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Daring Bakers Take on Julia Childs Labor Of Love , French Bread

This is my fifth Daring Bakers Challenge, and I must say the most challenging. But that's the whole point of me joining, to push my limits and explore all aspects of baking from savory to sweet. When Mary at Breadchick and Sara at I like to Cook, took on hosting duties, they went all out. Our challenge reflects Julia Child's own obsession with mastering French Bread. Last year I read Appetite For Life, The Biography of Julia Child by Noel Riley Fitch. Julia, ever the perfectionist, spent years mastering her bread with her ever patient husband Paul at her side , encouraging,tasting, and critiquing. Its reflected in Volume 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 18 pages are dedicated to this recipe that consists of just flour,water, yeast, and salt. Go figure. I was pretty confident I could do this and set aside one Saturday as it takes about 10 hours in total of rising, shaping, etc. I had purchased the baking tiles, a tool for slashing, prepped my muslin as the pastry clothes.All seemed well until it started getting around dinner time , and Certain Someone was impatiently waiting. I had purchased Brie,charcuterie, etc for us to have sandwiches on my homemade baguettes. The end result at around 10:30 pm was a hard pale,misshapen baguette. we ate the sandwiches , or shall I say gnawed. It was edible but had a hard shell to it that wasn't what I would call crusty. Nevertheless I vowed to attempt it again and finished up the rest over the next day. Not awful , but not right. I figured with Certain Someone gone on a golf outing,I would have time. But I got a cake commission that took my whole weekend and had to put it off. So on the final Sunday of the month I woke up at 6:30 am determined to have a decent bread to post about. I decided to one large Boule. I didn't feel confident enough to shape the baguettes again. All went well and at 5:00 we had some slices with raspberry jam and butter. A pre Oscar Night snack.I liked the color and the outer shell softened as it cooled down. Certain Someone was happy about that, and so were his teeth. He said it was good.One thing I learned for sure is that bread making demands your respect and attention. Whatever distractions and disruptions in your life will show up in the final result. Its not ironic that bread is symbolic and referenced in religion.Bread is life.My month has been trying to say the least. But all my fears and worries about my life and job were resolved by the time I made the second round.

The recipe is long,so I will post it to Coco's Recipe Box and you can check it out here.Meanwhile check ot the ever expanding Daring Bakers and what they produced.

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Holy Mole

I haven't been a good participant in the weekly challenges of
Chou over at Balance announced the final week 3 super food and it was Cocoa. Not necessarily meant to be used in a dessert. Check out all the nutrition facts on cocoa on her site, who would have guessed. No wonder people feel so good after having chocolate. I immediately thought of a mole sauce. I have never made mole but decided to do some research. None of my cookbooks had a recipe, so I improvised.And that's the beauty of Mole, there are so many variations.I used a combination of chilies, spices,chicken broth,and cocoa powder . I read ground peanuts or almonds are also added but I passed on that.Hey its Coco's Mole so I can do what I want.In shopping for my Chilies I noticed some Corn Husks, and decided to attempt some tamales too. A chicken poblano tamale drizzled with Coco's Mole. Yummm. Certain Someone the other night asked what a tamale was when we were bowling. 'The Tamale Man' came into the place selling his wares from a cooler type device .Seems hes legend around Chicago at after hours spots. Me, I have never heard of him , but though it was a good business idea.

Just so you see I really made my own Tamales! This dough batter is Masa (tamale dough), a combo of shortening or lard,with Masa, baking powder,salt,and water. Seemed simple enough.
Here is my Chicken breast cooked down with some Mole, poblanos, and onions.A
And here is the star , the Mole. I cooked this for about a hour, but it could have simmered down even longer.
And here are my tamales steaming in my homemade contraption. I took a baking cooling rack and placed it a long roasting pan with water. I covered it too.
All in all a long labor that Certain Someone seemed to enjoy. He ate four. I explained how its not really a entree and felt bad after all that effort he didn't have more to eat.But he liked it and the Mole of which he spooned more unto his tamales.

Coco's Mole ( adjust spices to your taste)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
6 cups chicken broth
2 oz dried chilies( ancho, California chili pods,etc)
1 large onion
minced garlic
olive oil

Bring your dried chilies and broth to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until pods soften, take pods and slice open to remove seeds. Reserve liquid, but strain to remove any excess seeds. Saute the sliced onion , cumin,and garlic in olive oil until soft. Using your blender, in batches pulse chilies ,reserved broth, and onions.Once all has been processed put in heavy sauce pan and simmer . Add your cocoa powder and sugar and stir constantly until incorporated. Simmer stirring occasionally for at least 1 hour. Be sure to taste to adjust seasonings to your taste.

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Blackberry Almond Tarts

It's been a crazy week and this is the first thing I have cooked for myself this week!

I love my Black Berries. OK just joking. Yes I have two. Don’t ask. The actual fruit tempted me in Costco. I have wanted to make a dessert incorporating certain pantry items I have, slivered almonds and Atora shredded Suet a friend brought back form the UK. I was determined to try this suet after researching my Plum pudding recipes for Christmas. A lot of cooks have moved away from this old fashioned product but like lard it makes for really good baking. Doesn’t make it right but it just is. So everything in moderation I say. I have made a lovely Almond tart before by Lindsey Shere of Chez Panisse I read about in Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas Macnamee. Alice provides some great recipes in her stream of consciousness way. Not exact, but very good , and easy to follow for the home cook. I decided to use an Atoras crust recipe sweetened with Confectioners sugar and Lindsey’s filling studded with additional blackberries and sprinkled with sugar to aid the berries cooking. I also used my homemade plum brandy for flavoring and a vanilla bean. I did not blind bake the crust as well. So I have veered away from the original quite a bit. The final result was a fantastic semi sweet flaky crust with a caramelized almond filling studded with tangy sweet blackberries.

Coco’s Black Berry Almond Tart

¾ - 1 cup self rising flour
½ cup Atora Suet
2-3 Tablespoons of cold water
3 tablespoons of Confectioners Sugar
Lemon Zest
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup sliced almonds
¾ cup of sugar
Vanilla bean
Liquor of your choice for flavoring (I used homemade Plum Brandy)

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine all your crust ingredients in stand mixer bowl. Lightly whisk and add water gradually while blending on Medium speed. Stop when just combined. Dough will be sticky. Butter your tart tins or pans. Shape the dough into each form and chill for approx 20 min.
Bring heavy cream, sugar, and seeded vanilla bean with pod to a boil in heavy sauce pan. Remove from heat and add almonds and liquor. Let sit for a bit. Remove vanilla bean pods.
Fill shells with almond cream mixture. Stud tarts with berries. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top. Bake for approx 30 minutes. The tarts should start to bubble up and caramelize. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve warm or room temp alone or with ice cream.
* Note: Place your tins/pans on foil or a baking sheet and mixture will bubble over .

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Good News!

First of all I just want to let you guys know who read this that I appreciate your support especially this past month. I am happy to announce all has turned out well for me and I have been offered a new position in the company that involves International work in Canada and the Caribbean! Same job, just new territories with exciting travel. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. Technically it’s a lateral move but I feel it’s a promotion and it’s a direction I have always sought to go in. So I can take a deep breath now and get on with it.

To celebrate with a little snack before my Certain Someone comes home with celebratory take out, I made these little tasty snacks. Dates wrapped in bacon. No recipe needed. Just wrap your dates in bacon and secure. Bake on a high temp on a broiler pan to allow the fat to drain. Enjoy.

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Cake Diva

My colleague asked me this past Wednesday if I could put together a particular cake for her daughters 14th birthday this Sunday. She then pulled out one of those TopsyCurvy cakes that are all the rage in Sugar Craft land. She knew I had taken classes and has seen my work. She’s even asked me to make her some staff gifts on occasion of cookie bouquets. With all the commotion at work she was far behind in her daughter’s grand birthday. Her little girl had definite expensive notions of what she wants. Like goodie bags filled with Juicy Couture trinkets. Yeah right. Well Mama wasn’t going to do that but we settled on a tiered Juicy Couture themed cake for her princess. I was hesitant but she said shed go to the local supermarket and get one if it was trouble. I cringed at the thought. If she likes this one maybe I get the big Quincenara cake next year! I told her I need a lot of cash for supplies. Cake decorating is expensive and I always go overboard. I found a great store that has the best in cake supplies, as well as the standard Wilton. Lori at Cake Walk is the best in that you tell her your idea and she will help you through. So I had a few nights to prep and all day Saturday to really get into it. The result is a strawberry filled top tier of 4 layers of alternating chocolate and pink tinted French Vanilla, and pink butter cream. The bottom tier is just 2 layers of French Vanilla filled with the strawberry. What is French vanilla you ask? Well most cake decorators cheat and doctor up cake mixes (Duncan Hines is my choice, and extra eggs, milk, and Jell-O brand puddings).Ask any pro and they will tell you. You need a good sturdy cake and don’t really have a lot time for mistakes. It’s all about the outside unfortunately, than the inside. One day if I get a big pro kitchen, and such I’ll start from scratch. But this is just an occasional expensive hobby that I haven’t even spent a year doing. Even Certain Someone somewhat amazed with what my little cheap Michaels craft store Wilton classes have resulted in. I love Wilton products, but I prefer Satin Ice for my fondant needs. Growing up my Mommy always gave me huge grandiose birthday parties, and I admit I had fun doing this. Did I go over the top? Yes. But that’s what the little diva waned, She has already started bragging to her friends that she has a ‘Cake Designer’. Got to love it. Now I just have to carry this heavy sucker down two flights of stairs and drive through all the big ass potholes to the burbs.

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It's February, And That Means It's Black History Month

Did you know February was Black History Month? With all the whirlwind of activity and drama in my life, I forgot for a hot second until Heather over at Gild the Voodoolily asked me to participate in her Black History Month tribute blog. Cynthia has introduced us. Now I have discovered Heather's great blog. Heather is an outspoken, creative, smart, and talented. She “gives it to you straight, without a chaser”. Her questions were thought provoking and gave me a chance to reminisce and vent a bit. Today we are seeing a handful of prominent Black chefs and food and wine types in the industry. I love it when I see “my own” enrolled in the all the culinary schools in Chicago walking to clad with their knive kits, etc. I hope they make it. My personal favorite is Marcus Samuelson, of course. So check out her post.She even made a special dish just for me! Remember my words are “my experience” and I don’t speak for my race as a whole.

Thinking about Black History month, my personal icons came to mind. When I get ‘In those Scorpio moods' I listen to my old late friend Nina Simone. Her music and I have gone through some times from early childhood ( when my parents played it) to my adulthood. An “individualist” who weaved important messages in her song. I have had the honor to see her three times in my life at various venues around the world. I choose Four Woman to show the complexity of who we are. This song has so many messages and was very controversial. This clip was Nina at her best, I believe. Glamorous, forceful, and thought provoking. Tomorrow I’ll get back to sweetness and light when I post a birthday cake I’m working on for a friend’s daughters birthday. In the meantime..

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We are not big Valentines Day People. But I like this song in honor of the day.

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Avoiding The Dark Side

Today was one of those days where I craved a pack of cigarettes and a drink or two. Bad for me I know, but I’m under a tremendous amount of stress right now. The past few weeks I have been fighting to retain my job or land a new one in our restructured company. To say we are all on edge is an understatement. I got to thinking about stress and its consequences. I saw all to well what stress did to cut my parents life short. How does this relate to food you ask? Well I have always been a green tea fan. I love to buy the gunpowder green tea pellets in China Town for cheap prices. I have been seeing Matcha pop up in blogs all over. Primarily it’s been used for dessert in the food blog world. Another dessert is not what I need right now, no matter how tempting. I ordered a tiny can from ITO EN in New York City. This stuff is expensive and so precious. I am not familiar with the tea ceremonies and rituals and accoutrement that go with it, but judging by the price no wonder it’s revered! Before I plunge into ways to use it, a little voice said wrap up the crazy day with some stress reducing cup of Matcha.My mother always told me trust my instincts. I feel those stress busting anti oxidants plugging away.

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Papaya Coconut Ice Cream...Wishful Thinking

I have mentioned many times before how I hate waste. I find I always have a lot of odds and ends in the refrigerator that require me to use up. This weekend I had half of a large Papaya, leftover lite coconut milk, and leftover evaporated milk from various projects. I didn’t want to waste that beautiful Papaya and was brainstorming for uses in a light dessert. I fell upon an old bargain cookbook I had from the Creative Cooking Library, Taste of The Caribbean, by Rosamund Grant. She had easy Coconut ice cream using canned milk, condensed milk, and coconut milk. Any ice cream I make calls for cream, eggs, milk, etc. I decided to give this a try with the addition of pureed Papaya .What I got was a cross between a sherbet and ice cream whose flavor comes through once it softens a bit. The author doesn’t use an ice cream machine as I did. All in all I whipped this all up in blender in 5 minutes .It reminded me of the Brazilian Papaya Crème I have had at Churrascarias without the crème de cassis topping .A tropical treat, made from pantry ingredients, in this subzero Chicago weather.

Coconut Ice Cream from Taste of The Caribbean Rosamund Grant adapted into
Papaya Coconut Ice Cream from glamah@cococooks (my changes highlighted).

Serves 8
14 once can evaporated milk
14 once can condensed milk
14 once can coconut milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond extract
*1 cup pureed Papaya

Lemon balm sprigs, lime slices, shredded coconut to decorate (optional)

Mix together Papaya, condensed milk, and coconut milk in blender. Add nutmeg and almond extract. At this point you can put in the freezer proof bowl as the author suggests or into your chilled ice-cream maker bowl. Follow directions for ice cream maker and allow to freeze more. If you don’t have an ice cream maker the author recommends you chill the mixture for 1-2 hours until semi frozen. Remove from freezer and whisk by hand or electric mixer until fluffy and double in volume. Pour into freezer container, cover and freeze. Soften slightly before serving.

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China Long Bean with Shrimp and Mushrooms in Black Bean Garlic Sauce

I found these great China Long Beans today in search of a variety of mushrooms. I don’t know about you but I love Szechwan style string beans when we eat Chinese food. All of these Chinese New Year posts this week have me craving some. I want to lay off the heavy carbs (Certain Someone is out of town so I can get away with it) and decided to use the long beans in a quick stir-fry with Enoki, Shitake, and Oyster mushrooms, shrimp, Sambal Oelek, and Black Bean Garlic Sauce. Long Beans are a legume related to the black eye pea family. Full of protein and other essentials, they scream healthy as well as tasty. I also reason this is great dish to turn in for The Well Seasoned Cook’s …My Legume Love Affair! I have two types of legumes in both the black bean and long beans.

China Long Bean with Shrimp and Mushrooms in a Black Bean Garlic Sauce
Serves 2-3 persons

1 bunch China Long Bean cut into manageable pieces (I cut mine into thirds)
1 cup assorted mushrooms (enoki, shitake, oyster, etc,)
25 raw shrimp with shells on (of course you can add more or less)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek (available pre made in Asian specialty depts.)
1 tablespoon Black Bean Garlic Sauce (available pre made in Asian specialty depts.)

Heat wok to very hot. Add oil. Add beans and fry for approx 5-8 min until they start to brown and pucker in the skin. This brings out the flavor of the bean. Add shrimp and cook until just pink. Add quickly the mushrooms. Toss quickly and add the Sambal Olelek and Black Bean Garlic Sauce. Toss until evenly coated and serve warm.

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Tropic Kale Smoothie..Iron Man Meets Iron Chef

Chou over at balance ,

along with Julius and Lauren have come up with a great event. Iron Man Meets Iron Chef. Its a month long tests of physical and culinary feats. I'll pass on the physical but will rise to the culinary part.

So when Chou announced on Sunday the super food my mind started racing (if only my legs and body would follow suite). Kale prepared for breakfast is this week’s theme. I love Kale, but for breakfast! I immediately thought of a Kale frittata, or poached egg whites with kale. All good but I wanted to push the envelope. Breakfast = quick in my house on weekdays. So whats better than juice or a smoothie! In fact Kale has so much protein, anti oxidants, health promoting benefits that don’t cook off as much as other veggies. But raw, its packs a lot of punch. People eat it in salads and juices. Kales not just for soup. In reading up I saw a lot people make smoothies with some kale leaves and fruit. I picked Vitamin C packing fat burning citrus fruits to balance of the bitter kale. I even came up with a cute name Tropic Kale. Get It! And you know what, it looks weird, but tastes pretty good! Not to fruity and a little bite. I'm buzzing right now as I type. So all you athletes or lazy bums like me drink up!

Tropic Kale Smoothie
3 tablespoons lite coconut milk 25 cal
½ cup diced Papaya 27 cal
½ cup diced Pineapple 38 cal
¼ cup fresh orange juice 112 cal
½ cup raw Kale 17 cal
¼ cup tofu 65 cal
Throw it all in the blender with some ice and let it rip.

284 calories (a meal in one)
* I approximated based on calorie guides and amounts used. This is not exact.

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Koesisters...Time to Make Doughnuts Event

When Tartlette and Peabody announced their Time to Make Doughnuts event, I got excited. Then that little nagging voice said to me “Girl you don’t need to make any doughnuts….” Evidenced by last night when I couldn’t zip my skirt up to the waist( granted I hadn’t worn it some years).Nevertheless its Super bowl Sunday and I want some doughnuts to munch on. I had planned on making some Berliners for Certain Someone as he’s German and that what he wanted. I changed my mind and decided to do a less stressful but equally delicious recipe from Marcus Samuelsson’s Discovery of a Continent, Foods Flavors and Inspirations From Africa. This is an abridged version of Soul of a New Cuisine, Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, from Starbucks.
Koesiters are a Cape Town favorite on Sundays after church. There are a few variations that are braided or dipped in sugary syrups. This version is Marcus’ favorite that he learnt from Peter and Marilyn Carelon, a South African couple. They are highly spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. I made some minor substitutions as I didn’t have brown sugar, so I used Demarra Sugar run through the coffee grinder. Also I used Evaporated milk instead because we only had skim milk in the house. I apologize for my not so perfect ball shapes. But the taste was simple, not too sweet, and full of spice. A treat you don’t feel too guilty about.

Koesiters adapted from Marcus Samuelsson’s Discovery of a Continent, Foods Flavors and Inspirations From Africa.

6 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 package or 2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 extra large egg yolks
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
About 4 cups canola oil for deep frying.

Combine water, granulated sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Set in a warm place and allow to sit until yeast bubbles. Approx 5-10 min.
Add flour and salt to the yeast mixture. Mix with electric mixer (I used my Stand Mixer) on low until well combined. Beat in egg yolks, one at time until all is well incorporated.
Combine milk and butter in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted. While mixer is running, add the milk mixture, beating until it’s incorporated. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Let sit in warm place until doubled in size. Approx 40 min.
Punch the dough down and turn out onto floured surface. Cut into 20 pieces, roll each one into a ball, and arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. Set in warm place and let rise for 20 min.
While dough is rising toss brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom in large bowl. Set aside
Heat 3 inches of canola oil in a deep pot to 350 degrees. Working in batches.Fry until golden brown.Turn to brown each side. Approx 3- 4 min.
Serve Warm.

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I Have Been Tagged

I feel weird telling people things about myself on demand. Its like a job interview or date. You can totally weird them out or leave strange impression. I'm a complex character and that’s due to my background. My own people and family find me odd but fascinating, and I tend to grow on them. Certain someone once complained that sometimes 'I'm just to over the top”. So that being said the lovely Mary over at Shazam in the Kitchen. Has tagged me. I have seen a person being tagged since I started food blogging .It is a fun way to learn about people outside the standard posting of recipes. I love my blog sphere friends, and while we may never meet, they feel so familiar. So here’s the skinny on me:

1) I was born in Washington D.C to an American mother and Nigerian father who met at Howard University. My mother’s families are African Americans rumored to be descended from the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. My father descends from a very prominent family of tribal chiefs and politicians. He had 48 brothers and sisters. Both parents are deceased. I have family throughout the world. Ironically I have both a paternal and maternal uncle in Vienna Austria, one of my favorite cities. How weird is that!

2) I studied Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design at the American University in Paris France. Some of the best years of my life!

3) I meet Certain Someone a year and half ago at a dinner party. I never would have meet him, if I hadn't had a brief fling with someone who's best forgotten. The night after we met, he went to Stockholm (his previous home) and I went to Minnesota for work. We communicated via Blackberry constantly and the relationship was sealed. A sign from above was when Certain Someone ran into my Swedish Cousins in Stockholm. A freaky coincidence! We have lived together since last December and are very happy. I have traveled to Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Essen Germany. The friends and family seem to approve. Looking forward to another Swedish visit this spring/summer.

4) Barack Obama lives in our neighborhood a few blocks away!. I worked a catering event last summer in which I waited on another candidate ( former) for President Bill Richardson. Six degrees of seperation. And along those lines,I had a friend from college, whose father was pardoned by Bill Clinton right before he left office which caused a big old stink!

5) I love food, drink, and anything culinary related. But that’s not a surprise is it! Oh and I have another blog that has been defunct for a while.But One day I'll get back to it. Check out the links I put in point 3. I made several posts on our vacation last summer to Sweden and Germany.
So thats me! I tag :
Oh I forgot! Here are the rules. Post 5 facts about yourself. Link back to the person who tagged you, and tag five additional people at the end of your post, who you also notify in their comment section.Whew!

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Clean Eating

I fell upon this magazine called Clean Eating this week. I'm not one for diets and I find the weight has crept up on me over the years. Nesting with Certain Someone hasn't helped. We love food, good food, and don't necessarily want to sacrifice that.My current physical activity is just walking at any opportunity I can.I used to belong to a great gym which my bank account couldn't sustain anymore.I admit half the time I went there was for its country club like atmosphere. But I did go to classes and while I felt it didn't make much of a difference, I see that now without it , it did.Certain Someone leads a fast paced work life with most of his time spent flying all over the world. Needless to say his diet needs careful attention as well. We both need to do something and I love this magazine because it focuses on good healthy food that doesn't necessarily mean tasteless sacrifice. So I plan to work some of these recipes into our diet. I already did a variation of one( just used some other ingredients(peppers,tarragon, shallots and brined the chicken) but followed the technique of baking in parchment. OK, I added a drizzle of olive oil, but much better than pan frying or adding a heavy sauce.Certain Someone ate it up with some brown rice.

Today I making these fabulous Chocolate Almond Meringues made with natural sugar,cocoa,and almond extract. 5 of these little bites comes in at just 77 calories. I had planned to bake some cookies, but will satisfy myself with these morsels. I'm not swearing off all good decadent food,just trying to be more aware and balance things out for us.

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