custom cakes/cookies

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smoky Yerba Mate Lentil Burgers

I often contribute recipes to the blog of my friends' tea company, Arbor Teas. Here is the latest recipe I created using a few of their teas.

BBQ season is upon us! Will you have a vegetarian to feed in your group? Often meatless patties are dry and disappointing, especially the ones that come packaged from the grocery store. Veggie burgers are so easy to make in your home kitchen, requiring fairly minimal forethought and prep work. Here is a unique idea to impart a tea flavor into a vegetarian burger. This recipe combines the earthiness of Arbor Teas organic Yerba Mate with a bit of smoke from organic Russian Caravan Black Tea. The lentils are cooked directly in the steeped teas, gaining an extra boost of flavor as they soak up the liquid and soften. Black beluga lentils retain their shape fairly well when cooked, so they are worth seeking out. Other varieties may cook up too mushy, causing the patties to fall apart.

Happy Summer everyone!

Smoky Yerba Mate Lentil Burgers
makes 6 burgers

2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon loose leaf organic Yerba Mate
1 teaspoon loose leaf organic Russian Caravan Black Tea
1 cup dried Beluga lentils, picked over and rinsed (will yield about 3 cups cooked)
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, shredded
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 cup whole grain bread crumbs
olive oil, if pan frying

Pour boiling water over tea leaves in a medium bowl. Cover and steep for about 4 minutes, then strain tea into a large saucepan, discarding tea leaves. Add the lentils to the sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are firm but tender, about 30-40 minutes. Cover the pan and let rest it rest off heat, until remaining liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lentils, eggs, and salt. Pulse until the mixture becomes a thick paste, allowing some lentils to remain whole. Transfer the lentil mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in the onion, shredded carrot, and garlic. Next add the breadcrumbs and stir to combined. Let rest for a couple of minutes to allow the bread crumbs to absorb some of the moisture. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form into 1½-inch-thick patties.

Grill for 5-8 minutes on each side until browned and crisped on both sides.

Alternatively, if cooking indoors, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add the patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Flip and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Citrus and Tea Cream Pie

I often contribute recipes to the blog of my friends' tea company, Arbor Teas. Here is the latest recipe I shared using a few of their teas.

Hurry! Before Meyer lemons are out of season, go make this pie! Or don't. Just wait for the right occasion and be inspired by what citrus is in abundance at that time. The original inspiration for this recipe came from Martha Stewart as a chamomile version of lemon meringue pie in a homey cornmeal crust. All of these elements, the mellow chamomile flowers, the zesty lemon, the pillowy marshmallow meringue, and the crunchy cornmeal work together in a wonderful, satisfying combination. But with the variety of organic loose-leaf teas available from Arbor Teas, why stop there? You could alter the recipe into a summery mojito rendition by subbing in lime for lemon and organic moroccan mint green tea for chamomile, all atop a buttery shortbread crust. Organic jasmine green tea and grapefruit (or those giant pumelos) would make a sophisticated, perfumed dessert. Tangerine and organic schizandra white tea, orange and organic earl grey black tea, or even blood orange and organic holiday spice black tea are a few more pairings I brainstormed to go with your favorite graham cracker, gingersnap, or chocolate cookie crust. Here is the original lemon-chamomile recipe. Let me know what combinations you dream up!

Citrus and Tea Cream Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

Cornmeal Pie Dough
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup ice water

Lemon-Chamomile Cream Filling
3 cups whole milk
3-4 tablespoons loose organic chamomile (or whatever other tea flavor strikes your fancy)
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (or other citrus zest)
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (or other fresh citrus juice)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
a pinch of salt

To make the Cornmeal Crust:
Pulse flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and process briefly until mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, slowly add ice water until dough just begins to hold together.

Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Roll cornmeal dough to ⅛-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Ease the dough into a 9-inch pie dish and trim the edges, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Tuck overhang under dough so edges are flush with rim and crimp edges. Prick the bottom of dough with a fork in several spots and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line dough with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges begin to turn golden, about 15 to 18 minutes. Lift up the parchment to remove the pie weights. Continue to bake, uncovered until the crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Let cool completely before adding the cream filling.

To make the Cream Filling:
When ready to make the filling, bring milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, add the loose leaf tea directly to the hot milk, cover, and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the milk through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on the spent tea leaves with a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard tea.

Combine cornstarch, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the tea-infused milk. Turn heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thickly coats the spatula. This should take about 7 minutes total (about 2 minutes after it comes to a boil).

Whisk yolks in a separate bowl, then pour in the milk mixture into the yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking until thoroughly incorporated. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it returns to a boil, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Remove from the custard from heat, and stir in lemon zest and juice. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until butter melts before adding the next piece. Let cool in the saucepan off heat, whisking occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Pour custard into the prepared crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of custard, taking care to smooth out any wrinkles as these will appear on the finished pie as it firms. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight) so that the custard filling is chilled and firm.

To make the Meringue:
Just before serving, combine egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof mixing bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt. Transfer the bowl to the mixing stand and whisk on medium-high speed until shiny, stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.

Pipe the meringue in dollops over the pie. If you’d like, toast the tips of the meringue with a culinary torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped pie briefly on a rimmed baking sheet under a broiler until lightly golden.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vegan Papas Rellenas

A few weeks ago I had a pot luck brunch with friends. The agenda was to plan a community garden in my backyard. There was still snow on the ground, but I was thinking warmer thoughts of digging up dirt and pushing in seeds. My contribution to the meal were these fried Peruvian potato thingys over mixed salad greens. While a more traditional version would be filled with spiced beef, I chose the vegan route and filled them with quinoa, beans, raisins and kale. Sounds like a weird combination, but it works. A dash of hot sauce and a topping of pickled onions (salsa criolla) add a whole lot more flavor.

Not sure how many to feed, I doubled the recipe. I don't recommend this unless you enjoy potato ricing or have an army of kitchen help. Though after peeling and ricing (gives the best texture, so worth it) 10 pounds of potatoes the night before, I learned how to finally use my ricer properly, it's a bit of a struggle if you overstuff it.

Vegan Papas Rellenas
Makes about 1½ dozen

For the dough:
5 pounds russet potatoes
½ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper

For the filling:
olive oil for sautéing
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
½ chili pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 cup cremini mushrooms, small dice
2 cups cooked cooked beans
½ cup raisins, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes, then minced
1 handful kale, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa
¼ cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

For the final preparation:
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
3 tablespoons water
1 cup all-purpose flour
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash salt
1 cup bread crumbs

Canola oil for frying

For the dough:

1. Boil unpeeled potatoes whole until tender when stuck with a fork. Let potatoes cool.
2. When potatoes are cooled, peel them and either mash them with a potato masher or force them through a potato ricer.
3. Add cornstarch, salt and pepper and knead “dough” thoroughly to ensure that ingredients are well combined and uniformly distributed.

While potatoes are cooling, make filling:

1. Cook onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes, until soft.
2. Add the garlic and chili pepper and cook several minutes more.
3. Add the cumin and paprika and cook briefly.
4. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.
5. Add beans and raisins.
6. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Add kale and wilt.
7. Add the quinoa and season with salt and pepper.
8. Allow filling to cool before forming “papas.”

Finishing the dough and forming the papas:

1. Using a food processor or blender, emulsify the ground flax seed with the water. Allow the mixture to stand for a few minutes before using.
2.Use three small bowls (or other shallow containers) to prepare the papas. In one, combine flour, cayenne and salt. In the second, combine the flax seed emulsification and a bit more water to thin the solution. Put bread crumbs in the third
2. Flour your hands and scoop up a fistful of the dough about the size of a baseball. Make a round pancake with your hands. Then make a slight indentation in the middle for the filling.
3. Spoon a generous amount of filling into the center and then roll the potato closed, forming a smooth, potato-shaped casing around the filling. Repeat will all dough.
4. Heat 1½ - 2 inches of oil in a pan to about 350 – 375° F.
5. Dip each papa in the three bowls to coat: first roll in flour, then dip in flax seed emulsion, then roll in bread crumbs.
6. Fry the papas in batches about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Flip once in the middle of frying to get both sides.
7. Drain on paper towel and store in a cool oven 200°F until ready to serve.
8. Serve with salsa criolla (see recipe below) and your favorite hot sauce.

Salsa Criolla

2 medium red onions, cut in half length-wise and very thinly slice.
1/2 chili pepper
1 tablespoon vinegar
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the onions in cold salt water for about 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the onions to macerate and the flavors to combine.

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Kumquat Gelée

The first time I had panna cotta was this summer when in Norway. Expressly for the purpose of tasting reindeer carpaccio, I ate at a restaurant that claimed to have an authentic Norwegian menu. As a bonus for the total local experience, the dessert menu listed a panna cotta topped with cloudberries. Panna cotta, is by no means Nordic, but I was more interested in eating those cloudberries. The guide book made them sound rare and special. As a maker of jam I was intrigued. The name alone connotes loftiness!

The cloudberries, served as a pretty amber-colored glaze on top the panna cotta, were nice. Distictly tart. They made for a good pairing with the creamy panna cotta, resulting overall in a light and refreshing summer-y end to a meal.

For those that don't know, panna cotta is honey-sweetened cream and milk, stabilized with unflavored gelatin. Though cream-based, it's really only a fancy Jell-O of sorts, that's very simple to make. In my version here, I top it with a season-approapriate, citrusy and spiced kumquat gelée, which also has a jello-like consistency due to the addition of gelatin. With the free-floating fruit, it is perhaps somewhat reminiscent of the Jell-O salad ubiquitous at retro potlucks. But I'd like to believe this is a slightly more sophisticated version.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. I attempted the florentine cookies as well, but gave them all away before photos could be taken.

Giada's Vanilla Panna Cotta
serves 6

1 cup whole milk
1 TBS (one packet) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup honey
1 TBS granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Pour the milk into a chilled sauce pan and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
Place the saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes, whisking a few times as it heats.
Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved, 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into individual glasses or ramekins.

Refrigerate about 6 hours or until firm. When firm enough to support the gelée layer (see recipe below), pour the room temperature gelée over the panna cotta, distributing evenly among all the glasses. Room temperature is important so as not to melt the panna cotta, which would disturb the distinct separation of layers. Chill several more hours to allow the gel to set up firm.

Kumquat Gewurztraminer Gelée
from Jamie Stachowski, Restaurant Kolumbia

1 pint kumquats
1½ tsp powdered gelatin
1¼ cup Gewurztraminer wine, divided
½ cup sugar
½ cup honey
1 small knob peeled ginger root
1 star anise clove
zest of ½ a lemon
1½ tsp lemon juice
a pinch of salt

In a saucepan, cover the whole kumquats with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 2 minutes, then drain. Repeat process twice until kumquats are very soft, don't worry if some begin to split. This process removes the bitterness. Slice into thin rounds and remove seeds. Set aside.

In a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup wine. Set aside.

Set a pot over medium heat and mix the sugar with the honey. When the sugar dissolves, turn heat to low and add the ginger, anise clove, and lemon zest. Simmer for a few minutes until aromatic. Stir in the remaining cup of wine, then add sliced kumquats and simmer on low until the flesh is tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Take ¼ cup of syrup and whisk into gelatin/wine mixture, then stir the gelatin mixture back into pot of kumquats and syrup. Add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Stir to evenly distribute kumquats and whole spices. Cool until room temperature and then remove spices.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hiyashi Soba and Vegetable Tempura

Interested in learning to cook Japanese food? Then I suggest watching some of the entertaining how-to videos made by Kumigar. She's an adorable, young Japanese woman, who posts self-produced clips of cooking demos on YouTube. Her enthusiasm for food, both cooking and eating, is quite apparent. It's reassuring to see that sort of honest and unabashed fervor in someone other than myself!

Along the way in preparing the recipes below, I learned a very helpful tip to prevent stove top spillovers. Pots boiling over are something for which I'm notorious, and it's even more of nuisance now that I have a flat-surfaced, glass-top stove. There's no burner pan to collect the run-off drainage. I learned to temper an overflowing boil with a cup of cold water (see cooking intructions for udon below for more details). Of course this takes careful attention on the pot (which is key to preventing all kitchen disasters in the first place).

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

Hiyashi Soba
serves 4

Soba Noodles:

2 quarts water + 3 cups cold water, separate
12 oz dried soba noodles

Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.

Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.

Mentsuyu - Traditional dipping sauce:

2 cups Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi or a basic vegetable stock
1/3 cup shoyu soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin

Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

¾ cup green onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons shoyu soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon English mustard powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste - roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each

Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, stir in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

serves 4

1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup iced water
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter

Very cold vegetables that I used include:

Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
Fingerling potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
Broccoli florets, blanched
Cauliflower florets, blanched
Fresh mushrooms
Onions sliced

Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.

Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F.

Dip the prepared vegetables in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.

Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off.

Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Matcha-Hazelnut Sponge with Lemon Curd & Matcha Marzipan Flowers

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

A joconde imprime (French Baking term) is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to desserts/torts/entremets/ formed in ring molds. A joconde batter is used because it bakes into a moist, flexible cake. The cake batter can be tinted or marbleized for a further decorative effect.

Entremets (another French baking term) is an ornate dessert with many different layers of cake and pastry creams in a mold, usually served cold, much like a trifle but molded to be free-standing versus layered in a glass bowl.

All seems intimidating, but if you work through the layers in stages, it's really not that big of deal. I sketched out a plan in advance. The idea for mine started with wanting to use up some "leftovers" in my "pastry" fridge. Believe it or not I had on hand fresh lemon curd (recently made to use up 8 extra yolks), homemade marzipan (a gift I was working on for my dad), matcha tea (from my good friends at Arbor Teas), hazelnut meal (a bag that seems perpetually full no matter how much has been scooped from it), and crystalized lilacs (maybe only a dozen left from the original batch of 200).

I wasn't sure if the flavors of the dessert I was crafting in my head would meld well, but I was excited for the vibrant colors--a bolt of the tropics smack in the middle of a snowy and frigid winter. Since this dessert needed to travel to a weekend brunch, I took the safe route and layered them in juice glasses like a trifle. A true entremet with joconde is free-standing. Nonetheless, now having tasted the finished dessert, I can say yes, green tea, lemon, hazelnut, almond, butter and sugar all seem to work nicely together to put a warm smile in your belly.

Joconde Sponge

This Joconde/spongecake requires attentive baking so that it remains flexible to easily conform to the molds. If under baked it will stick to the baking mat. It over baked it will dry out and crack. Once cooled, the sponge may be cut into strips to line any shape ring mold.

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” jelly roll pan

3 large egg whites (90g)
2½ teaspoons (10g) white granulated sugar
¾ cup (85g) almond flour/or hazelnut meal - *omit the butter if using hazelnut
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (75g) confectioners' sugar
¼ cup (25g) cake flour
3 large eggs (150g)
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted


In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.

Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour into the just emptied mixing bowl, no need to wash out egg whites.) On medium speed with the paddle attachment, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light.

Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix. Fold in melted butter, if using.

Reserve batter to be used later.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste

YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” jelly roll pan

14 tablespoons (200g) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus 1½ tablespoons (200g) Confectioners' sugar
7 large egg whites (200g)
1¾ cup (220g) cake flour

Food coloring gel, paste or liquid (optional)

COCOA or MATCHA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to (170g). Add (60 g) cocoa powder or Matcha green tea. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.


Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously until emulsified. Fold in sifted flour. Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa or matcha variation.

Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:

Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.

Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.

Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.

Bake at 475ºF until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 8-15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. This is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.

Cool briefly. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.

Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

Preparing the Jaconde for Molding:

Trim the cake of any dark crispy edges. You should have a nice rectangle shape.

Decide how thick you want your “Joconde wrapper”. Traditionally, it is ½ the height of your mold. This is done so more layers of the plated dessert can be shown. However, you can make it the full height.

Once your height is measured, then you can cut the cake into equal strips, of height and length. (Use a very sharp paring knife and ruler.)

Make sure your strips are cut cleanly and ends are cut perfectly straight. Press the cake strips inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap your ends slightly. You want your Joconde to fit very tightly pressed up to the sides of the mold. Then gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The cake is very flexible so you can push it into place. You can use more than one piece to “wrap" your mold, if one cut piece is not long enough.

The mold is done, and ready to fill.

Entremet- Filling:

Lemon Curd
makes 1 full cup

4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS sugar
3 fl oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 TBS, unsalted butter softened
pinch of salt
2 tsp finely shredded lemon zest

In a heavy, non-corrosive saucepan whisk the yolks and sugar until well blended. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the lemon zest. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon and reaches 170 F. Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle. Pour immediately through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on any remains with the back of a spoon to extract as much curd as possible. Stir in the lemon zest and cool. Pour into an airtight container and press a piece of plastic to the surface of the curd before sealing. The curd will continue to thicken when refrigerated.

Matcha Marzipan

1 tsp matcha powder
6 TBS marzipan

On a wooden surface, knead matcha into Marzipan until completely incorporated. Roll out to desired thickness to cut shapes or sculpt into character. Keep tightly wrapped in plastic until ready to use, to prevent drying out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cultured Tea Butter and Buttermilk

I often contribute recipes to the blog of my friends' tea company, Arbor Teas. Here is the latest recipe I developed using a few of their teas.

2010 seemed to be the year of DIY in the food world, and I have no doubt that 2011 will continue to be the same. If the reasons are not for putting up (canning, curing, dehydrating, etc.) to preserve the abundance of harvest for leaner times like our great grandparents used to or not meant to ease reliance on commercially-packaged, convenience foods, then it's to satiate the curiosity of how basic foodstuffs are produced and to relish in the pure satisfaction that you can DO IT YOURSELF.

Remember taking turns to shake that jar of cream in kindergarten until it thickened and yielded a soft, spreadable butter? Patience-inducing yet awe-inspiring to a 5-year old. Making cultured butter from scratch is just one step up from that sort of classroom demo magic. And using a modern stand mixer makes it an easily approachable task if your kitchen amenities are sans old-fashioned butter churn and butter bats. Furthermore, fresh, liquid cream presents a blank canvas on which you can layer a custom flavor profile at the very foundation, before churning. You can add cultures for tangy-ness as well as ingredients, like tea, that steep best in liquid without altering the final texture. Compound butters, a different approach to flavored butter where herbs, aromatics, syrups or fruit pastes are mashed into solid butter, while good in there own right, offer only the opportunity for flavor afterthoughts, post-churning.

So in the spirit of DIY, I present you below with directions for culturing butter and flavoring it using Arbor Teas' oraganic, loose-leaf tea. Cultured tea butter should not be confused with Tibetan butter tea, a yak milk-derived, fortifying hot beverage for the iron-stomached. This is a wholly different dining experience. I chose two very different Arbor Teas to make two unique flavors. The first was organic genmaicha green tea, which is composed of Japanese green tea leaves mixed with toasted brown rice kernels. This tea flavor brings to mind popcorn, and thus lightly salted butter flavored with genmaicha lends itself to savory applications: smeared on crusty bread or slathered on roasted vegetables. The second was organic masala chai tea. Redolent with warm spice and delicately sweetened (post-churn) with honey, this makes a welcome addition to a breakfast table spread or to afternoon tea fare.

As a premium for churning your own butter, you will also produce a good amount of deliciously drinkable, tea-flavored buttermilk. I used the excess to make the tiny corn biscuits pictured above. They were a perfect vehicle to deliver taste tests of homemade tea butter (either sweet or savory) to friends. A note of caution, though, before proceeding: you may start consuming more butter than you ever thought necessary. It's that good!

Cultured Tea Butter and Buttermilk
makes about a ½-pound of butter and about 1 cup buttermilk

2 TBS organic loose tea leaves
2 cups heavy cream (the best quality you can find: highest butterfat, least pasteurized)
2 heaping TBS plain whole-milk yogurt, crème fraîche or buttermilk (be sure these do not contain any additive gums or stabilizers)


⅛ - ¼ tsp flaky sea salt
1 TBS (or more to taste) honey (optional)

Make a tea sachet by packing the loose tea leaves in a tea sac or other type of disposable filter and tying securely with kitchen twine. Place the tea sachet in a clean glass mason jar. Pour the heavy cream and yogurt over the tea. Stir to combine. Cover loosely and place it in a warmish part of the house - the ideal temperature is around 75° F, but anywhere in the range from 70-80° F will work.

After 12-18 hours, the cream should be noticeably thicker and should taste slightly tangy. If it hasn't thickened yet, leave it alone for another few hours and eventually it will. When your cream has thickened, remove the tea sachet and scrape off any thickened cream that may adhere to the filter, adding this back to the cream. If you are not ready to make your butter right away, transfer the container to the fridge where you can leave it for up to another 24 hours.

When ready to churn the cream, remove it from the fridge and allow it to stand at room temperature until it reaches about 60° F. If you're making it from room temperature you'll need to place the bowl in a bath of ice water for a few minutes to cool it down.

Fill another large bowl with water and ice cubes and set this aside.

Pour the cream into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at high speed using the whisk attachment. A hand-held electric beater or even whisking vigorously by hand will also work. When the cream starts to form stiff peaks (see picture below at left), reduce the speed to low. Watch carefully, first the peaks will start to look grainy, and a few seconds later the cream will break. When it does, clumps of pale yellow butterfat will form leaving a pool of buttermilk in the bowl (see picture below at right). Stop beating. Carefully strain the bowl over a cup to drain away as much buttermilk as possible. Reserve the buttermilk for another use.

Next the butter must be washed with ice water to remove any residual buttermilk, which could cause the butter to spoil prematurely. If using a stand mixer, switch the whisk attachment for the dough hook. If you don't have a stand mixer, a fork or a stiff rubber spatula will do. Pour some of the reserved ice water over the butter, kneading it vigorously. The water will turn cloudy and the butter will seize up, making it cohere and knead more easily (see before and after pictures below). Pour out the liquid and repeat as many times as needed (about 3-4 times) until the rinse water in the bowl is completely clear. After the last of the rinse water has been poured off, continue kneading for a few more minutes to get as much water as possible out of the butter. Pour off any residual liquid. Add the salt (and honey, if using) now and continue to knead until completely incorporated.

Pack the cultured tea butter into ramekins or shallow jelly jars, roll it in parchment paper, or use it to fill shaped molds before covering tightly and refrigerating. Place in the freezer for longer term storage.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Using up the Last of the T-giving Turkey in a Faux Cassoulet

Well, almost two months later, I finally did it. I finished my turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving. Yes, that took awhile! I had proudly cooked a large (15.7-pound) bird for a small group. Guests were sent home with leftovers and a stock was made and some was repurposed into meals the days following the big dinner and still plenty was left to freeze! Now that it's gone, it's safe to assume that I'm not gonna want to eat turkey again anytime soon. Not gonna want to eat any meat for awhile, actually. I'm ready for a post-holiday cleanse...

And when I finish the last of the multitude of winter squash and potatoes still left from my CSA, I'll probably want a cleanse from orange or starchy vegetables, too...

Just as I was deciding this, the Daring Kitchen challenged me to make a confit to use for a classic preparation of a traditional French cassoulet. Do you know what that means? Typically confit refers to meat that is seasoned and slowly cooked submerged in its own rendered fat. An interesting food preservation technique that I do want to learn, but, um, not very cleansing.

I took the veg option, which meant cooking vegetables with a good glug of olive oil before adding in the stock and other various ingredients to make it a stew of sorts. And then I deleted its vegetarian label by stirring in the last of the shredded turkey. The finishing accent was a crumble of garlicky toasted breadcrumbs. It's a fine cold-weather soup and a practical solution for turkey excess. Maybe after a few months of virtuous eating have passed, I'll be ready to approach the confit...

Turkey and Veg Cassoulet
adapted from Vegetarian Cassoulet by Gourmet Magazine, March 2008
serves 10-12

3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
¾ lbs carrots, halved lengthwise and roughly diced
1½ lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and roughly diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 oregano sprigs
1 bay leaf
⅛ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp fresh group pepper
4 cups cooked snow cap beans, reserve about a half cup to mash to thicken the soup, reserve the pot liquor (cooking liquid)
28-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, roughly chopped, reserve juices
about 2 cups shredded, cooked turkey
1 qt turkey stock
1 bunch kale, center ribs removed and roughly chopped

Bread Crumb Topping
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 TBS chopped parsley
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces, then wash well by swirling in a deep bowl of cold water. Allow the dirt to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Skim off clean leeks from the water surface being careful not to disturb the silt that collected at the bottom of the bowl.
2. Cook leeks, carrots, butternut squash, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans (both whole and mashed) and its pot liquor, tomatoes and their juices, shredded turkey and stock. Stir in the kale. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted and carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
4. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
5. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool crumbs in pan.
7. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.
8. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.