage
serves 8

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 cup mashed sweet potato (about 1/2 of one sweet potato, peeled, cubed and microwaved until tender)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

6 Tbsp butter
16 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper

In a large bowl combine flour and salt and spices.  In a separate bowl whisk together sweet potato, milk and eggs until well blended.  Pour egg mixture into flour and mix with a wooden spoon until a smooth sticky batter is formed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Place colander or spaetzle maker over the top of the vigorously boiling water and push the batter through the holes into the water.  Boil for about 5 minutes, drain.

At this point the spaetzle can be tossed with olive oil and refrigerated in a plastic bag until ready to serve.

Immediately before serving, melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add sage leaves and fry until crisp.  

Frying sage leaves in butter flavors the butter and 
makes a nice crispy garnish at the same time!

Add spaetzle and toss to coat with butter.  Cook until spaetzle is lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. 

 Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Honey-Lavender Ice Cream

This ice cream is insanely delicious.  No really, I mean INSANELY DELICIOUS.  This ice cream tastes like a field of flowers on a sunny summer afternoon.  It takes a little extra effort, but you will be immensely rewarded for your efforts.

It is particularly good with a frangipane tart.  The combination of honey ice cream perfumed with lavender blossoms and stone fruits and almond paste is completely out of this world.

Honey-Lavender Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart

(makes about 1 quart)

1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 Tbsp dried organic lavendar blossoms (can be found at most organinc markets)
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup  organic wildflower honey
1/8 tsp salt

In a heavy medium sauce pan combine cream and half and half and lavender blossoms. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently until cream is hot, but not boiling.  Remove from heat, cover and let steep 45 minutes.  Pour cream through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove lavender flowers.

Meanwhile in another large bowl combine egg yolks, honey and salt. Whisk until well combined and slightly fluffy.

While whisking the egg mixture, carefully add about 1 cup of the hot cream to temper the eggs, then return tempered eggs back to bowl of hot cream, constantly whisking until well mixed.

Place the cream/egg mixture in the microwave and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon. Return to microwave and heat on high for another minute, then stir thoroughly with wooden spoon. Repeat this step, microwaving for 1 minute, then stirring until mixture coats the back of the wooden spoon (and your finger leaves a well-defined path in the mixture when drawn across the back of the spoon). 

 Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate ice cream base overnight until cold. 

Process cold mixture in an ice cream maker until set. Transfer to a chilled container and freeze until firm (overnight).

Frangipane Tart with Peaches

                                                                     Photography by Rachel Horesovsky

What the heck is frangipane?  I hear this question every time I make this tart (except people don't usually use the word "heck").  Frangipane is delicious, that's what it is.

Seriously though,  frangipane is a soft cake-like filling made from almond paste mixed with butter and eggs and a tiny amount of flour.  If you like marzipan, then you will LOVE frangipane.

I made this delectable tart last week for my daughter's birthday.  The crust is buttery and the frangipane filling is like chewy marzipan.  To top it all off we baked it with slices of the last peaches of the summer.  Amazing.

This tart is excellent with any stone fruit: peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines or cherries.  There is a natural affinity between the almond paste and the flavor of stone fruit that is just incomparable.

And if you really want to gild the lily, I suggest serving this with a scoop of honey-lavender ice cream.  The combination of honey with the floral perfume of the lavender is absolutely out of this world!

Frangipane peach tart with honey-lavender ice cream

Frangipane Tart with Peaches
serves 8

2 large peaches, peeled and sliced into thick wedges.

Pastry crust:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
7 Tbsp ice cold butter, cut into small cubes
3 Tbsp ice water

Combine flour salt and sugar and mix well in the bowl of a food processor.  Add cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add ice water and pulse until the mixture just barely comes together.  STOP.  Over processing will make a tough inedible crust!

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.  Do not skip this step.  Refrigerating the dough helps relax the gluten in the dough and results in a tender pastry.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until 1/8-inch thick .  Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom, trimming overhanging dough scraps.  Return the tart pan with dough to the refrigerator for 20 minutes while you prepare frangipane filling.

1, 7 oz. tube of almond paste (I like Odense brand)
1/3 cup sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
3 Tbsp flour

Grate the almond paste on the coarse side of a cheese grater.  In a large mixing bowl combine grated almond paste, sugar and butter and mix until well-creamed.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flour and mix until just combined.

Pour frangipane into prepared tart shell leaving about 1/4 inch room at the top (you may not use all the filling). Gently press peaches into frangipane.

Bake 45 minutes until filling is puffed and golden brown.  Allow to cool 20 minutes before removing from tart pan.  Serve with honey-lavender ice cream.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy Birthday to ME!

Yesterday was my 50th birthday and to mark the occasion my daughters Emma and Rachel decided to cook with me in the kitchen.  What an absolutely perfect gift!  We had so much fun talking and drinking, and chopping and sauteeing, and drinking, and baking and drinking and blending and drinking...

You get the picture...

Seriously, we prepared one of the best meals I have ever had and I intend to post the recipes over the month of October.  But just to whet your appetite, here is the menu:

Signature cocktail: Ginger, gin and juice

Porcini mushroom bisque with Aged fontina
Pork Normandy (pork scallopini in an apple cream sauce with fresh thyme)
Pumpkin Spaetzle in brown butter with fried sage
Sauteed kale with caramelized onions and white wine

Chocolate coffee and bourbon bundt cake with oven-baked figs in grand marnier

YUM!  Thank you to my lovely talented daughters for such an incredible day!