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Apple Fritters

I have few days off to do absolutely nothing with Certain Someone home. Today in our shopping we bought a ham among other things. With ham I thought of apples. I love my fruits and veggies , unlike my big baby. With it being cold and homey, a craving entered my head. Apple fritters. These are really easy to make , simple, satisfying, and fattening. I couldn't stop at one. Even Certain Someone came up to kitchen counter to have one after I offered some to my neighbor. He said they taste like apple pancakes, and they do. You can dice the apples or batter up apple rings. The choice is yours. Here's the recipe I used.

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Getting Figgy With It

This is something that we have all had variations of. Essentially a wheel of Brie baked en croute. The most popular being with apricot preserves. I first had this starter wrapped in phyllo.I have even seen some take shortcuts and use refrigerated crescent dough. I decided to make my own pie crust and top off the Brie with some lovely fig preserves . Certain Someone and I devoured this prior to our dinner which was nicely roasting.He commented he didn't need a entree .

Brie with Fig Preserves Wrapped in Pastry

Pie Crust

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup Manteca (lard , don't frown it makes all the difference. Usually found in Baking aisles or Latin food sections.)well chilled.

2 tablespoons of butter

4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons water. Ice cold.

Also need 1 egg and heavy cream for egg wash.
1 wheel of Brie
Fig Preserves

Mix flour and salt in bowl.Cut in Manteca and butter into flour mixture until it resembles crumbs. Gradually add water/ vinegar mix . Mix until dough holds together. Divide into 2 balls and chill. Other ball can be frozen for later use depending on size of Brie.

Roll out between sheets of wax paper. Place Brie on top of crust. Top with Fig preserves liberally. Wrap crust up and around the cheese. Brush with egg wash.Bake at 350 degrees for approx 20-30 min or until crust is golden. You want the brie to be melted . Serve with crackers.

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Happy Holidays

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Daring Bakers December Challenge: Hazelnut Genoise filled with Chocolate cream and Iced with Coffee/Hazelnut/Chocolate Buttercream...Yule Log

I must say Lisa and Ivonne chose one of the most time consuming challenges during the busiest time of the year. But those that know me well know I thrive under pressure. With a little Pre planning and a day off work at my disposal I jumped on in. Coincidentally this challenges deadline coincided with my work places holiday baking competition. The grand prize were $300 ,$200,$100 and my competitive spirit was kicking in.I didn't win. It was kind of a letdown after all that work. I got beaten out by a Navy Bean cheesecake, a pound cake,and a apple pie. I think the marzipan rabbit freaked them out.The reaction I got from my aunts and her friends was if the bunny were something from Fatal Attraction!If you have read my blog before, you know I'm into cake decorating. A Buche de Noel /Yule Log not only presents opportunities to master the daunting genoise (of which I've never been successful), classic meringue based butter creams, rolling techniques,sugar craft, etc. I wanted my Buche to 'pop'. I love hazelnuts and decided to incorporate toasted ground hazelnuts into my genoise .This would complement my butter cream which I added hazelnut syrup.Thank goodness for my new Kitchen Aid. It really is worth its weight in gold.The genoise made me the most nervous. I slightly overcooked it even at 10 minutes. I think those hazelnuts caused this. But the smell was heavenly!. When rolling it, after a liberal brush of Cointreau mixed in Simple Syrup, and filling it with the chocolate pastry cream, it started to crack. But it still rolled and would be covered with icing. The end scraps I cut away tasted so good. But genoise is a very dry cake that needs careful attention.Letting my log rest a while I went to town with the marzipan. Not only did I make the requisite mushrooms, but decided to make a rabbit with the leftover marzipan. Who knew homemade marzipan was so easy and fun!I painted the rabbit with color gels diluted with vodka. Seems like my dormant art schooling was waking up. I must say this was the most fun and rewarding challenge I have done so far( only my thrird).I finally got to taste my creation, as my colleaugues were to scared to touch it. Sweet and chocaolately. The Hazelnut complimented all the flavors. What amazed me that real buttery taste from the buttercream that comes though after sitting out for a bit. This challenge was a excellent way to get into the festive Holiday Spirit. Check out the other Daring Bakers.

To all my Daring Bakers, I wish you peace, love,health, and prosperity in the coming year.

The December 2007 DB Challenge: Yule Log

Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12

Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated.
What Is Required•
A genoise cake (using the recipe below)
• A coffee buttercream frosting (using the recipe below)(Note: For those of you that have an aversion to coffee, you can use another flavour for your buttercream, however, the buttercream must be dark in colour. We don't want any white or cream-coloured Yule Logs!)
• Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms (using the recipes below)
What You are Free to Do- Your genoise must be made using the recipe provided; however, it can be flavoured however you wish. Make it chocolate, add nuts, douse it in liquor, throw in some citrus or just leave it plain. It’s entirely up to you how you flavour it. (Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.)- While the outside of your Yule Log must be frosted with the coffee buttercream using the recipe provided here, you are free to fill the recipe however you choose. Fill it with fruit, jam, melted chocolate, pudding, whipped cream, or another frosting of your choice. You have complete freedom when it comes to the FILLING. (Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.)- At the very least, besides the coffee buttercream, you must decorate your log with mushrooms. We have provided a recipe for meringue mushrooms and marzipan mushrooms. You can choose one or the other or you can try both. But you must try at least one type of mushroom.- You have complete freedom, besides the mushrooms, to decorate your logs however you wish.- You have complete freedom to make your logs in whatever shape you like (mini logs, one huge log, an upright log, etc.)Note: If you are not going to use the coffee buttercream to fill your log, be sure to have the filling ready once the genoise comes out of the oven. If you do fill your Yule Log with fruit or with something other than buttercream, please note that you may not be able to freeze the Log because the filling may not last.
Plain Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch
10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again.
*I added toasted ground hazelnuts about 1/3 cup
1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
*I added hazelnut syrup and melted chocolate
1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. 2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
Filling and frosting the log:
1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9.Cover the log with the reserved butter cream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10.Streak the butter cream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
Meringue Mushrooms:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.
Marzipan Mushrooms:
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder
1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed. 2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls(caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.
In addition I used some tips and recipe for the chocolate pastry cream from this link.

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Playing with the Classics: French Onion Soup Gratinee

I'm alone again as Certain Someone has flown off to yet another business trip. In thinking about dinner for one , with some leftovers I was stumped. I ran across some inexpensive beef shanks and immediately thought of soup. A french onion soup to be exact. I remember my first as a young high school student in Washington DC. On a field trip, I had the most incredible soup chock full of onions , beef and topped with gooey Gruyere. Heaven! I have rarely come across a onion soup I didn't like, but none compare like your first. And I liked the heartiness of the beef floating in it.

So I decided to roast the shanks and onions until caramelized and brown, deglaze with red wine and chicken stock,add spices , herbs and some beef soup base, water and slowly cook until the meat was tender and started to fall of the shanks. If you don't want to go through all of that but want the gist of a perfect example try this recipe. Either way its all good. I couldn't find Gruyere so I settled on a tangy Fontinilla cheese( Italian, I know) and it did just the trick.Hopefully there will be some leftover soup in the freezer when Certain Someone comes back home.

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A Christmas Carol Plum Pudding/ Retro Recipe Challenge

I wish I had all my story books as a child. Some of them where filled with fantastic illustration of fanciful pastries that I would just stare at. When I saw this months Retro Recipe Challenge asking us to seek inspiration from Storybook food,a Plum Pudding from Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" came to mind. As I child just saying plum pudding made me crave for a dessert I had imagined as a ignorant youth resembling a purple colored jello mold. Au Contraire. As a adult I ordered one from one of those mail order catalogues and wasn't that impressed. Oh ,the let down to discover there were no plums at all!When researching the recipes for this , I learnt so much. Traditionally one makes the pudding a year in advance during the advent season for the Christmas of the next year. The puddings slowly age and mature. The older the pudding the better. Challenge #1 came form finding a proper pudding mold. Sur Le Table to the rescue. Although I wish I had gotten a larger mold. Fortunately my years of antique finds yielded some mini molds that would be suitable for miniature puddings alongside the larger one. Challenge # 2 was in finding candied citron, etc. Surprisingly hard to find early November. Hyde Park Co Op to the rescue. They seem to carry them all year round. Seems the art of making fruitcakes and puddings is a lost one. I also gathered up some figs, raisins,and currants and soaked them in rum.As this recipe was getting costly in time and money, I chose to go with the rum as I have tons of it. Certain Someone would kill me if I got into his good stuff. I was starting to see why this dessert was considered a sign of prosperity. Here is a excellent historical link with some recipes.
"Hallo! A great deal of steam! the pudding was out of the copper [boiler]. A smell like washing –day! That was the cloth [the pudding bag]. A smell like an eating house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered—flushed, but smiling proudly—with the pudding. like a speckled cannon ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top."
"Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage..."
Challenge #3 was finding suet, which all the recipes I referenced called for. Not as readily available here as it is the UK. The lovely and flirtatious butcher over at Hyde Park Co Op managed to cut me up some . It had flecks of meat attached. But it was better than nothing. I endured the embarrassment of a a big executive over at my place of work behind me in line as they rang up my 'FAT' . The Exec looked at me odd "as if they must not be paying me much if I'm buying fat( actually it was free)and hadn't we evolved from our slave ancestors by eating such unhealthy things". I suppose he wondered where my greens were too. He commented that I was really the gourmet ,as I explained the fat. Luckily Certain Someones colleague will bring me back some hydrogenated suet when she goes back for Christmas.

To make this pudding I followed several recipes.This link contains several antique ones that I used as my primary guide.I also used the famous James Beards published in House and Garden 1963. My obstacles where in cutting up the suet so fine. I froze it and chopped it up. I than ran it through a food processor with the wet ingredients . I had soaked my fruit in both rum and Cointreau for over 4 days, as time did not let me start this recipe as I intended . It does require 6 hours of steaming. No shortcuts. Julia Child's really made it simple for me . I made this the night before Thanksgiving as the challenge is due by Dec 14. There are so many variations. My Aussie friend Gabs fondly reminisced about the Clootie Puddings she had in Scotland. The name doesn't do much for me , but it seems to be a favorite. So if you have the time, means, and patience I think everyone should try this. Up to the sentence I haven't tried it it as its slowly aging in my fridge with periodic rum baths. Prior to serving it I must steam it again for 2 hours and torch it with more booze. No wonder this is a favorite!

Post Script
December 11
I steamed some of the mini puddings to photograph and taste for this post. I decided on the Zabaione Sauce from the Julia Child recipe. I was a little disappointed my puddings didn't come out in the rich and dark color one associates with plum pudding. But overall the taste was good and rich. No wonder its a opulent Christmas favorite. And what a fitting treat for the poor ,yet rich Cratchitt family.

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Check This Out

I'm lazy and busy this week. But I want to direct you to a beautiful and plentiful roundup of the the food blogging event Spoonful Of Christmas. What a inspiring event and hats of to Zlamushska in Sweden for conceiving it.

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