Croissant French Toast Casserole + my blog 2 – year anniversary

 

French Toast

Today happens to be Valentine’s Day, so if you haven’t already given chocolates or red roses to your special person, here’s an alternative: Croissant French Toast Casserole. These buttery croissants are filled with lemon-flavored cream cheese and are sure to warm your sweetheart’s heart at breakfast.

Make them the day before and pop them in the oven and serve the next day. You can have them plain or top with a delicious blueberry compote. They’re not only great for breakfast, we also served these for dessert after serving chilli for dinner.

Today also happens to be my second blog anniversary. I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed and how rewarding it has been. The most rewarding experience has been meeting new people through blogging and the support and encouragement you have given me over the years.

When I first started out blogging, only 1 or 2 people would visit my blog each day, and sometimes I had no visits at all (how sad)! Now I am visited by many people each day and it is so rewarding. So THANK YOU!!

 Here is my very first blog post: Easy Chocolate Fondant Cake

Chocolate-Fondant-Food Gawker

 And here is my post on my first blogging anniversary: French Crab Bisque Soup

Crab Bisque

 And now for the Croissant French Toast Casserole recipe: (adapted from Our Best Bites):

Ingredients

  • 5 – 6 Croissants
  • 1  8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered (icing) sugar, divided
  • juice and zest from two lemons
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

For the Blueberry Compote:

  • 2 cups frozen blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

 Directions

  •  In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, 3/4 cup of the powdered icing sugar and the juice and zest from one lemon. Mix thoroughly with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Croissant 1

  •  Slice each croissant in half lengthwise using a serrated bread knife. Spread some of the creamed cheese mixture on the bottom half of each croissant.

Croissant

  •  Replace the tops and then slice the croissants in halves or thirds.

French Toast

  • Arrange the pieces evenly in a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

French Toast

  • Whisk together the eggs, milk, juice and zest of the second lemon and the remaining 1/2 cup of powered sugar. Pour the mixture evenly over the croissants, cover with foil and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
  • When ready to serve, pre-heat oven to 350 F (180 C). Bake covered with foil for about 20 minutes (fan-forced oven) or 30 minutes convection oven. Remove foil and let bake for another 10 minutes or until the croissants turn golden brown on top.
  • Serve plain or with blueberry compote.
  • To make the blueberry compote: Combine 1 cup of the blueberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the blueberries and cook for 8 minutes more, stirring frequently.

 French Toast

French Baked Donuts

 Donuts Are you like me- hesitant to make donuts- afraid even to try? Making every excuse to avoid working with the ‘moody’ yeast dough and the messy deep-frying that leaves splashes of oil all over your kitchen walls?

Well, have I got a recipe for you! There’s no yeast involved and no deep-frying; these ‘donuts’ are baked and will be ready in no time. In fact, I ‘invented’ this recipe quite by accident and I’ve named it French Baked Donuts.

Today I was practicing making profiteroles for one of my upcoming cooking classes (see my post profiteroles). I was making choux pastry (or puff shells) for the profiteroles that would be filled with custard and topped with chocolate sauce. Instead, the choux pastry turned out too runny and gloopy.

What to do now? Quick thinking – pour the runny dough into ramekins or custard dishes, place a dollop of strawberry jam in the middle and bake for about 15 minutes. The result? The dough puffs up and around the jam, looking like you just made yourself a delicious donut.

Here’s the recipe:

 Ingredients (makes about 6 donuts)

Choux Pastry

  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 80 g butter, cubed
  • 150 g (1 cup) sifted flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 small or medium eggs

     Garnish

  • 2 tbsp. strawberry jam (or other flavour)
  • icing (confectioner’s) sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)
  2. Combine water and butter in a saucepan and bring just to the boil.
  3. Remove pan from the heat. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. In one go, add these dry ingredients to the water/butter mixture.
  4. Over medium heat, stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a dough and falls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Dough falling away from sides of pan
  6. Beat in one egg at a time, stirring in each egg until the dough mixture is completely smooth. After the 4 eggs have been beaten in, the dough should be smooth and rather runny.
  7. Pour the mixture about 2 inches high into 6 ramekins or custard bowls. Drop about 2 tablespoons of jam or chocolate into the center of each ramekin.
  8. Donuts with jam in center
  9. Bake for about 15 minutes until the dough doubles in size. Let cool and dust with icing sugar.

 Baked Donuts

 Yes, I like my donuts ….

 

 

 

 

When Spinach almost brought down the White House!

 

 

 

Florentine 4 croppedSince discovering a certain secret about the U.S. White House, I’ve never been able to look at spinach again without chuckling to myself. It turns out that spinach, the most noble of vegetables, created such tension and scandal under Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in the 1930’s, that it almost brought down the White House!

In fact, the situation got so bad that national headlines blared, ” FDR DEMANDS NEW DEAL - REFUSES SPINACH- CRISIS STRIKES.” FDR was furious when he read this, but who was the cause of this disaster? It was Henrietta Nesbitt, the White House’s head housekeeper.

Henrietta was hired by Eleanor Roosevelt to plan and supervise all meals at the White House, but what ensued was less than desirable. The President and guests complained that the “soup was watery” and that the salads were frequently filled with chunks of marshmallows and canned fruit. Eleanor herself complained one night that the “peas were as hard as bullets” and it was common knowledge that guests invited for dinner at the White House would frequently dine before arriving in anticipation of ‘ghastly repasts.’

Mrs Nesbitt brushed aside these criticisms, saying that the President was only “having one of his tizzy-wizzies.” Heaven only knows why Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t fire Mrs Nesbitt earlier, but she was finally replaced when the new First Lady, Bess Truman, took over in 1945 (Henrietta was fired for insolence when she refused to let Mrs Truman bring a stick of butter to her bridge club’s pot luck luncheon).

So, why am I telling you all of this? To try to restore Spinach’s honor and present a dish that might have pleased President Roosevelt- Eggs Florentine. This is a French dish with a poached egg served on toast with spinach and topped with a creamy Hollandaise sauce. ‘Simple but tasty elegance’ could be used to describe this dish, and we can guess that even Lady Astor would have been pleased as a White House dinner guest.

Most recipes for Eggs Florentine call for the spinach to be thoroughly cooked, but I only steamed mine for one minute to retain the texture. I’ve also placed my spinach and egg on top of a piece of toasted bread, although you could also use an English muffin.

Here’s to the memory of Mrs Henrietta Nesbitt!  

 

Eggs Florentine
Serves 4
A soft poached egg served on top of a bed of spinach and topped with a creamy Hollandaise sauce (FDR will thank you)!
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Ingredients
  1. 4 rashers of thin bacon, coursely chopped
  2. 1 bag of fresh Baby Spinach (6 oz or 170 g)
  3. 4 pieces of toasted bread or English muffin halves
  4. ¼ tsp salt
  5. ¾ cup (6 oz) unsalted butter, melted
For the Hollandaise sauce
  1. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  2. 2 tbsp water
  3. 3 egg yolks
  4. ¼ tsp salt
  5. ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon rashers until crisp, using the microwave or cooked on the stove top. Let cool and chop coarsely.
  2. For the Hollandaise sauce: combine the lemon juice, water and salt in a medium-sized bowl or pan. Add the egg yolks and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the water. Whisk the ingredients vigorously until the mixture starts to thicken and ‘ribbons’ begin to appear on the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and gradually add the melted butter while continually whisking - continue until the mixture thickens and then set aside.
  4. Steam the spinach for about one minute or longer until it reaches the desired texture (I used a steamer basket or you could boil the spinach in salted water).
  5. To assemble the dish, place a piece of toast or English muffin half on a plate, top with a layer of spinach and one poached egg, then pour several tablespoons of Hollandaise sauce on top. Top with some ground black pepper and sprinkle the bacon bits around the plate.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Persimmon and prosciutto salad with walnut dressing

 

Salad 4Have you ever asked yourself, “Should I first peel the persimmon before eating it?” Well, the answer is NO, which luckily for us, makes it so much easier to eat! And presenting this salad at your table is even more fun since it keeps your family and friends guessing what those colourful orange balls are.

For my recipe, I used Fuyu persimmons, which are short, crisp and sweet and ideal for using in salads. For added presentation, I’ve sliced my persimmons very thinly using a mandoline slicer.

 Fuyu Persimmons

Salad Fuyu

 

 When I presented this salad to my brother-in-law (visiting from Baltimore), he said, “Hmm, these persimmons have a nice mild flavour with a touch of je ne sais quoi.” My words exactly!

This recipe makes a nice summer salad and also could be a meal in itself. The dressing has a nice creamy fruity flavour that works well with the rest of the ingredients.

Persimmon Salad

 

Persimmon and Prosciutto Salad with Walnut Dressing
Yields 6
A light fruity salad with a creamy walnut dressing.
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For the Walnut Dressing
  1. 1 small garlic clove, diced
  2. 2 tbsp. walnut oil
  3. 2 tbsp. olive oil
  4. 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  5. 1/4 cup (60 ml) thin cream
  6. salt/pepper to taste
For the salad
  1. 3 ripe persimmons, sliced thinly
  2. 12 thin slices prosciutto
  3. 3 - 4 cups of green salad mixture (butter lettuce, rocket leaves, baby spinach, etc)
  4. 60 g walnut halves, roughly chopped
  5. 1 cup (80 g) shaved parmesan
  6. salt/pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. To make the dressing, add the diced garlic, walnut oil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a food processor bowl and process until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the cream until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For the salad, slice the persimmons thinly widthways using a mandolin slicer. Tear the prosciutto roughly into pieces and roughly chop the walnuts.
  3. To assemble the salad, arrange the salad greens on a plate, top with the persimmon slices, walnuts and parmesan shavings. Drizzle with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Adapted from Leanne Kitchen from Taste.com.au
Adapted from Leanne Kitchen from Taste.com.au
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

Chocolate Double Mint Fudge

 

 

Fudge 3

 I spent this last Christmas with a larger family group than usual: nephews, nieces, a grand-nephew and niece and various members of blended families. Rather than buying them each a present, I decided to make them each some fudge, wrapped in fancy gift boxes.

After doing some research, I found the perfect recipe by Dessert Girl: Chocolate Double Mint Fudge. This recipe presents a layer of creamy chocolate fudge topped with a layer of minty fudge, with a sprinkling of chocolate chips on top. Sublime heaven! I presented my gifts at a family gathering at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and I can guarantee there were no bored looks on people’s faces or rolling of eyeballs as they opened these gifts of chocolate.

This recipe calls for some real ‘candy making’ skills to achieve that perfect fudge texture.  You’ll need a candy thermometer to first heat the fudge to 237° F or           114° C  (softball stage). Any less than that and your fudge will turn out “soft and gooey”, any higher than that, and you’ll find your fudge to be too brittle.

And as Dessert Girl points out, it’s important to not heat the fudge too quickly, or the sugar will chrystallize. Heat the ingredients first on medium-low heat until the sugar and chocolate dissolve, then increase the heat to medium-high until the temperature reaches the softball stage.

While the fudge heats to 237 ° F, stir it constantly with a wooden spoon until it reaches the desired temperature, then stop stirring as it cools to 110 ° F. Any agitation during the cooling process may cause large sugar chrystals to form, giving it a grainy texture. Once the fudge has cooled to 110° F or 43° C, beat it vigorously for several minutes until the fudge reaches that smooth, “melt-in-your-mouth” texture. This process is repeated for both the chocolate fudge layer and the peppermint fudge layer.

There are a few steps involved with this recipe, but it’s really not too difficult to make this lovely gift fudge (or you can decide to keep the fudge and eat it yourself)!

 

Fudge 5

After I spread the mint layer on top of the chocolate layer, I found I had some left over, so I made some decorative shapes using Rycraft Cookie Stamps. First, I formed some of the mint fudge into a small ball, rolled it out and then pressed a cookie stamp on top. After letting the shape harden, I also placed this in the gift box, along with the other pieces of fudge.

Making decorative shapes with Rycraft Cookie Stamps

Fudge 6 of 6) (1 of 1)

 Place the fudge in decorative boxesFudge in boxesClose the lid and here’s your Treasure Box full of fudge!

Treasure Box

 

Chocolate Double Mint Fudge
Yields 60
A delicious creamy chocolate fudge topped with a minty white fudge and chopped chocolate chips.
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Chocolate Fudge Layer
  1. 6 oz (170 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  2. 3 cups (600 g) sugar
  3. ¾ cup whole milk
  4. ¾ cup heavy cream
  5. ¼ cup light corn syrup
  6. 1/8 tsp salt
  7. 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  8. ½ tsp vanilla extract
Mint Layer
  1. 2 oz (60 g) white chocolate chips
  2. 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  3. ½ cup milk
  4. ½ cup heavy cream
  5. 2 gtbsp light corn syrup
  6. 1/8 tsp salt
  7. 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  8. 1 ½ tsp peppermint extract
  9. Few drops green food coloring
  10. ½ cup chocolate chips, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Line an 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan with foil, letting the sides hang over the sides.
For the Chocolate Layer
  1. Combine the chocolate, sugar, milk, cream, corn syrup and salt in a medium-sized pan. Over medium heat, stir the ingredients until the chocolate and the sugar melt. Increase the heat and stir constantly until the mixture starts to boil and reaches 237 F (soft ball stage).
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Let the mixture cool to 110 degrees F; do not stir while the fudge is cooling.
  3. Transfer the fudge to a mixing bowl, add the vanilla extract and then beat with electric beaters for approximately 5 minutes until the mixture thickens and loses some of its shine.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Let set for several hours.
For the Mint Layer
  1. Repeat the steps as above. Combine the chocolate, sugar, milk, cream, corn syrup and salt in a medium-sized pan. Over medium heat, stir the ingredients until the chocolate and the sugar melt. Increase the heat and stir constantly until the mixture starts to boil and reaches 237 F (soft ball stage).
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Let the mixture cool to 110 degrees F; do not stir while the fudge is cooling.
  3. Transfer the fudge to a mixing bowl, add the peppermint extract and green food coloring and beat with electric beaters for approximately 1 - 2 minutes until the mixture thickens and loses some of its shine.
  4. Pour the mixture over the chocolate layer and smooth with a spatula. Coarsely chop the chocolate chip pieces and sprinkle over the top, pressing them gently down into the fudge. Let set for about 2 -3 more hours.
Adapted from Dessert First Girl
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

 

Christmas Black Forest Parfait

Parfait

 It’s only six more days until Christmas and I’ve already had to let out 1 more inch from my (already) stretchy pants. What the heck, one more rich dessert couldn’t possibly hurt my waistline, could it?

This recipe is so easy that even Santa (aka ‘Father Christmas’) could whip up this dessert in a hurry in-between his drops down the chimney.

This Black Forest Parfait combines layers of crushed chocolate wafers (or brownies), a creamy ricotta mixture and cherry compote. This recipe evokes the wonderful flavor of a Black Forest Cake, without the fuss of having to make one.

Counting down to Christmas, five, four, three ……

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Parfait (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

 

Black Forest Christmas Parfait
Yields 4
Layers of cream, cherry compote and 'cheats' Black Forest cake make this a perfect dessert for Christmas
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For the cherry compote
  1. 2 cups fresh cherries
  2. 1/2 cup water
  3. 2 tbsp sugar
  4. 1 tsp lemon juice
  5. Pinch salt
  6. 1 tbsp blueberry or strawberry preserves (optional)
  7. 1 tbsp. cornstarch
For the Parfait
  1. 1 cup ricotta cheese
  2. ½ cup cream cheese
  3. 2 tbsp sugar
  4. 1 tbsp maple syrup
  5. 1 tsp lemon juice
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  8. 12 chocolate wafers, crushed or 1 ½ cups chocolate brownies, crumbed *
Instructions
  1. Remove stems and pits from the cherries; place cherries in a saucepan with water, sugar, lemon juice, salt and preserves (optional). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes until the cherries soften.
  2. Mix the cornstarch with a little water to form a paste, then add to the pan. Simmer for a few more minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Place the ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the maple syrup, lemon juice and vanilla extract and process until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with electric beaters until peaks form. Fold in the whipped cream to the ricotta cheese mixture.
  5. To assemble the dessert, place approximately 2 tablespoons of the crushed chocolate wafers (or crumbed chocolate brownies) in the bottom of each parfait glass. Top with 2 – 3 heaping tablespoons of the ricotta cheese mixture, followed by a heaping tablespoon of the cherry compote. Repeat the layers and top with a mint leaf for decoration (optional). Refrigerate for several hours prior to serving.
Notes
  1. * Here, you could substitute crushed chocolate Oreo cookies.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Southwest Corn Pudding

 

Corn Pudding 2

On a recent trip to Borrego Springs in the California desert, I was inspired to try some rustic Southwestern cooking. ‘Southwest cuisine’ is a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Native American food and is popular in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Utah. It is similar to Mexican cuisine and is known for its use of spices, such as chile peppers.

Although this recipe is called ‘Corn Pudding’ it is not a sweet dish. Creamed corn is blended with cream, eggs, cheese and green chiles to form a firm pudding. This dish pairs beautifully with chilli con carne or any other spicy meat dish.

Some corn pudding recipes call for white flour, but I think that yellow cornmeal gives a richer texture. I’ve used one can of creamed corn for my recipe, but you can use a can of ordinary corn or fresh corn, if desired.

Corn Pudding (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

 

Here are some photos from my recent trip to Borrego Springs, located in the Anza Borrego desert in California. The brilliant sunrises and sunsets, the red mountains jutting up from the desert floor, the feeling of solitude within the vast expanse of the desert, all gave me inspiration to try conjuring up some new Southwest recipes.

 Borrego 1 (2)Borrego 2Borrego 4Borrego 5

 

Southwest Corn Pudding
Serves 6
A creamy corn pudding beautifully paired with chili or any spicy meat dish
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Ingredients
  1. ¾ cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. ½ tsp salt
  4. Pinch of ground black pepper
  5. 1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn or regular corn
  6. ½ cup chopped green onions (spring onions)
  7. ½ cup roasted red bell pepper, diced
  8. 1 roasted green or red chile, peeled, seeded and diced
  9. 1 cup cheddar cheese
  10. 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  11. ½ cup melted butter
  12. 1 cup heavy cream
  13. 2 eggs, beaten
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Lightly brush the inside of a Dutch oven or casserole dish with melted butter or vegetable oil.
  3. Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  4. In order to roast the green or red chile pepper, slice it in half and remove the seeds. Rub the skin with olive oil and bake in oven for 10 – 15 minutes until the skin blisters. Remove from oven and let cool; peel the skin off and dice into small pieces.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the corn, green onions, roasted red bell pepper, diced chile and cheeses. Stir in the dry ingredients, then add the melted butter, cream and eggs and mix well.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the Dutch oven or casserole dish, cover and bake for around 30 minutes. Remove the cover from the dish and let bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture firms and turns golden on top. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. You can use a can of ordinary corn instead of creamed corn, if desired.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

 

Charlotte Malakoff- an afternoon with Julia Child

 Charlotte 16 final

 

I just spent an afternoon with Julia Child- making her Charlotte Malakoff dessert! I’ve always been intrigued with this recipe after studying the diagrams and explanations in Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook. I decided to give this dessert a try and at the same time have a close encounter with Julia. How did I do this? By watching (studying!) the re-play of Julia demonstrating this recipe in 1964 on her TV show The French Chef.

This show had none of the slick nuances of today’s cooking shows. Julia was able to float effortlessly through several small mistakes and blunders, while presenting us with a delicious cake at the end that makes us believe (even 50 years later) that we can do it too!

At one point, Julia’s electric mixer was going too fast as she creamed the butter and sugar together: sugar flew off the side of the bowl in a whispy cloud. Did she panic? No, she just said, “Heavens- that’s going too fast, let’s slow it down!”

“Heavens! That’s going to fast!” (sugar flying off the side)

JC Sugar incident

During another incident, Julia mistakenly said that the recipe called for 1/2 cup almond extract to be added to the cream filling.  Twenty seconds later, she realised her mistake, screwed up her face and said, “Oops, did I say 1/2 cup almond extract? Wow, what a dessert that would be! It should only be 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.”

“Oops, did I say 1/2 cup almond extract?”

Screen JC face

And finally, when Julia tried to unmold the cake and it got stuck, she advised her viewers to “never get upset” and to try again.”

“You see, never get upset. I’ll just go around this again (with the knife).”

JC unmolding

 “And there she comes, there it tis!”

JC final 2

When Julia finally unmolded her Charlotte Malakoff, you’ll notice that one of the ladyfingers broke off on the right side of the plate and that part of the cake looks a little scraggly. In typical ‘Julia style,’ she acted like nothing had happened and just kept on going: “And there it tis!”

So once again, Julia has taught us that mistakes are OK and even an important part of our learning experience.

The Dessert

Charlotte Malakoff is a very rich  dessert, with a crown of soft ladyfingers surrounding layers of whipped cream, butter, ground almonds and strawberries. As Julia says, “You have to pay in calories if you want an elegant desert like this.” It’s not very difficult to make, but it can be tricky to keep the ladyfingers in tact when you unmold the dessert. That’s why Julia had a bit of trouble and that’s why I added an outer layer of creamy filling on the bottom of my cake. This was to patch up some of the ladyfingers that broke off when I unmolded the dessert (there, I admitted it!)

Here are some essentials for this recipe:

  • use a high-sided cylindrical mold for this recipe, preferably 4 inches high. You can buy a charlotte mold at a specialty store, however I used a casserole dish with sides 3 inches high and 7 inches across.
  • Julia said you could even “use a high-sided plant pot for your mold because you want to have drama in your dessert.” (That might be taking it too far in my opinion!)
  • Your mold should hold at least 8 cups of filling. If you have filling leftover from the recipe, you can use it as frosting (icing) for the outside of your dessert (as I did).
  • You should have at least 24 ladyfingers for this recipe. You can buy them at some stores but it is best to make them yourself. As Julia says, “Store-bought ladyfingers are loathsome things, limp and soggy.” Insead, they should be dry and tender.
  • You do not butter your mold, but use a layer of waxed paper on the bottom. Next time I make this recipe, I will try placing wax paper also around the sides of the mold to prevent the ladyfingers from sticking to the sides and then breaking apart.
  • I added a few decorations to my Charlotte Malakoff: some whipped cream rosettes and a strawberry on top- I believe this adds some elegance to the dessert.

For the Ladyfingers:

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs separated
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or cake flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • confectioner’s sugar to dust tops of ladyfingers

 Directions

  •  Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (205 C). Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
  • Using an electric beater, mix together 4 egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale in color. Beat in the vanilla flavouring.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder together on a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites to the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture to the egg yolks. Repeat, adding the rest of the egg whites and then the remainder of the flour to the egg yolks. The mixture should be thick and airy.
  • Transfer the mixture to the a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round opening. Pipe the ladyfingers onto the prepared baking sheet, making them 4 inches long and 1 inch wide (you could also spoon them onto the tray). Dust the tops of the ladyfingers with confectioner’s sugar. Bake for 8 minutes until they turn light brown.
  • Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire wrack to cool.

Pipe ladyfingers onto parchment paper, about 4 inches long and 1 inch wide

Charlotte 13 of 13 (1 of 1)For the Charlotte Malakoff Cream Mixture

 Ingredients

  • 16 fresh strawberries (approximate)
  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 24 ladyfingers
  • 2 sticks butter (1/2 lb) softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cups pulverised almonds
  • 2 cups chilled whipping cream

Directions

  • Hull the strawberries, wash and set aside. Combine 2/3 cup water and1/3 cup orange liqueur in a soup plate or other flat container. Dip each ladyfinger quickly into this mixture and let drain on a wire rack.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until smooth using electric beaters. Add the orange liqueur, almond extract and pulverised almonds (I used my food processor to grind the almonds to a fine consistency).
  • In a separate bowl, whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually fold in the cream into the butter and almond mixture.(Julia folds her cream in by working the spatula from the outside of the bowl towards the center). The mixture should be thick and airy: do not over-mix.

Charlotte 5 of 5) (1 of 1)

  • Line the bottom of the mold with unbuttered wax paper. Line the sides of the mold with the ladyfingers placed closely together, rounded sides facing outwards.

Charlotte 4  of 4) (1 of 1)

  •  Fill the inside of the mold with 1/2 of the almond/cream mixture. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the mixture, heads facing down.

Charlotte 7 of 7 (1 of 1)

  •  Place a layer of ladyfingers on top of the strawberries, placing them closely together.

Charlotte 8 of 8 (1 of 1)

  • Add another layer of the almond/cream mixture, almost to the top of the mold. Add another layer of strawberries and finish with layer of ladyfingers. Trim the tips of the ladyfingers so they lie flat with the edge of the mold. (This will wind up being the bottom of your Charlotte cake, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like here)!

Tips of the ladyfingers have been trimmed.

Charlotte 10 of 10 (1 of 1)

  • Place a round piece of wax paper on top of the ladyfingers, cover with a plate and then add a heavy weight on top of the plate. (I placed a can of beans on top, while Julia placed a large glass of water).
  • Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight; this chills the butter firm so the dessert will not collapse when unmolded.
  • When ready to serve, remove the waxed paper and run a knife closely around the edge of the mold. Reverse onto a chilled serving plate and remove the remaining piece of waxed paper. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.

Charlotte 12 of 12 (1 of 1)

 

 

Charlotte Malakoff
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For the Ladyfingers
  1. 4 eggs separated
  2. pinch
  3. 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. white sugar
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 cup all-purpose flour (or cake flour)
  6. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  7. confectioner's sugar to dust tops of ladyfingers
For the Cream Mixture
  1. 16 fresh strawberries (approximate)
  2. 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  3. 2/3 cup water
  4. 24 ladyfingers
  5. 2 sticks butter (1/2 lb) softened
  6. 1 cup sugar
  7. 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  8. 1/4 tsp almond extract
  9. 1 1/3 cups pulverised almonds
  10. 2 cups chilled whipping cream
For the Ladyfingers
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (205 C). Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric beater, mix together 4 egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale in color. Beat in the vanilla flavouring.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder together on a sheet of wax paper.
  5. Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites to the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture to the egg yolks. Repeat, adding the rest of the egg whites and then the remainder of the flour to the egg yolks. The mixture should be thick and airy.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round opening. Pipe the ladyfingers onto the prepared baking sheet, making them 4 inches long and 1 inch wide (you could also spoon them onto the tray). Dust the tops of the ladyfingers with confectioner’s sugar. Bake for 8 minutes until they turn light brown.
  7. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire wrack to cool.
For the Cream Mixture
  1. Hull the strawberries, wash and set aside. Combine 2/3 cup water and1/3 cup orange liqueur in a soup plate or other flat container. Dip each ladyfinger quickly into this mixture and let drain on a wire rack.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until smooth, using electric beaters. Add the orange liqueur, almond extract and pulverised almonds (I used my food processor to grind the almonds to a fine consistency).
  3. In a separate bowl, whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually fold in the cream into the butter and almond mixture.(Julia folds her cream in by working the spatula from the outside of the bowl towards the center). The mixture should be thick and airy: do not over-mix.
  4. Line the bottom of the mold with unbuttered wax paper. Line the sides of the mold with the ladyfingers placed closely together, rounded sides facing outwards.
  5. Fill the inside of the mold with 1/2 of the almond/cream mixture. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the mixture, heads facing down. Place a layer of ladyfingers on top of the strawberries, placing them closely together.
  6. Add another layer of the almond/cream mixture, almost to the top of the mold. Add another layer of strawberries and finish with layer of ladyfingers. Trim the tips of the ladyfingers so they lie flat with the edge of the mold. (This will wind up being the bottom of your Charlotte cake, so it doesn't matter what it looks like here)!
  7. Place a round piece of wax paper on top of the ladyfingers, cover with a plate and then add a heavy weight on top of the plate. (I placed a can of beans on top, while Julia placed a large glass of water).
  8. Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight; this chills the butter firm so the dessert will not collapse when unmolded.
  9. When ready to serve, remove the waxed paper and run a knife closely around the edge of the mold. Reverse onto a chilled serving plate and remove the remaining piece of waxed paper. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.
Notes
  1. Use a mold with sides preferably 4 inches high with an 8-cup capacity. Depending on the size of your mold, you can add more layers of cream, strawberries and ladyfingers, if you have enough ingredients left over.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

Maple- Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans

Yams 2 of 2) (1 of 1)

Looking for that perfect Sweet Potato side dish for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? Look no further – this recipe for Maple- Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans provides that perfect combination of starchy sweet potatoes,  cranberry tartness and maple flavored yumminess.

Sweet potatoes (or yams) were cultivated in Central America at least 5,000 year ago and are grown all over the world in tropical or temperate climates. One town in the USA has gone ‘absolutely bananas’ over sweet potatoes: for the past 65 years, the town of Opelousas, Louisiana has held a Yambilee Festival, combining music, rides and yam pie-baking contests and crowns a yam queen and king (last year’s Yam King was named ‘Willyam‘).

You can tell that Opelousas citizens take their sweet potatoes (AKA Yams) seriously, when they promise that “You’ll have a Yam-Good time” when you attend their annual festival. Why, even Popeye has given up his beloved spinach in favor of yams, as seen in this Yambilee poster:

Yambilee larger

The Method

Enough of yam jokes- let’s get back to this easy recipe. First, peel the yams and cook in boiling salted water for about 15 minutes until the outer flesh softens. Let cool and slice the yams cross-wise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange in a dish with the slices overlapping each other.

 Overlapping yams

Next, heat the maple syrup, butter and cranberries together until the cranberries soften. Pour the mixture over the yams and add the chopped pecans. Bake for about 10 minutes and there you have it!

 Yams (3 of 3) (1 of 1)

 (P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please do ‘like’ my G’day Souffle’ Facebook page!)

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans
Serves 6
A perfect sweet potato side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or anytime
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Ingredients
  1. 2 - 3 yellow sweet potatoes or yams
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1 cup Maple Syrup
  4. 2 tablespoons real butter
  5. 1 cup fresh cranberries
  6. 2 tbsp. chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven at 350 F.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes, slice in half cross-wise and place in boiling salted water. Reduce heat and simmer until the outer flesh can be easily pierced by a fork (about 15 minutes). Remove from water and let cool.
  3. Slice the sweet potatoes cross-wise into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange in overlapping slices in a casserole dish.
  4. Heat the maple syrup and butter on medium heat until the butter melts. Add the fresh cranberries and heat until the cranberries 'pop' and become soft (about 5 - 6 minutes).
  5. Pour the mixture over the sweet potato slices. Add the chopped pecans on top and bake uncovered for 10 minutes at 350 F. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. Be careful not to over-sweeten the sweet potatoes with the maple syrup mixture. Adjust the maple syrup mixture accordingly.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico – land of food and wine!

 

Finca food Pulpos Baja California- where have you been?

Growing up in Chula Vista, California near the Mexican border, my family and I frequently went camping in Ensenada, Baja California. After my father retired and bought a little trailer cabana in Ensenada, Mexico became a second home for us. However, about 15 years ago, everything changed. The frequent violence and kidnappings caused by the drug cartels caused our family and friends to say, “No, you can’t go to Mexico anymore, it’s too dangerous.” As a result, we sealed Mexico off from our minds.

But things are now changing again. Travel and wine magazines are gushing that Baja California is now one of the ‘food and wine capitals of the world.’ This is particularly true for the region called Valle de Guadalupe, located 1 1/2 hours from the U.S./Mexican border near Ensenada. Known for its porous soil and ideal climate, this area is ideal for growing grapes for wine cultivation. This region is also known for its Baja Med style of cooking, combining gourmet techniques with traditional Mexican dishes, while adding locally sourced ingredients such as olive oils, seafood and tomatoes.

Intrigued by the media frenzy, my husband and I decided to see for ourselves. Instead of going it alone, we joined the group, Club Tengo Hambre (meaning ‘I am hungry’ in Spanish) to guide us on the trip. CTH describes themselves as a ‘roving supper club’ and are experts in guiding small groups into Baja, California.

We met the group on the US side of the border in front of McDonalds (a good start to our culinary adventure!) and then walked across the border together. That was easy, no lines, just walking through a turnstile. However, I knew it would be a different matter returning to the US from the looks of the pedestrian line coming the other way- it must have been 1/4 mile long.  After crossing the border, a van awaited us to take us on our all-day trip south of the border. After passing around a bottle of Tequila for each of us to pour a tipple, we felt relaxed. I peered out the side windows of our van to see if I recognised the Tijuana that I used to know- the hovels were still there on the side of the hills, but were slowly being replaced by more modern housing. I heaved a sigh of relief, there were no bandits following us and no need to ride shotgun – we were safe.

Valle de Guadalupe

 As we approached the valley, it appeared to be rather dry with low scrub and various kinds of cactus. Most of the wineries ‘dry farm’ their crops, drawing water from reservoirs and wells, rather than relying on rainfall.

photo attributed to Sarah Gilbert of theguardian.com

Valle pix  Las Nubes Winery

Las Nubes

The first winery we visited was Las Nubes (“The Clouds”). This winery offered sweeping views of the valley and its thick stone walls, reminded me of a Tuscan farm house. Located on 75 acres, the winery grows 15 kinds of grapes, including sauvignon blanc, syrah and chardonnay. Most of the wines are named after clouds such as Cumulus, Nimbus and Nebbiolo, although the wine I chose was called Selección de Barricas, a young, red blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. 

Delicious full-bodied red wine Las-Nubes-bottles  Lovely views of the Guadalupe Valley at La NubesLas nubes 2  After several hours of wine tasting, we were ready to have our meal at the Finca Altozano restaurant. This is an outdoor restaurant in a rustic setting, owned by well-known Mexican chef, Javier Plascencia. Most of the food on the menu comes from local ingredients sourced from the Valle de Guadalupe and local seafood. The atmosphere is relaxed; you could easily believe you were having lunch in a ranch 60 years ago, with no nearby freeways roaring past to distract you. The open kitchen allows you to watch the meat being barbequed and the bread being baked in a wide-fired oven.

Finca Altozano open-air restaurant Finca Restaurant Quails being barbequed over wood fire Fire Roast at FincaOpen kitchen where you can watch the food being cooked Finca kitchen One of the house specialities is Pulpo del Pacifico, tender pieces of marinated octopus served with citrus, ginger, peanuts and cilantro. I normally don’t care for octopus, but these tender morcels were delicious. Pulpo VDG Another dish on the menu was Lengua des Res- ‘Such a beautiful name in Spanish,’ I said to myself. Only when the dish arrived at my table did I realise it was beef tongue, not something I’d ordinarily order for myself, but delicious none the less, served on top of a soft tortilla.

Lengua des Res Lengua To finish off our meal, we were served barbequed quail and shrimp- my mind is now made up- I’m definitely going to come back to this restaurant again!

 Clos de Tres Cantos Winery

The last winery we visited was Clos de Tres Cantos. The owners, Joaquin and Maria, started this winery with sustainability and regard for the local environment in mind. This is evident in the use of local materials in the winery’s buildings: the use of reclaimed wood and recycled bottles creates stunning architectural effects on the grounds.        

The exterior walls of this winery looked Mayan in appearance, while the interior looked almost like a chapel.

Mayan influence with the architecture

IMG_7507

 Inside the Winery- almost like a chapelProcessed with VSCOcam with c2 presetStunning effects created with recycled wine bottles

IMG_7499As our group travelled the 1 1/2 hours back towards the US border, I was apprehensive; how long would we have to wait to cross the border- one hour? two hours? It was getting dark and I wasn’t looking forward to standing in line for two hours. The wait turned out to be 1 hour 15 minutes to cross the pedestrian border and go through customs. This was not too bad but I noted with envy that those people who had Sentri passes were able to march right up to the front of the line (I’m definitely applying for one of those passes for the next time). 

All in all, was it an enjoyable experience? Yes! Club Tengo Hambre were excellent tour leaders and I’d highly recommend them. The best thing, though, was being able to re-visit Mexico again and to see how it has blossomed with its food and wine offerings. Next time you find yourself saying “Tengo Hambre” (I’m hungry), be sure to plan a trip to the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja, California!