Friday, July 28, 2006

Five Questions for The Hippy Gourmet

(photo courtesy

Chef Bruce Brennan recently took the time to answer five questions for Paper Palate. To read my questions, along with his answers, and to find out what's new with The Hippy Gourmet, you can read the article, in its entirety, at Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network.

Until we meet for coffee,

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sweet Snails, Sleeping

Sometimes sleep seems an impossible task. These are quiet times in the night, requiring quiet work to tire both mind and body into a readiness for slumber. Breadmaking by hand is quiet, busy work. As with insomnia, patience is needed. It was during last night's late night, while replying to emails and catching up with familiar websites, that I found this simple recipe, for Pain Aux Raisins and Cream Cheese Snails, from Floyd at The Fresh Loaf. So sweet and charming, I knew I simply had to bake these delightful little treasures as well.

The base is conveniently the same for these two recipes, both taken from The Village Baker , written by Joe Ortiz. While I prepared the base last night, the majority of this project actually took place early this morning. I cannot praise this dough enough. It works beautifully and I was more than pleased with my sweet little 'snails,' as they slept peacefully during their final rest, before being baked in the oven. Then, while still warm from the oven, I immediately sampled one of each. And, "Oh My!" It is nearly impossible to attempt a proper description. These lovely little pretties must be baked and tasted for oneself, in order to truly appreciate how delicious they really are.

Pain Au Lait
(recipe courtesy

1 package (2 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup water
3 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons powdered milk
4 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
6 tablespoons butter, softened
If using active dry yeast, proof it in 1/2 cup of warm water for 10 minutes. (Alternately, instant yeast can be mixed in with the dry ingredients in the next step. )

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, powdered milk, and sugar. Add the yeast, water, and eggs and mix until ingredients are combined. Add the softened butter and mix or knead until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. You should have a fairly sticky, satiny dough.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Punch the dough down, return it to the bowl and cover it again, and place it in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, divide the dough in half and, while still cold, use each half to prepare one batch (8) of each type of snails (or two batches (16) of one).

Before beginning, you'll need to make a simple egg glaze that you will use in both recipes:
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
Whisk to combine.
Cream Cheese Snails
(recipe courtesy

Ingredients for Filling:
3/4 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon egg glaze

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, approximately 8 by 12 inches. Slice the rectangle into 8 long strips.

Stretch each strip as long and thin as you can (Ortiz suggests 24 inches). Twist each strip and then curl each up to make a snail shape.
Place the snails on a parchment-lined or well greased baking sheet and brush them gently with the egg glaze. Use your fingers to create a well in the center of the snail and then place one tablespoon of the cheese mixture/filling on top.
Let the snails rise for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until they are puffy. Preheat the oven to 385 degrees and bake the snails for between 15 to 17 minutes, until they are golden brown. Makes 8 snails.

Immediately after removing from the oven, paint then with a light sugar glaze:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pain Aux Raisins
(recipe courtesy

Ingredients for Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, approximately 8 by 10 inches. Coat the rectangle with the egg glaze and then spread the cinnamon, raisin, and sugar mixture/filling over it.

Roll the the dough up into a large log and then slice it into 8 pieces. Place each of the pieces onto a parchment-lined or well greased baking sheet, press down on them with the palm of your hand to flatten them, and then paint them gently with the egg glaze.

Let the snails rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are puffy. Preheat the oven to 385 degrees and bake the snails for between 15 to 17 minutes, until they are golden brown. Makes 8 snails.
Immediately after removing from the oven, paint then with the same sugar glaze you painted the cream cheese snails with above.
Until we meet for coffee,

Monday, July 24, 2006

Charcoal and Cannoli

In a recent post, I revisited younger days of peak personal creativity; days where art, poetry and much tea prevailed. Later days followed with continued creativity, although accompanied not by tea, but by coffee instead. It was during these years of so much written and visual creation that my love affair with coffee was renewed. Espresso filled days of sketching and painting, and days spent striving to be clever over steaming cups of cappuccino. This is when I was still listening, incessantly, to the distinctive and divine genius of Michael Hedges. So many days of personal creation when pencil and charcoal also made distinctive noise, when pulled across heavy paper.

These days, my creativity occurs mostly in the kitchen. And just as charcoal has a distinctive feel when held between fingers creating, thick, sweet dough also has a distinctive feel between fingers baking. Without a pasta roller, working with cannoli dough demands a certain patience. But finally, the dough is ready, then cut, molded, and fried. The results more than reward the effort. A truly happy calm comes from delicious homemade cannoli. Homemade mocha cannoli creates near euphoria.

Mocha Cannoli
(recipe courtesy The Ultimate Espresso Machine Cookbook, Tom Lacalamita)

For the Cannoli Shells:
4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons vegetable shortening
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons white white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, or more as needed
(I added a little unsweetened cocoa also).

For the Mocha Cannoli Cream:
2 cups whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I substituted confectioners sugar)
2 tablespoons Espresso Concentrate (I substituted Espresso Coleur)
3 tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate chips (I substituted regular sized chips)

To finish the Dessert:
Vegetable oil for frying
Confectioners sugar for sprinkling
(I also dusted with unsweetened cocoa powder.)

Prepare the cannoli dough: In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening, using an electric mixer. Mix in half of the beaten egg (approximately 2 tablespoons, reserving the remainder), vinegar, water, honey, and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour and mix until a stiff dough is formed. Add more flour if necessary. Form the dough into a flat circle. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare the cannoli cream: Place the ricotta in a large strainer lined with cheesecloth or a sheet of paper towel. Place over a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight to drain.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the drained ricotta, sugar, and espresso concentrate. Beat on high with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Fold in the chocolate chips. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare the cannoli shells: When the dough has chilled sufficiently, gently roll it out on a lightly floured work surface until it is slightly less than 1/8-inch thick. You can also roll the dough out using a hand-cranked pasta maker as follows: Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape into balls. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand and sprinkle lightly with flour. Roll the dough through the pasta maker on the highest setting. Reinsert the dough and roll through the next succeedingly lower settings until the dough is 1/8-inch thick. Once the dough is rolled out, cut out as many 4-inch circles as possible. You should wind up with 18 to 20 circles.
Lightly grease the cannoli tubes with vegetable oil or shortening. With the rolling pin, gently flatten each 4-inch circle of dough, in one direction only, so that it becomes oval (the oval should be slightly shorter than the cannoli tube). Wrap the dough oval around the cannoli tube. Lightly brush one edge with reserved beaten egg to seal. Do not get egg on the tube or it will stick to the pastry. Continue until all the tubes are wrapped with the dough.

Fry the cannoli shells: Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a medium-size, deep skillet to approximately 350°F. Fry the cannoli, two at a time, until lightly golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. While still warm, gently slide out the cannoli tube and repeat the process until all the shells are fried and the remaining dough has been used.

Fill the cannoli shells: When the shells are cooled and you are ready to serve, remove the filling from the refrigerator. Fill the shells by using either a teaspoon or a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain, round tip. Dust with confectioners sugar. Cannoli shells can be prepared and stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week before filling. If you like to plan very far in advance, you can store the unfilled shells in the freezer for up to 30 days.

Yields approximately 18 cannoli.

Until we meet for coffee,

Friday, July 21, 2006

Martha's Jelly Roll

I recently reviewed Martha Stewart's recipe for a classic summer dessert: the Jelly Roll (included in the July issue of Martha Stewart Living). This simple dessert is well suited for either a mid-Summer brunch or an afternoon service of coffee or tea. When served slightly chilled, the almond flavor of the cake combined with the sweet, fruity jam makes this dessert a refreshing finish to any meal. To read the recipe in its entirety, visit Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network.

Until we meet for coffee,

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Five Questions for Lidia Bastianich

Chef Lidia Bastianich recently took time out from her very busy schedule to answer five questions for Paper Palate. To read my questions, along with her answers, and to find out what's new with Chef Bastianich, you can read the article, in its entirety, at Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network.

Until we meet for coffee,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Time for Tea and Remembrance...

a unique cake, that is not oven-baked, but rather quietly and peacefully steamed...

Steamed Green Tea Cake
(recipe courtesy

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons powdered green tea (Matcha)
(I simply used finely ground loose green tea leaves,
further ground in food processor.)
6 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 egg whites
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds, garnish (I omitted these.)

Set a bamboo steamer large enough to contain a 9x9 inch pan over simmering water. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and green tea powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, water and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until mixture has tripled in volume. Fold in the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into the cake pan. Place cake pan in steamer. Stretch a kitchen towel over the cake pan without touching the surface, then cover with steamer lid. Steam cake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and cut into pieces before serving. Yields 12 servings. (However, I made two smaller 4-inch individual cakes, as opposed to one large single cake. And I also dusted the tops with confectioners sugar.)

(Each week at Sweetnicks, there is a weekly round-up of healthy contributions from various food bloggers, promoting the use of antioxidant rich foods in home cooking; since green tea is extremely rich in antioxidants, this Steamed Green Tea Cake will be my offering, in remembrance of Michael Hedges, nearly 10 years after his passing, to this week's ARF/5-A-Day plate.)

Far more than ten years have now passed, since I was living in the midst of a somewhat personal bohemian renaissance. I was sketching and painting, attempting (in vain) to read nearly every word ever written, and myself writing depressing, but philosophical poetry for what was then known to be independent journals and introspective zines. It was during this time of constant creativity, during those early days of bongos and birks, incense and candles, and eating, "nothing with a face," that I discovered the amazing, mesmerizing, and distinctive beauty of Michael Hedges. To hear his music, or better still, to see his music (many of his performances are available on vhs/dvd), is to witness a talent so incredibly impressive and awe-inspiring, that it renders any articulate description impossible.

Much time and many more personal revolutions have passed, since those earlier years, when it was more about what I didn't eat, as opposed to what I did. When so many ambitious, yet naive creative endeavors were pursued, while drinking seemingly endless cups of tea. (These were considerably younger days, when I actually took more tea than coffee...believe it or not, Janet). And while I very rarely eat tofu anymore, and nowdays, I eat nearly everything with a face, my admiration for the music of Michael Hedges remains, stronger than ever.

Sadly, in 1997, Michael Hedges was killed in an automobile accident, shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday. Despite his sudden departure, his legacy remains, stronger than ever.

Until we meet for tea,


Monday, July 17, 2006

So Good, I Have to Share...

ReMARKable Palate is a truly extraordinary blogsite from Chef Mark Tafoya, a Certified Personal Chef in New York City and the Executive Chef for The Gilded Fork, the stylish online culinary magazine that produces The Culinary Podcast Network. These are also must visit links, trust me! With well written blog entries that correspond to eclectic podcasts that are both highly informative and extremely entertaining, Chef Mark'sReMARKable Palate is, well, remarkable. In addition to Chef Mark's well written and well spoken words, his site also contains much helpful information and many useful resources, including ideas for dinner menus, recipes, tips for proper food handling and storage, and some really cool links, as well. If you're not already listening to (and reading) Chef Mark, you simply must visit his site! You'll be more than happy with time spent with Chef Mark at ReMARKable Palate.

Until we meet for coffee,

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Friday "Pick-me-up" for My Favorite Domestic Goddess...

Recently, I was both intrigued and inspired by Ivonne's strawberry tiramisu at Cream Puffs in Venice. And since, I also always bake my own ladyfingers, use homemade whipped cream, and real mascarpone cheese in my desserts (and yes, mascarpone cheese can be homemade from cream cheese and heavy cream, although I often buy it), I agree with her sentiments, regarding the ubiquitous, manufactured versions of this wonderful dessert: it's enough to make you turn away, disheartened. But who can remain cross with such a delicious dessert as this?

Autumn, my favorite domestic goddess, lives two thousand miles away from me. We are first cousins, but grew up like sisters. Despite the distance, for months, Autumn has wanted me to make tiramisu for The Suburban Apron Company. Motivated by Ivonne's strawberry tiramisu, and also because Autumn mentioned it again, a few days ago in a telephone conversation, I made her a chocalate tiramisu, recipe courtesy Ghirardelli (her favorite brand of chocolate).

As with many luscious desserts, the history of tiramisu is typically vague, having varied sources of alleged origin. Anna Maria Volpi provides an excellent geneaology of tiramisu on her site, A Passion for Cooking. One primary point of agreement is the literal translation of the name, tiramisu, which is defined as, "pick-me-up," in Italian. So, here's a Friday "pick-me-up" for Autumn, and for all of you who have kindly stopped by The Suburban Apron Company.

Ghirardelli Tiramisu
(recipe courtesy


1/2 cup(s) Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon(s) Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1/3 cup(s) confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup(s) coffee-flavored liqueur (see personal substitution)
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt (optional)
1 1/2 cup(s) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoon(s) water 2 teaspoon(s) powdered instant espresso coffee
(or use coarsely ground espresso beans and vanilla extract, as I did)
6 ounce(s) ladyfingers, halved (about 2 dozen)
(or double if using unsplit, homemade ladyfingers)
12 ounce(s) mascarpone cheese

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mascarpone, 6 tablespoons of the ground chocolate, 1/4 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup of the liqueur, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract, and the salt with a wire whisk. Set aside. In a small bowl beat 1 cup of the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. In another small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup liqueur, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, the water, and the espresso powder. Line a 2 1/2-quart glass or crystal bowl with one fourth of the ladyfingers; brush with 2 tablespoons of the espresso mixture. Spoon one third of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Repeat, making 2 more layers of ladyfingers brushed with the espresso mixture and topped with the mascarpone mixture. Top with the remaining ladyfingers, gently pressing them into the cheese mixture. Brush the ladyfingers with the remaining espresso mixture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ground chocolate over the top. In a small mixing bowl, beat the remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream and the remaining confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream into a decorating bag with a large star-shaped tip. Pipe large rosettes on top of the dessert. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of ground chocolate on the rosettes. Chill at least 2 hours. Yields 15 servings.

(If you cannot find mascarpone cheese, substitute 16 ounces of softened cream cheese and 3 tablespoons of milk. Beat on medium until smooth and fluffy. Add 6 tablespoons of the ground chocolate, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and omit the salt; set aside. Continue as the recipe directs.)

For the coffee-flavored liqueur, I substituted Chef Markus Farbinger's Espresso Couleur, (recipe courtesy Baking with Julia):

1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup hot brewed espresso

Place a wide straight-sided heavy sauté pan (a chicken fyer with high sides would be ideal) over medium heat. When the pan is hot, sprinkle a little sugar into the pan. As soon as some of the sugar melts, sprinkle more sugar over it. (You are going to caramelize the sugar spot by spot.) When half of the sugar has been added, start stirring the sugar with a wooden spoon and adding the remainder of the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Again, you don't want to add more sugar than the caramel can absorb--you're still working spot by spot.

Keep cooking the caramel until it's darker than you ever thought caramel should be. The sugar will smoke--lots; be really, really dark--really; and look foamy. When the sugar bubbles, remove the pan from the heat. Stand away from the pan and add a little of the hot espresso. Keep adding the espresso little by little and stirring it into the sugar. (If the espresso is too cold or you add it too quickly, the sugar will seize and you'll have lumps, a problem that's not irreparable--you can melt the lumps--but is avoidable.) When all of the espresso has been incorporated, turn up the heat and bring the mixture back to the boil.

Place a metal spoon in a heatproof canning jar, pour the extract into the jar, allow to cool, then cover. When it cools, its consistency will be syrupy. You can make the couleur up to two months ahead and keep it in a cool place.

Until we meet for coffee,

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Yummy Homemade S'Mores!

Yes, homemade s'mores! Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart, as it seems that so many of my favorite good things come from her recipe collections. So, for my special Fourth of July recipe review at Paper Palate and theWell Fed Network, I made homemade graham cracker cookies, homemade chocolate bars, and yes, even homemade marshmallows (those really cool square ones) to create melt-in-your-mouth-mess-up-your-face-more-delicious-than-words-can-describe s'mores. To read the recipe in its entirety, visit my July 4th weekend article atPaper Palate.

Until we meet for coffee,