Friday, July 19, 2019

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

The recipe below is from Smitten Kitchen. I know I already have a recipe by that name, and this is a variation on the theme. Instead of buying a box of small chocolate wafer cookies, you make your own, much larger, wafers. Is it worth the extra hassle? Well, look at how much prettier the result is! Plus, you get to snack on scraps of chocolate dough along the way. It’s not as tedious as it looks, because given enough parchment paper, you’ll find yourself in a rhythm where you’ve got a piece of dough in the freezer while you are rolling out a second one, and meanwhile one is in the oven and one is cooling off – it’s actually pretty zen and not as much works at it sounds like. As for the texture of the peanut butter whipped cream, I found it to be perfect (the one in my previous recipe was a bit grainy from the peanut butter, but this one whipped up smooth as a baby’s bottom!).
The recipe below is for a 7” cake; I ended up making a 6” cake because it was easier. The original instructions say that to make a big 10” cake, you can double all the amounts below.

In case it wasn’t obvious, we all liked it (and here’s a picture of the Fox in the background, being very patient while I take pictures of a delicious dessert before serving it!).

For the wafers
1 ½ cups (195 g.) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (20 g.) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ cup (20 g.) black cocoa powder (I just used more regular cocoa powder)
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
1 cup (200 g.) granulated sugar
½ cup (115 g.) lactose-free butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the peanut butter whipped cream
3 Tbsp. (50 g.) smooth peanut butter
¾ tsp. vanilla extract
2 pinches salt
1 ½ Tbsp. (20 g.) granulated sugar
1 ½ cups lactose-free cream, cold

To finish
Chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings, or other chocolate candy

For the wafers
Combine flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together until combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix just until they disappear.

(If, by chance, you forgot to take your butter out of the fridge early and it’s still cold, you can make the dough in the food processor. Start by mixing the dry ingredients and the sugar in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery. Add egg and vanilla and run the machine until the dough clumps together.)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll the first between 2 pieces of parchment paper until very, very thin and just over 7 inches across. Slide onto board (parchment paper and all) and place in freezer for 10 minutes, until firm. Once firm, peel back top piece of parchment paper (it should now come off cleanly, while gently pulling back) and use a stencil or bowl with a 7-inch rim to trim it into a neater circle. Slide cookie round and lower piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool completely on paper, which you can slide onto a cooling rack so that you can use the tray again. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.

For the peanut butter whipped cream
In a large bowl, beat peanut butter, vanilla, salt and sugar until smooth. Beating the whole time, slowly add lactose-free cream, a small splash at a time, until peanut butter-cream mixture is loose enough that you can add the rest of the cream without breaking it into clumps. Whip cream, watching it carefully as it’s very easy to overbeat with an electric mixer, until soft peaks form.

Place first cookie on a cake stand. If it’s sliding around, as cookies do, put a dab of whipped cream down first (I just did this preemptively). Thickly frost first cookie all the way to the edges with about ½ cup peanut butter cream. Repeat with remaining cookies, decoratively swirling the top cookie. Garnish with sprinkles or candy.

Place cake in the fridge overnight or ideally closer to 24 hours so that the cookies soften into cake layers. A knife dipped in warm water will make clean cuts (I probably should have bothered using it for the piece in the photo, but it’s just as good anyway).

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Rosemary Cream Chicken Pasta

I like to take advantage of being in Montreal to make recipes with cream and butter, both of which I can easily get lactose-free here (but I don’t have access to that in the U.S.). So even though this dish is rich, it’s certainly not something that I would end up eating all the time! It’s delicious, though, and only calls for a handful of simple ingredients. I served this with pasta; a green salad would have been nice, too.

For the chicken
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
4 chicken breast filets, halved horizontally
2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the cream sauce
1 cup chicken stock (or white wine)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup lactose-free cream
1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice fresh
parmesan, to serve
cooked pasta, to serve

Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and season well with the rosemary, salt and pepper.

Cook the chicken in a hot pan until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside to rest.

Pour the chicken stock into the pan and scrape the bottom to release all the caramelized bits. Allow the stock to simmer and reduce for 2 minutes then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Pour in the cream and lemon juice and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste.

Slice the chicken and add to cooked pasta, then pour over the sauce and toss well. Add grated parmesan and serve.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Semolina Cake with Oranges

When I saw this semolina cake with oranges in Bon Appétit,I knew I wanted to make it. And then I remembered that I had lots of semolina left over from making this cake two summers ago, and it was still sitting in the pantry in my parents’ kitchen. It was still good, so I decided to make the orange semolina cake, and you guys… It was fantastic. Like, so good that my mother, who was initially thrilled that I was using up the semolina, pretty much decided that she’d have to buy it again to keep making this. We all loved it; the kids actually liked the fruit more than the cake, but hey, no complaints here!

For the syrup
2 bay leaves
⅓ cup sugar
1 pinch of kosher salt
½ cup water
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

For the cake and assembly
¾ cup (1½ sticks) lactose-free butter, melted, slightly cooled
1½ cups coarse-grind semolina flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1 tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup lactose-free plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
¾ cup lactose-free whole milk
3 oranges
lemon juice (optional)

For the syrup
Bring bay leaves, sugar, salt, and water to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Pluck out bay leaves; let cool.

For the cake and assembly
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9"-diameter cake pan.

Whisk semolina, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl.
Whisk yogurt and milk in a large bowl. Mix in dry ingredients, then butter. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until golden brown and firm, 55–65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn a plate over top of pan and invert cake. Using a cake tester or toothpick, poke holes all over cake; gradually pour all but ¼ cup bay leaf syrup over, letting it soak in. Let sit 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove peel and white pith from oranges. Slice into ¼"-thick rounds; remove seeds. Combine in a medium bowl with remaining bay leaf syrup; let sit, tossing occasionally, at least 20 minutes. Taste and add lemon juice as needed.

Serve cake with oranges in syrup.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Buffalo and Niagara Falls

On our way to Montreal this year, we stopped in Buffalo, NY. The primary goal was so that I could attend a concert – Hanson was playing a String Theory show with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at the Kleinhans Music Hall. The Engineer had gifted me with a ticket on my birthday, because he knows that I’ve really missed seeing my favorite band in concert (it had been almost 9 years!). I absolutely loved the show; it was a wonderful experience to see them play with a full orchestra, AND I actually got to sit for most of the show – seats are completely underrated, IMO.

Since we spent an extra day in Buffalo to accommodate that, we decided to visit a few things. First, the obvious: Niagara Falls! I had already visited the Canadian side over 20 years ago, but this was my first time on the American side; the Engineer and our boys had never been. Even though I loved seeing the falls, I have to confess that I found them less impressive than I had expected, but I honestly couldn’t tell you whether that’s because you get a better view from the Canadian side or because they’re just more impressive the first time you see them. In typical fashion, the Little Prince seemed more taken with helicopters, rainbows and an ant on the guardrail than with the falls themselves (he had also been more impressed by a chihuahua in a purse than by the Grand Canyon last year).

Once we had our fill, we went to the aquarium. Honestly, I’d recommend that you don’t waste your time – it’s even smaller than the San Antonio Aquarium and you’ll be in and out in an hour.

So we had lunch at Whole Foods and then went to the Buffalo Museum of Science. We all really enjoyed it! We had to peel ourselves away when it closed at 4 pm. What struck me initially is that it’s an old museum (it smelled a bit like an old library, actually, in a really good way). Most science museums I’ve been to lately had modern, STEM-oriented facilities, but this place has a stuffed bison and a mastodon skeleton and the like, as well as more modern and sometimes interactive exhibits about the human body, insects, the weather, mechanics, etc. This one is definitely worth your time! (FWIW, we paid just a few dollars more for admission than we did at the aquarium, but got so much more for our money at the museum!)

I think next time we drive through New York State, I’ll make it a point to go to a Wegmans, because that is one thing I haven’t had time for yet!

Classic Buttermilk Chess Pie

I was trying to empty the pantry and freezer again before our annual trek to Canada. I used up one of the two jars of honey making a great honey buckwheat spiced cake with mocha frosting for my mother-in-law’s birthday as well as Ricardo’s almond and honey tart (meh – don’t bother with that one). I also had a staggering amount of pine nuts, so I made roasted pine nut butter, which was delicious! I felt good about not wasting anything, instead of guilty for spending so much money making nut butter, so that was great, too. And as a kitchen-sink strategy that wasn’t granola or cookies, I made single serve frozen oatmeal with dried cherries, seeds, and nuts. I liked the result, as the oatmeal is frozen in a muffin tin and you can top it with whatever you want, but keep in mind that you’ll need 2 or 3 pucks of oatmeal for a decent breakfast!

I also had a premade pie crust in the freezer, so I decided to make classic buttermilk chess pie, using lactose-free milk and lemon juice in place of the buttermilk (FYI, that’s basically what you get in a commercial buttermilk carton anyway – real buttermilk is hard to come by!). This recipe has you place the pie crust on the oven rack first, then pour in the filling – that way, the filling won’t be sloshing around when you transfer the pie to the oven, but do be careful to slide the oven rack back in gently! The recipe also called for finely ground cornmeal, but I’d use straight-up corn flour next time. The pie baked up a bit like a soufflé and deflated afterwards, but it was delicious!

1 (9-inch) pie crust
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. finely ground cornmeal (I’d use corn flour next time)
1 ½ cups buttermilk (1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice topped up with lactose-free milk)
4 Tbsp. unsalted lactose-free butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 °F. Line a regular 9-inch pie pan (not deep dish) with the pie crust. Be sure to press the dough into the sides, without any cracks or holes in the pie crust. Roll the edge of the crust down on itself about ¼ inch and use your fingertips to flute the edge. Refrigerate the pie plate while preparing the filling.

Place the eggs, sugar, flour, and cornmeal in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the buttermilk, butter, vanilla, and salt and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.

Place the prepared pie crust on a baking sheet. Pull out the oven rack halfway and place the baking sheet on it. Pour the filling into the crust. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top (it's okay if it appears to sink into the filling slightly). Gently slide the oven rack back into place.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until the center of the pie is barely set in the center, reaches 200 °F, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes total.

Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack before serving, 3 to 4 hours. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth

I started following Smitten Kitchen on Instagram, so I’ve been getting new inspiration, even though I already loved the blog. Unfortunately, my family did not like the cauliflower and caramelized onion tart, but the braised ginger meatballs in coconut broth were a unanimous hit! I added spinach to the broth and served everything over rice (the Little Prince likes having a say as to whether his sauce and meatballs should be over the rice or next to it, and will change his mind about this once in a while, but I liked my sauce over the rice). This would be great with some lemongrass too, if you have it!

For the meatballs
2 lbs. ground pork (a mixture of ground pork and ground chicken would work, too)
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (or maybe a bit less)
2 tsp. kosher salt

For the broth
1 can (13.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
¼ cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 fresh chiles, thinly sliced (optional; I omitted them)
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lime
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (or maybe a bit less)
1 tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. granulated sugar
Kosher salt
A few handfuls of baby spinach

To serve
Roughly chopped fresh mint and cilantro leaves
Lime wedges
Jasmine rice

For the meatballs
Preheat your oven to 425 °F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Form the mixture into 1 ½-inch meatballs and arrange them on a large rimmed baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake until the meatballs are golden brown and just cooked through, about 12 to 14 minutes.

For the broth
Meanwhile, in a large, ideally wide, saucepan, combine the coconut milk, stock, ginger, garlic, chiles (to taste), lime zest and juice, fish sauce, turmeric, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so the broth is simmering. Simmer 10 minutes, until the flavors are infused into the broth. You can leave everything in, or remove everything with a skimmer for a smooth broth. Season to taste, if needed, with salt.

Add the meatballs to the broth, return to a simmer, cover, and simmer until cooked through and tender, about 10 to 15 more minutes. Add spinach and cook just to wilt. Season the broth with more sugar, salt and lime juice if necessary. Serve with herbs, additional chiles, lime wedges, and rice.