Archive for February, 2014

Dark Chocolate Orange Pudding

February 21, 2014

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You know that kind of hot chocolate that’s super thick and dark and, well, ridiculously delicious?  I love it.  And lucky for me there is a hot chocolate festival going on right now.  It is exactly this thick, European-style drinking chocolate.  Except they are brilliant and take it a step further, because the festival has a new flavor every day for the entire month.  It is, of course, perfect for this time of year, being piping hot, with wintery flavors and so satisfying.  I go everyday.  It is not good for me.

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So, of course, I needed to figure out how to make that kind of chocolate satisfaction at home.  The hot chocolate festival was my inspiration.  What I did, though, was refrigerate it, turn it snack-like (less of an indulgence, if you will), and add my own summer-like (even though oranges are at their peak in the winter – am I the only one that thinks that’s odd?!  let’s discuss this at another time) flavorings.

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Call it wishful thinking for a cold, summer-like dessert, or call it practical for someone who no longer needs any more winter of indulgence.  It doesn’t matter.  All you really need to know is that it only takes 20 minutes to make this super comforting dessert.  So, go on.  Have it warm, and call it weather-appropriate!  Chill it and, you know, call it pudding.  Either way, you will be glad you did.

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Dark Chocolate Orange Pudding (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces bittersweet (between 65 and 75%) chocolate, coarsely chopped
zest of 1 orange

Stir together the cornstarch, sugar, salt and orange zest in a medium saucepan.  Slowly pour in the milk in a thin steam, whisking as you pour, so that lumps don’t form.  Mix until fully incorporated.  Place over low heat and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary if lumps begin to form.  After about 20 minutes or so, just before it starts to simmer, the mixture should begin to thicken, enough that it will coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Add the chocolate, and continue stirring for another 4-5 minutes, until chocolate is fully incorporated, there are no bits of chocolate left, and mixture is quite thick.  Remove from heat and run mixture through a fine strainer.

Distribute among individual pudding cups or one large serving bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  If you don’t like the skin that forms on a pudding, place the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding.  If you like it, loosely cover the container.  Place in refrigerator and chill until it is cool and set, about 2 to 3 hours.  The orange flavor develops more as the pudding sits.

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Russian Tea Cakes

February 13, 2014

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The Olympics are back!  Which means that I’m back to being glued to my TV, tearing up at medal ceremonies, getting caught up in competition and wishing that I had the balance to get into speed skating myself.  (I don’t).

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But most of all, I love the international celebration aspect.  Just like last time, I wanted to make something host country-themed to bring in the Olympics!  And then I googled Russian desserts.  The search was a bust.  The desserts that I found were either too simple, or way too complicated, or not distinctly Russian enough.  I was contemplating making borscht instead.

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And then I went to the staple: Russian tea cakes.  But Russian tea cakes are actually a perfect dessert to make during the Olympics, because, as it turns out, they are also called Mexican wedding cakes, and Italian wedding cookies, and Austrian crescents, or as us Americans like to call them: butterballs.  These cookies are the most perfect representative of the Olympics.  And they’re delicious too!  A gold medal for all.

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Russian Tea Cakes (recipe adapted from Epicurious)

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + an additional 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted (you can also use almonds or hazelnuts or walnuts)
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon

Beat together softened butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add vanilla and stir and stir to incorporate.  Mix in flour and nuts until incorporated.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Scoop out dough into 1-inch balls.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake until just firm to touch, and turning lightly golden brown, about 18 minutes.  Meanwhile, stir together remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar with the cinnamon.  Transfer to rack and cool for about 5 minutes.  Roll completely in the powdered sugar mixture.  Cool completely.  Roll cookies in powdered sugar again and enjoy!

Apple Walnut Strudel

February 5, 2014

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This is an important recipe, because the groundhog told us that we are in store for another six weeks of winter, and the weather people are telling us that we don’t even have to wait 6 weeks, because the next winter storm is already here, and you just looked in your cupboard and you’re out of hot chocolate.  This is an important recipe because we all need comfort in our lives right now, and, friends, let’s be honest: there is nothing more comforting than caramelized apples and nuts in a flaky pastry, all warm and toasty out of the oven.

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This recipe will take you back to a simpler time – October, really.  When the crisp air was just setting in, and cold weather meant hay rides and pumpkin patches, and there was promise of holidays coming just around the corner.  A time when all you were thinking about was apples and everything you can make with them!  It will take you to a happier time.  Not early February when your wool socks have worn down, and when you are at your most content under a blanket…any blanket.  Wow.  This really is a downer of a post!

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But it’s not!  Because it brings to you this delicious apple strudel.  It’s so simple to put together.  It has all the components of an apple pie without that heavy, dessert-y feel.  It’s light and crisp (like fall!), and just lovely with a cup of tea.  Perhaps you want to make it today as the snow falls.  It’s perfect to eat inside looking out the window.

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Apple Walnut Strudel  (slightly adapted from the SoNo Baking Company Cookbook)

Filling:

2.5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. all spice

1/4 tsp. grated fresh nutmeg

pinch of salt

2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and diced in 1/2 inch cubes

juice of 1/2 lemon

In a pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add sugar, spices and salt and mix together so they are blended together as much as possible.  Add apples and stir to make sure that all of the apples are coated.  Cook until apples are soft, about 15 minutes.  Take off the heat and add lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Let filling cool completely.

Pastry:

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

6 sheets frozen filo dough, thawed according to box directions

turbinado sugar, to sprinkle

In a small bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon and set aside.  Set up a station with the cinnamon sugar, walnuts in another bowl, and melted butter in a third bowl.  Lay down one sheet of filo, with the long side, or width parallel with the work surface, and carefully brush with melted butter until it completely covers the sheet with a light layer.  Carefully place down another sheet and repeat with butter.  Sprinkle the second sheet evenly with cinnamon sugar and 1/3 of the walnuts.

Place another sheet on top and brush with butter.  Place a fourth sheet on top, and brush with butter, sprinkle with half of the remaining cinnamon and sugar and 1/2 of the walnuts.  Continue with the 5th sheet and brush with butter.  Layer the last and 6th sheet on top, brush with butter sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and the rest of the walnuts.

Spread the apple filling in a 3 inch wide layer at the bottom of the dough, leaving about 1/2 inch pastry at each end and 1 inch at the bottom.  Roll the strudel from the bottom into a flat log.  Tick in the edges.  Set the strudel, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet.  Pierce several times with a knife to let out steam while baking.  Brush with remaining melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake until golden, about 25-30 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces.

Photo 4 Credit: Farhat Umar