Archive for the ‘Hard’ Category

Chocolate Covered Cherries


Difficulty: Hard

3 jars Maraschino Cherries with stems, drained, 3-4 TBS juice reserved
3 TBS butter, softened
3 TBS light corn syrup
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 12-oz. bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz. white chocolate chips
2 TBS shortening

Directions: For the cherries: Drain cherries but do not pat dry. Place on large plate or cookie sheet and place in freezer for at least one hour and until ready to use.

For the fondant: Combine powdered sugar, butter, corn syrup, almond extract and 3 TBS cherry juice in large bowl with mixer. You will need to use your hands at the end to combine thoroughly, mixture may be sticky, dust with powdered sugar to handle. Roll into 6-inch disk and place between 2 large sheets of wax paper. Flatten with rolling pin to 1/8-1/4-inch thick. Place in freezer until ready for use, at least 30 minutes.

Assembly: Remove both cherries and fondant from freezer. Using a butter knife cut fondant into 1 1/2-inch squares and wrap each square around cherry. This is best accomplished when fondant and cherry are very cold, the heat of your hands will warm fondant making it sticky, you will need to return it to the freezer and do this in batches, or have lots of help! Continue wrapping fondant around the cherries. Place back on plate/cookie sheet and return to freezer.

Melt the semi-sweet chocolate with shortening in medium bowl, stir until smooth and shiny. Quickly dip cherries into chocolate making sure the fondant is completely covered. Place on wax paper lined cookie sheet or platter. The dipping is easiest when the stems remain on the cherries, that ideal is not always realized. I had a handful of cherries without stems, I stuck a toothpick in them to dip. Make sure after dipping that the cherry is completely covered so the fondant and juices do not leak out as the cherries “ripen”. When cherries are all covered with chocolate, melt white chocolate chips and place in small zip-loc baggie. Trim off a very small amount on the corner and drizzle over the cherries as you see fit. Refrigerate for a quick-set or let sit for a few hours. Store in an air-tight container and let rest for 3 days so the cherry juice and fondant can combine and create a nice creamy center. Will keep for 2 weeks if they last that long!


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Difficulty: Hard but worth it.

From Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 4

This is a classic Indian dish with a myriad of complex flavors. In biryani, long-grain basmati rice takes center stage, enriched with butter, saffron, and a variety of fresh herbs and pungent spices. Pieces of tender chicken and browned onions are layered with the rice and baked until the flavors have mingled. This is India in a pot, a far cry from everyday chicken and rice. We love it and I make every few months. Chicken thighs ensure the meat stays moist during the cooking time and to cool it off a creamy yogurt sauce with fresh mint and cilantro. To save money and time find the spices at your local whole foods store where they sell in bulk, just buy what you need.

This recipe requires a 3 ½- to 4-quart saucepan about 8 inches in diameter. Do not use a large, wide Dutch oven, as it will adversely affect both the layering of the dish and the final cooking times. Begin simmering the spices in the water prior to preparing the remaining ingredients; the more time the spices have to infuse the water (up to half an hour), the more flavor they will give to the rice. Biryani is traditionally served with a cooling yogurt sauce; ideally, you should make it before starting the biryani to allow the flavors in the sauce to meld.

10 cardamom pods, smashed with knife
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches), cut into 1/2-inch thick coins and smashed
1/2 tsp cumin
3 quarts water
4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
3 TBS butter
2 onions, sliced thin
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped, leave some seeds if you want some heat
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups basmati rice
1/2 tsp saffron threads, lightly crumbled
1/4 cup raisins
2 TBS fresh mint, chopped
2 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped
Yogurt sauce

Directions: Wrap cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ginger, and cumin seed in small piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine. In 3½- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan about 8 inches in diameter, bring water, spice bundle, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt to boil over medium-high heat; reduce to medium and simmer, partially covered, until spices have infused water, at least 15 minutes (but no longer than 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides; add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and dark brown about edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Add jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to bowl, season lightly with salt, and set aside. Wipe out skillet with paper towels, return heat to medium-high, and place chicken thighs skin-side down in skillet; cook, without moving chicken, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken and brown second side, 4 to 5 minutes longer; transfer chicken to plate and remove and discard skin. Tent with foil to keep warm.

If necessary, return spice-infused water to boil over high heat; stir in rice and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain rice through fine-mesh strainer, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid; discard spice bundle. Transfer rice to medium bowl; stir in saffron and currants (rice will turn splotchy yellow). Spread half of rice evenly in bottom of now-empty saucepan using rubber spatula. Scatter half of onion mixture over rice, then place chicken thighs, skinned-side up, on top of onions; add any accumulated chicken juices. Evenly sprinkle with cilantro and mint, scatter remaining onions over herbs, then cover with remaining rice; pour reserved cooking liquid evenly over rice.

Cover saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes (if large amount of steam is escaping from pot, reduce heat to low). Run heatproof rubber spatula around inside rim of saucepan to loosen any affixed rice; using large serving spoon, spoon biryani into individual bowls, scooping from bottom of pot and serving 1 chicken thigh per person.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 cup whole milk or low-fat plain yogurt
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
Salt and ground black pepper

Combine first four ingredients in small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at least 30 minutes to blend flavors.

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Chocolate Decadence

Difficulty: Hard due to time and skill level

This sumptuous chocolate concoction is the ultimate chocolate-lover’s dream cake-actually much closer to a baked chocolate truffle than to a cake. It can be stored in the fridge for weeks or in the freezer for months. The richness of this cake contrasts beautifully with a fresh fruit sauce and fresh whipped cream. Chocolate decadence must be cut when it is chilled but should be served at room temperature for a creamy smooth mouth feel, otherwise it can feel grainy if served cold.

This delightful indulgence comes from “The Professional Pastry Chef” book by Bo Friberg. Every recipe yields at least 2 of everything and is in weight. I have given you the “American” version-cups and teaspoons for those of you without a scale and this recipe will make 1 cake.

My father-in-law and I share a love of all things chocolate and not the pansy milk chocolate. Deep, dark, rich and true chocolate. So in honor of him and to celebrate Father’s Day I whipped out my monster book and hoped and prayed it would turn out. It did. Quite beautifully. I have a habit of making recipes for the first time when I am gifting the goods or having people over. It is nerve racking but ultimately turns out well. This one didn’t disappoint.

Melted butter
6 oz dark chocolate
7 oz unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks plus 3 TBS unsalted butter, at room temp

6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
Cocoa powder for dusting

Boiling hot water in kettle for water bath

Directions: Brush melted butter over the inside of 10-inch cake pan or 10-inch springform pan. Place parchment paper cut to fit in bottom and butter the paper. If using a springform pan, wrap the outside of the pan tightly with several layers of foil. Set aside.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. Bring the water and 3/4 cup sugar to a boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chocolate; stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add the butter, in chunks and stir until melted. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Whip the eggs with the 1/2 cup sugar at high speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Do not whip to maximum volume; incorporating too much air will make the finished cake crumbly and difficult to work with. Very gently, fold the melted chocolate mixture in the the egg mixture. The chocolate may be warm but not hot.

Place batter into prepared pan. Place pan in a water bath.

Bake immediately at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until top feels firm. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. The chocolate must completely set before you unmold the cake.

Unmold the cake by briefly warming the outside bottom of the pan (moving it over a gas or electric burner just until the cake moves freely inside the pan) and invert it onto serving platter. I used a springform pan and removed the sides, carefully slid a butter knife under the bottom to separate and then inverted onto cake stand. Dust top with cocoa powder, cut into slices while still cold and serve at room temperature with whipped cream and a fresh berry sauce. 

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Lemon Meringue Tart

Difficulty: Hard

Sweet Pastry Crust:
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Lemon Curd:
6 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest

4 large egg whites
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Always remove the zest first before halving and squeezing the lemon.
Thin, smooth skinned lemons at room temperature yield the most juice.
Thick, bumpy textured cold lemons give the maximum amount of zest. Use a fine strainer to remove the seeds and pulp from the juice.

Sweet Pastry Crust: In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside. Place the butter in your mixer and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Don’t over mix or the butter will separate and lighten in color. Add flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Don’t overwork or pastry will be hard when baked.

Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until firm.

Have ready an 8 – 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 11 – 12 inch circle that is about 1/8 inch thick. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry. The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.

When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll. Unroll onto top of tart pan. Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan).

Gently lay in pan and with a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. With a thumb up movement, again press dough into pan. Roll rolling pin over top again to get rid of any extra pastry.

Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten in the flour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is dry and lightly golden brown.

For Lemon Curd:
While the crust is baking make the Lemon Curd. In a medium saucepan over medium heat whisk together the 3/4 cup sugar, water and lemon juice until blended. Bring to a simmer. In medium bowl whisk together egg yolks, corn starch and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Gradually pour hot mixture into egg yolks stirring constantly until combined. Transfer back to saucepan and continue to cook over medium heat 1-2 minutes longer until mixture has thickend and reached 160 degrees F on a thermometer.

Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest. Immediately pour the lemon curd into the baked crust and smooth the top.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (177 degrees C). Bake the tart for about 10 minutes or until the lemon curd is firm but still a little wobbly in the center. Do not let it brown or burn.

For Meringue: In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Using a spoon, place dollops of the meringue over the entire surface of the hot lemon curd, starting at the outside edge of the tart. (Make sure the meringue comes right up to the crust and there are no gaps between the crust and the lemon curd.) Then, with the back of your spoon, gently press down on the meringue to get rid of any air pockets and to make sure all the lemon curd is covered with the meringue. If desired, swirl the meringue making a few decorative peaks. Return the tart to the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the meringue has nicely browned.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, away from any drafts. When cool, serve or else cover and refrigerate.
Serves 6 – 8

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