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January 18, 2008

Berry Marshmallows with Chocolate recipe


The first week of January is the time of year for lofty goals and noble aspirations and the food world is no exception. Food-related resolutions seem to fall into two categories: Proscriptive and prescriptive. There are far more of the former and they mostly take the form of "I will change my diet by not eating sugar, fat, HFCS, bread, chocolate, and so on." There are, to be fair, some positive "I will eat..." resolutions out there (mine is to grow some vegetables along with the herbs in my garden) but most of them are framed in the negative. What a way to start the year, with a list of things you are going to deny yourself!

Far more fun are the prescriptive resolutions. I particularly like "I will make ____ for the first time." and the ones that start "I will learn to..." If I was forced to make New Year's resolutions - and thankfully, I am not - I would fall into this camp so I have a soft spot for them.

Continue reading "Berry Marshmallows with Chocolate recipe" »

December 24, 2007

Bûche de Noël: Chocolate Apricot Frosting Recipe

The crazy continues

frosting: all of the meringue and a pile of apricots

I'd love to sit and chat but I have a cake to frost. With this.

Chocolate Apricot Frosting Recipe

Cream 3/4 cup each butter with 3/4 cup powdered sugar + 1/3 cup cocoa

Beat 3 egg whites until foamy and slowly sprinkle in 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Beat to billowy, stiff  peaks.

Dice a handful of dried apricots, splash with amaretto and set aside for 30 min.

Gently fold 1/3 of meringue into the sweet chocolatey butter. Repeat with other 2 thirds. Add apricots and mix in gently. refrigerate until cake goes into oven, then set on counter to soften.

flickr set of this craziness:  Bûche de Noël

May 22, 2007

Cookie Lavender: Lavender Shortbread recipe

lavender shortbread

"Is this cookie lavender?" Sarah looked up from her herb snipping with a big grin. "I hope it's cookie lavender!"

Most people probably associate lavender with soap or maybe perfume, but not cookies! Who has ever heard of lavender cookies?

Well, let's start with the obvious: yes, they smell like lavender! (and butter, if that helps) The scent is either intoxicating or...well, off-putting might be an appropriate term. I have taken these to several parties and I love the reactions.

PurpleenglishflutterbySome people smell them and immediately get the lavender scent. I can tell because the response is usually a skrinched nose accompanied by a moment while a polite way of ask if they contain...umm, err, soap is sought. (Seriously, I can see the wheels whir. The thought goes: "These smell like soap! OMG! I can't say that? But she knows how to cook! How could she...but she must have tasted one...but...SOAP!" So far, I haven't laughed, but it is getting harder.)

Others simply can't identify the scent.

Every once in a while, a sniff is met with an arched eyebrow, and an inquisitive glance. Those people get a special little note in my internal list of people I can suck into tasting weird creations. Err, I mean recipe testers!

One bite, however, and the cookies have gained a fan. Never fails. These tender little cookies are melt-in-your-mouth buttery with a delicately floral taste. Nary a hint of soap.

There are several types of lavender commonly available, but for culinary uses, English Lavender is what most cooks choose. Most other lavenders are too strong, being either more camphorous than sweet or simply overwhelmingly flowery.

Interestingly enough, English lavender is actually not a scientific designation of lavender. This common name refers to a number of lavender species with the most common being Lavandula angustifolia officinalis, which is most common and prized for its sweet scent and flavor along with superb oil quality. The Lavandula angustifolia species "Hidcote," "Munstead," and "Melissa," along with Lavandula intermedia "Provence" are amongst the favorites for cooking.

Although only a handful of lavenders are suitable for culinary uses, there are a number of others that definitely deserve a spot in your garden. Some of my favorites are:

spanish lavender

Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has lovely bracts, often called "rabbit's ears" or "wings," making it one of the showiest garden lavenders. I have half a dozen different Spanish Lavender species, including several shades of purple and one or two pinks, but this yellow lavender (said to smell of lavender and rosemary) is going on my endlessListOfThingsIWant right now!

French lavender (Lavandula dentata) has finely-toothed leaf edges and small, pale purple flowers. It is another attractive, and less common, plant for the garden.

Lavandin (Lavandula intermedia) is a hybrid cross between L. angustifolia and Lavandula stoechas with particularly long flower stalks. Lavandin is commonly used for perfume oil and is also common in gardens.

Woolly lavender (Lavandula lanata) has silver leaves and dark purple flowers, making it a beautiful landscaping plant.

Sweet Lavender (Lavandula heterophylla) is an oddly named plant as it is far too camphorous to use in cooking. It is one of the tallest lavenders, however, with spikes of up to 4 feet.

Cookie Lavender (Lavandula cookieus), which isn't a species, but should be, is usually Munstead, but occasionally Melissa, or even Alba, grown in my front garden bed. Soon in Sarah's garden too.

Continue reading "Cookie Lavender: Lavender Shortbread recipe" »

May 01, 2007

Chocolate-dipped Candied Citrus Peel recipe

Chocolate dipped candied citrus peel

Some friends of mine made these recently, using oranges, grapefruit and limes. Of these, the lime was the surprise favorite of the evening, resulting in some amusing jockeying for proxiity to the last plate of treats.

While I haven't made these myself, I would guess that you can easily double the amount of peel without increasing the amount of other ingredients. More than that and I would increase the amount of water in which the peel is boiled and make more syrup.

Chocolate dipped candied lime peelChocolate-dipped Candied Citrus Peel

Candied Citrus Peel
fruit (pick one) ~ oranges 6 | grapefruit 4-5 | lemons 12 | limes 18
water 12 cups (divided in thirds)
water 1 1/2 cups
sugar 4 1/2 cups
sugar 1/2 cup

Peel fruit in long strips using a paring knife. Remove any white pith from the peel and cut peel into 1/2 x 2 inch pieces.

Put 4 cups of water in a heavy saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the peel, let it boil again. Cover and reduce heat to low for 20 minutes. Drain. Repeat two more times.

Measure 1 1/2 cups of water and 4 1/2 cups sugar into saucepan and stir occasionally while bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Once it boils, reduce heat to low, attach a thermometer to pan (make sure it does not touch the bottom of the pan) and cook, without stirring, to 230° (thread), about 20 minutes. Add peel and continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, to 240° (soft ball stage).

The syrup will drip off the peel when you remove it from the sugar syrup so you need to set up a wire rack over something that will catch the syrup. If you want to save the syrup to reuse it, use waxed paper; If you are going to throw the syrup away, you may prefer two layers of paper towels on a cookie sheet.

Remove peel from sugar syrup using a slotted spoon and drain on wire racks until the syrup has all drained off. (If you plan on reusing the syrup, pick up a piece of wax paper, fold it in half lengthwise and pour the syrup into a jar. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.)

Candied citrus peel coated in chocolatePut 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow bowl or on a piece of waxed paper. Roll each piece of peel in the sugar to coat well. Place peel on clean wire racks to dry.

Chocolate dipping
About an hour after peel is rolled in sugar, melt 1/2 cup chocolate (in double boiler or using microwave on medium for a minute or two). Dip half of each piece of peel in chocolate and return to rack to set completely.

Candied peel keep for about two weeks in an airtight container. If it becomes sticky, roll it in sugar again.

January 14, 2007

Ginger Applesauce Cake

Ginger Applesauce Cake

Like many of my recipes, this came together from ingredients that happened to be on hand at the time and my vague idea of a desired flavor. I was making a simple, and oddly summery, lunch (a huge salad, prawns in sage butter, and fresh focaccia) for guests and wanted something a bit more appropriately seasonal to go with the snow that still lingers outside.

My other requirement for this dessert was simplicity. One bowl and one pan was just about right. If it did not require a trip to the store, so much the better. At this point, I was leaning towards brownies...again. I've made so many batches of brownies lately that I am sort of tired of chocolate. (as if) In any case, brownies clearly wasn't it.

Back to winter flavors. In Washington state, winter means apples. In my house last week, apples meant applesauce. Not a bad start. Applesauce cake fit the bill. Right season, ingredients on hand, one bowl, and one pan. One problem. Somewhat lacking in magic. You know: Not. Very. Exciting.

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January 01, 2007

Happy New Year! Spiced Mexican Chocolate Tart Recipe

New Year's Eve chocolate tart

Happy New Year! (and a very quiet happy hangover! for those of you who celebrated a bit too much already)

This chocolate tart was a last minute creation for a last minute party. I called the folks who were hosting about 1pm yesterday and had roughly this conversation:

me: What can we bring?
k: oh, don't go to any effort...
d: (in the background) is that kitchenMage? tell her to go to some effort!


Given the time of day, the lack of a convenient store and my reputation, this meant I had to get creative based on the contents of the pantry. Challenging. Fortunately, I had both good chocolate and heavy cream -- a combination that always makes last minute baking easier -- and just enough time to pull off a tart crust. The filling was based on a recipe from a cooking class at the Herbfarm, but slanted towards something like Mexican hot chocolate. The filling recipe is enough to generously fill a 10 inch tart with a smidge left over.

Mexican Chocolatish Tart Filling
Bittersweet chocolate, 12 ounces
Butter, 4 ounces
brandy, 3-4 ounces (Grand Marnier would have reinforced the orange flavor better, but I was out)
orange zest, from one orange
orange extract, 1/2 tsp
cinnamon, 1-2 tsp
allspice, 1/4-1/2 tsp
nutmeg, 1/4-1/2 tsp
cream, 2 cups

Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler (or microwave on med in 60 second increments, stirring it every minute, and stopping before the chocolate is totally melted). While chocolate is melting, grind spices and zest orange. Add rest of ingredients, except cream, and stir to combine. Let mixture cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. You can do this in the refrigerator, but watch it to make sure it doesn't harden.

Whip the cream. Gently fold cream into chocolate, 1/3 at a time. Fill tart shell. Smooth top of tart using a long spatula dipped in hot water and dried between strokes.

In this case, the decorations were impromptu. We had orangettes (no not that Orangette, the candy kind) and they looked sort of like stained glass when sliced -- tasty stained glass with chocolate edges. someoneElse sliced a number of them and I started  arranging them on the tart before I had much of a clue as to final design...because a clock was so tough to come up with. A sprinkle of shaved bittersweet confetti on top of it all and suddenly it was a complete thought. When we arrived, I handed the box with the tart to D., who rewarded me with a doubletake as I explained that I had, after all, gone to a little effort.

For the first hour or so of the party, the host was pulling homemade pizzas out of the oven (caramelized onions and Gorgonzola was probably my favorite) and other guests brought lots of wonderful things to munch, plus much alcohol. We toasted the new year as it moved across North America, although by 11 we were toasting places in out own time zone, something I blame it on the much alcohol. I was glad that we were all mature enough to designate drivers and none of us had far to drive.

I wish you all a 2007 of plenty: friends you laugh with, family you love, work you enjoy and food you love. World peace would be nice too.

December 27, 2006

brownies with craisins by way of Jackson Pollock

"Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt." Judith Olney


If Jackson Pollock made brownies, they would look just like this. Or at least they should. Go clicky on that link and then tell me those brownies aren't Pollock worthy.

These treats started as a rather plain, yet very nice, brownie from a book called The Joy of Chocolate by Judith Olney (the source of the delightful quote). They were supposed to get frosting and a customized chocolate graphical signature of sorts atop that, which always seemed rather frou-frou and counter to my needs when making brownies. If I had the time for all that work on individual brownies, I wouldn't be making brownies, I'd be making mud puffs!

And yet, plain frosting seems so plain somehow. So I had to improvise. Hence the Pollock. Because flinging chocolate at a pan of brownies is much more fun, and a lot faster, than any sort of organized and orderly laying out of designs on perfectly divided squares.

Continue reading "brownies with craisins by way of Jackson Pollock" »

July 11, 2006

awesomeGrrl bakes Pie Cookies with Aunt Marcella


Contrary to what the corporate media would have you think, not all kids grow up without a clue about cooking, some even get lots of hands-on time early on. I was one of those lucky ones, as is the monstrrr in these pictures. Let's call her awesomeGrrl, because she is awesome (the kid speaks three languages already...oh, and American Sign Language...geez!) and she's learning all about being an awesome cook and baker from a very young age. She makes a mean salad, is learning how to bake and has even had "Baker Ben" visit from England to teach her about bread baking. And she's not even three yet!

(Did I mention that one of those languages is Mandarin Chinese? I suppose that's not so intimidating to some of you, but I am amazed by her language skills. One day recently, when she was not quite 2.5 years old, I asked her to count to ten in Mandarin. She hopped from foot to foot while saying words in Chinese in a sing-song voice. I sat in rapt attention, hoping to catch a single word well enough to repeat it back — and not liking my chances —  as she pranced around the room counting. After a minute, her mom burst into laughter and said, "Those aren't numbers, she's just messing with you!" Oh my, such sarcasm at two and a half, awesomeGrrl's going to be fun as she grows up. )

Piecookies1 awesomeGrrl's Aunt Marcella came to visit recently and they baked Marcella's Pie Cookies. These cookies are the cupcake of pies: tender sour cream pastry and a rich date filling shaped into tiny little puffed flowers. In the family since the turn of the last century, the recipe for these cookies was passed to Marcella when she was about nine years old, which would have been quite a few years ago, since Marcella celebrated her 80th birthday a while back by throwing herself out of a perfectly good airplane, but that's another story. As you might guess, Marcella is a bit of an awesomeGrrl herself; more than a few of women in the family point to her as who they want to be like when they are 80.

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May 23, 2006

someoneElse's Snickerdoodles for Susan

Snick2006 If one end of the food blogging spectrum dictates that dinner gets cold while "just one more quick picture" gets snapped, the other holds onto the last handful of cookies until they can get a picture taken, even if it means foregoing the only cookies in the house. Critical mass (or critical lack of mass, i.e., the last four snickerdoodles) was hit today, driving me to get out the camera and take this picture so that I could eat one. (Hi, my name is kitchenMage and I am a cookieholic...) Just in time too, that plate holds the remnants of a double batch!

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February 17, 2006

Dangerous chocolate

Late one evening, you and several of your closest friends stare at the twelve shells in a circle in the middle of your dining room table. Each of you selects a shell in turn, wondering if this time, this one, will be it.

It all comes down to this: Are you feeling lucky?

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