Friday, February 28, 2014

hibernate.

Gearing up for another weekend of polar vortex like temperatures and Monday's onslaught of snow by baking pita, assembling the baked pasta of my dreams, and tackling these dishes from two of my favorite food bloggers. (Morning Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel from my imaginary best friend Deb and the winter version of the classic BLT from Not Without Salt.)  

Looking forward to hibernating.  

(This kitchen/dinning room/open floor pan is killing me.) 








































Image via Pinterest

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

whole wheat and rye cranberry scones.



























Tyler and I have a very specific Saturday breakfast ritual (we are creatures of habit).  In a nutshell it involves a visit to our favorite French bakery for a loaf of multi-grain bread and a chocolate-almond croissant to share. (We may be known there as the people who bring the most pathetic reusable bag ever.  Each week they comment on how it still lives on and they finally felt so bad for us that they gifted us our own Choc-o-pain tote!  I feel so special.) From there we return to the apartment where we eat cheesy scrambled eggs, toast, and drink coffee while watching the Food Network.  I love nothing more then those lazy mornings.  

Sunday's on the other hand, are a mess.  Some times we have a proper breakfast, other weeks it's a weird mash up of avocado toast and grapefruit, occasionally it involves an assortment of refrigerator leftovers (the worst).    I'm been trying to make an effort to improve things because eating a bad breakfast does not bode well if you are trying to have a superior Sunday.  These scones are my first attempt at upping the breakfast ante and I have to say I really brought it in week 1.  Scones are a brilliant cross between biscuits and muffins and these are the best of the best.  Despite the inclusion of both whole wheat and rye flour, the manage to remain tender and delicate.  The cranberries add a bit of tartness and the zest a little acidity which is especially welcome during the winter months when it feels as if nothing excites your taste buds.  Slathered with some butter and orange marmalade and served with tea, you've got breakfast.  Really good breakfast.  

Also, in a weird twist of fate, the NYTimes published an article on scones today which is an excellent read.  



























Whole Wheat and Rye Cranberry Scones
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen The Cookbook

Deb mentioned in her cookbook that the dough was really damp for her.  My dough I actually found to be on the dry side.  Not sure if that was because I used both farmer’s cheese and cranberries (2 items that are less moist then ricotta and raspberries).  Regardless of how your dough ends up, keep your counter and your hands well-floured and you won’t have any trouble.

1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons (25 grams) rye flour (optional)
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (100 grams) all-purpose flour (if you want to omit the rye flour do 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Zest of 1 orange
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 cup (136 grams or 4 3/4 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
3/4 cup (189 grams) whole milk ricotta or farmer cheese
1/3 cup (79 ml) heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and orange zest together.

With a pastry blender: Add the butter (no need to chop it first) and use the blender to both cut the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in cranberries.
Without a pastry blender: Cut the butter into small pieces with a knife and work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add chopped cranberries and stir them into the butter-flour mixture.

Both methods: Add the ricotta or farmer cheese and heavy cream together and stir them in to form a dough with a flexible spatula.  Using your hands, gently knead dough into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl.

With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter, flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 7-inch square about 1-inch tall. With a large knife, divide the dough into 8 or 9 even squares. Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet with a spatula. Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. It’s best to cool them about halfway before eating them, so they can set a bit more

Do ahead: Scones are always best the day they are baked. However, if you wish to get a lead on them, you can make them, arrange them on your parchment-lined sheet and freeze them. If you’re prepping just one day in advance, cover the tray with plastic wrap and bake them the day you need them. If you’re preparing them more than one day in advance, once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container. Bring them back to a parchment-lined sheet when you’re ready to bake them. No need to defrost the frozen, unbaked scones, just add 2 to 3 minutes to your baking time.



Monday, February 24, 2014

soft polenta with mushrooms and arugula.



Despite this being the winter of the polar vortex and 40 inches of snow there wasn't a whole lot of stick-to-your-ribs comfort food cooking happening in my kitchen this year.  There were soups.  Lots of soups.  Lots of squash based soups (I sense a theme).  But I found myself shying away this season from the stews and baked pasta dishes I would normally embrace.  I'm currently scratching my head as to why this was the case (especially since cheesy baked pastas are the love of my life), so let's try and rectify this situation shall we?  

Polenta with mushrooms is the definition of stick-to-your-ribs winter eating but it doesn't require the level of time and effort most winter dishes seem to call for.  I find the transformation of cornmeal into polenta a rather magical process.  Taking the simplest of ingredients (water, cornmeal, salt) and turning into a luxurious meal is incredibly satisfying and it makes you feel so fancy and adult-like (even if you are eating dinner on your living room floor). Here soft polenta creates the perfect bed for a tangled mess of meaty mushrooms and spicy arugula garnished with just enough parmesan that you feel indulgent.  

Soft Polenta with Mushrooms and Arugula

Serves 2

This is winter eating at is finest.  It somehow manages to be both hearty and comforting without being overly heavy.  No cream, minimal cheese, it's "light" winter eating though I could think of a million ways to up the indulgence factor but really that's not necessary (sometimes restraint is a good thing).  

Soft Polenta
Recipe from Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Bastianich

2 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal (polenta)
1/4 - 1/3 cup Pecorino or Parmesan cheese 

In a heavy bottom medium-sized pot add the water, salt, oil, and bay leaf.  Whisking vigorously with one hand, pour the polenta into the water in a thin steady stream (a spouted measuring cup is helpful here). Keep whisking until all the cornmeal is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Turn on medium-low heat and gradually bring the polenta to a boil. This will take about 8 minutes. You can leave the pot for a couple of minutes but stir frequently and thoroughly, especially the bottom, sides, and corners. As soon as you feel thickening, use a sturdy wooden spoon in place of the whisk, so you can scrap the polenta from the corners and mix it in. 

The polenta will become very thick as it gets close to the boil, then big bubbles will rise and burst in (and out of) the pot. At this point, lower the heat to get a continuous but slow perking - just a couple of bubbles at a time. Set a cover on top ajar so polenta doesn't pop all over the stove.
Cook the polenta at this rate for another 20 - 25 minutes, frequently stirring, and adjusting heat as necessary. Stir more continuously near the end, scraping up the thickest polenta from the bottom and corners. 

When the polenta is glossy and just pulling away from the sides it is done and you may turn off the heat.  Stir in the Parmesan.  Divide the polenta between the two plates.  Top with half the mushroom mixture (recipe below).

Mushrooms With Arugula

1/2 pound of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup arugula
Additional Parmesan/Pecorino for garnish

In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the the mushrooms to the pan and stir to coat in the butter.  As they cook, the mushrooms will begin to brown and then they will release their own juices, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and sherry vinegar (if using).  Stir to combine. Continue to cook for another minute or two.  Add in the arugula and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.  



Thursday, February 20, 2014

olive.

Olive branches are my latest obsession.  

They somehow manage to be both regal and warm at the same time.  

(My love for all things Italian will never diminish.)







































Image via OnceWed.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

deep chocolate cake with orange icing.



























I try and refrain from saying things like "this is the best" or "this is my most favorite" on this blog mostly because those superlatives are always changing.  I spend so much of my time reading food blogs, cookbooks, and magazines and then trying new recipes that very few things remain consistent (except for my Mom's cooking, that is always the best).  My tastes and opinions are ever evolving. (Which I think is the whole point of cooking now isn't it?)

With that being said, this cake may qualify as the best chocolate cake I have ever made.  (No really, it is.)  

Minutes after icing it, I ate a healthy slice of it.  I wasn't expecting to be blown away, it's a chocolate cake after all, I've eaten hundreds of slices of chocolate cake, but it was extraordinary.  Extraordinary!  The cake itself was rich with a deep and intense chocolate flavor.  It was moist and perfectly dense which is exactly how I like my chocolate cake.  The icing is everything I love in icing.  Creamy yet not cloyingly sweet with a subtle tang (sour cream is so necessary in desserts).  The orange comes through yet doesn't overpower (what's better then orange and chocolate?) and it's pink! 

Make this.  Now.  

Deep Chocolate Cake with Orange Icing
Recipe adapted from Food52

I changed around the frosting a little so it uses only items most people would have on hand (like orange juice instead of orange extract and orange liquor).  I also swapped out blood oranges for regular oranges since I clearly still had Valentine’s Day on the brain.  I can’t deny my love for pink. 

Chocolate Cake

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup strong coffee (or use instant espresso)
½ cup unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk

Heat the oven to 350°F, first positioning a rack in the center of the oven. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Combine the brown sugar, coffee, butter and chocolate in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter and chocolate are almost completely melted. Remove from the heat and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla and set aside to cool.

When the chocolate mixture is about at room temperature, add the eggs and using a wooden spoon, stir well to combine. Add the dry ingredients and the milk in stages, alternating between the two and stirring well between each addition. (The batter should be fairly smooth, but it’s okay if you end up with some small lumps.)

Pour the batter into a greased pan measuring roughly 8 1/2” x 11” and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back when you press it lightly with your finger and a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack and then ice (recipe below). 

Orange Icing

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 ½ tablespoon orange zest
2 -3 teaspoons orange juice or concentrated orange syrup (by cooking down the orange juice)
1 tablespoon mascarpone or sour cream
1 – 2 tablespoon milk

Using a wooden spoon, combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in in the zest, orange juice/orange syrup and mascarpone/sour cream, and then switch to a whisk to attack any lumps. Gradually whisk in the milk, adding just enough to make the icing spreadable.

Spread a thin layer of icing over the top of the cake and refrigerate briefly so that the icing firms up a little. Cut the cake into squares to serve.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

alcove.

I want to hibernate here for the next 6 weeks.  

See you when it's Spring.

(This is the cozy alcove kitchen of my dreams.)







































Image via Pinterest

Monday, February 17, 2014

chinese steamed buns.

























I want to preface this post by saying these are better, way better then what you can get in your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. I've spent weeks thinking about them, analyzing recipes, buying the ingredients, only to be distracted and taken away from the kitchen (this wedding has really taken over). Finally, this three-day weekend allowed me the luxury to conquer the steamed pork buns that have eluded me for weeks now. 

These buns are insanely fluffy (I would happily rest my head on a pile of them) which makes them perfect for cradling a sweet and salty ground pork filling.  I love how perfectly portable they are.  How dainty they look from the outside and how surprisingly flavorful and spicy the inside is (especially when served with extra Sriracha on the side).  We are obsessed with them which is why Tyler and I polished off half a dozen during our awesomely lazy day-off.    


Chinese Steamed Buns
Recipe adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

Makes 12 Buns

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup nonfat dry milk
1 cup hot water (120 – 130 degrees)
1 tablespoon shortening or butter
½ teaspoon baking powder

By Hand or Mixer: In a mixing or mixer bowl measure 2 cups flour and add the dry ingredients, except the baking powder.  Stir to blend, and fashion a well in the flour.  Pour the hot water into the well and drop in the shortening or butter.  Let stand for a moment to soften the shortening or butter.  With a wooden spoon or mixer flat beater, stir vigorously for 2 minutes.  Sprinkle in the baking powder.  Add flour, ¼ cup at a time, mixed into the body of the dough until it forms a rough but elastic mass that can be lifted from the bowl.  If using a mixer, attach the dough hook.  Be careful not to overload the dough with flour as it needs to be soft to stretch over the filling. 

If by hand, lift the dough to a floured work surface and knead with a strong rhythm of push-turn-fold.  Add sprinkles of flour if the dough is sticky but keep it on the moist side rather than making a hard ball.  If under the dough hook, the dough will clean the sides of the bowl and form a ball around the hook.  If it sticks to the sides, add small portions of flour.  Knead for 10 minutes. 

By Processor: Attach the steel blade.  Measure 2 ¼ cups of flour into the work bowl and add the dry ingredient except the baking powder.  Blend.  With the processor running, pour the water through the tube; add shortening or butter.  Stop machine and sprinkle in the baking powder. 

Add flour, ¼ cup at a time with the processor on.  The amount of flour is sufficient when the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and rides on the blade.

Process with the machine running for 50 seconds.  The dough will be somewhat sticky when taken from the machine but a dusting of flour will make it possible to work.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and put aside at room temperature to double in volume, 45 minutes.  

To Prepare: Punch down the dough and divide into 12 equal pieces.  Form each into a ball and then flatten each into a 4” circle.  Place a spoonful of filling (recipe below) in the center of each circle; gather the dough over the filling, make small pleats, and twist the dough tightly closed. 

Place each ball on a circle or square of wax or parchment paper on the steamer rack.  Let the balls rest for
10 minutes but no longer.  Be precise about the timing. 

While the buns are resting, bring the water in the wok or conventional steamer to a boil.  Lower the rack into the steamer.  Cover and steam for 15 – 20 minutes.  Be certain the water does no boil away during the process. Lift the rack out of the steamer.  Let cook for a minute or two and take out the rolls.  Serve warm. 

To reheat the buns, cover with foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. 

Char Sui Pork
Recipe adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ pound ground pork
¼ cup minced chives
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon Sriracha
½ teaspoon Szechuan pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat the oil and stir-fry the ground pork until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the chives, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, Sriracha, and Szechuan pepper.  Stir to combine.

Mix the flour and cornstarch with the water.  Stir into the pork mixture.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes until the mixture thickens.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.  Put aside to cool.  



Thursday, February 13, 2014

copper and teal.

Looking forward to a long weekend spent being wined and dined by the boy (Happy Heart Day), tackling some of the food projects I've been thinking endlessly about (doughnuts! pork buns! indulgent hot chocolate! meyer lemon curd!), and possibly starting House of Cards (since everyone says it's so great).  

Also, can I move in here? Copper and teal and a wood farm table makes me swoon.

And that flower bouquet is oh so dreamy and perfect and everything I love right now.  
(Can my wedding bouquet look like that? So wild and free.)


























Image via Pinterest

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

pomodori al forno (baked tomatoes).


























The North-East is on the verge of being hit with another avalance of snow.  I'm not one to really complain about the weather, I don't mind the cold.  I like being snuggled under layers of blankets living the life of a hibernating grizzly bear (I also look like one when wrapped up in my awesome fake fur blanket). It's a good time to catch up on all the shows (House of Cards), magazines (I have an overflowing stack of spring fashion issues next to my bed), and cookbooks (Vegetable Literacy and Four and Twenty Blackbirds) that I never seem to get to when the weather is warm and the sun is shinning.  

But I will admit that I miss the foods and flavors of warmer weather.  There are only so many baked sweet potatoes and kale salads that one can eat before you begin to crave brightness and acidity.  When that happens, I turn to pomodori al forno also known as baked tomatoes.  During the depths of winter, these baked tomatoes emerge from the oven like ruby red jewels, glossy and slick from their coat of olive oil and they serve as a reminder that summer will come again.  I have been known to eat them plain by the forkful but on some well toasted garlic-rubbed baguette with a slice of aged goat cheese these tomatoes turn ethereal.  

Pomodori al Forno (Oven Baked Tomatoes)
Recipe from Bon Appetit

The only advice I have is to make sure you purchase the best quality canned tomatoes you can.  You want to purchase whole peeled tomatoes in juice.  There are a lot of articles done about the best canned tomatoes, I found this one helpful.  But let's be honest when you are baking tomatoes in olive oil for almost 3 hours, pretty much any tomatoes will taste good.  

1 cups (or more) olive oil, divided
2 pounds canned plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded  
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Aged goat cheese (such as Bûcheron)
1 baguette, thinly sliced crosswise, toasted

Preheat oven to 250°F. Pour 1/2 cup oil into 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tomatoes in dish, cut side up. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup oil. Sprinkle with oregano, sugar, and salt. Bake 1 hour. 
 
Using tongs, turn tomatoes over. Bake 1 hour longer. Turn tomatoes over again. Bake until deep red and very tender, transferring tomatoes to plate when soft (time will vary, depending on ripeness of tomatoes), about 15 to 45 minutes longer.
 
Layer tomatoes in medium bowl, sprinkling garlic and parsley over each layer; reserve oil in baking dish. Drizzle tomatoes with reserved oil, adding more if necessary to cover. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours.
 
Cover; chill up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.  Serve with aged goat cheese and toasted baguette slices. 
 



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a (wedding) tangent.

I'm going on a food tangent today.  

In the 2 months since getting engaged I've become a ball of stress so much so that I have questioned my own sanity and whether or not having a wedding is really worth it.  I know this is not typical. That as a girl I am supposed to have an ingrained desire to plan the most romantic day of my life.  I am supposed to dream in tulle and pink roses and get butterflies when I think about our first dance.  In actuality all I think about is how much I can't stand large floral centerpieces and that Tyler and I are the worst dancers ever.  (No really.  I lack all sense of rhythm and well Tyler lacks the ability to move in a fluid manner.)   


I keep asking myself if this is how it's suppose to be.  If there is a better way.  On my mile long walks to and from work, I make plus and minus lists in my head where I debate the points of having a small City Hall wedding followed by a decadent meal at Eleven Madison Park vs. having the larger rustic/industrial wedding that I've always envisioned.  I wonder to myself whether or not I have gotten caught up in the hype that seems to be generated by an industry that looks to convince you that if you don't have wood farm tables and peonies at your wedding that you are a failure and will never be on Style Me Pretty.  I wonder if I would be happy forever being engaged.  

When I think about the costs, the dollars we will spend to have this day, I get queasy.  I feel nauseous.  I almost throw up.  I wonder to myself if it's really worth Tyler and I emptying a good chunk of our savings on one day.  I wonder how others do it.  Do they go into debt for a wedding?  Do their families pay for the entire thing?  Do they simply go to City Hall followed my burgers at Shake Shack and call it a day?  At the end of it all, are they happy with the decision that they've made?  At the end of the day will I be happy with anything less then what I've envisioned?  

I don't enjoy being the center of attention.  I stress about people spending money on me.  I value others happiness over my own.  I've finally realized that this thing isn't about just us but about everyone else as well.  I can't imagine not having all of the people who have known us before we were us, all the people who met us as we figured us out, and all the people we've met over the last couple of years not being there.  They are a part of our larger story.  They are the reason we've reached this point.  They are as integral to this wedding as Tyler and I are.  That is why at this exact moment I am going through 12 years worth of music in an attempt to remind myself why I want what I want.  There is a reason why I want to dance with my friends and family until 2 in the morning and the reason is that I want to celebrate.  I want Tyler and I to start this next stage of our lives with a really epic party.  A party people will talk about for years and years to come.  A party we will talk about, reminisce about, for years to come.

I know when we reach the forgone conclusion of how this day, this momentous occasion will be handled, that it will make sense.  That I will wonder why I stressed so much.  That all the pieces will have actually fallen into (perfect) place. As long as at the end of all this (however it ends), I get to marry the guy who for the past 8+ years has made me deliriously happy, we'll then I'll know it was worth it.  (Because isn't that the point?)

Let's just hope I make it to that point.  

(Tomorrow, we will talk about food again.)  

Image via the ever reliable Pinterest.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

sweet and salty brownies.



























A couple of years ago, I went to a holiday party where a charming, adorable, clearly talented boy brought these brownies.  I ate one.  And then I ate another one.  And then I stationed myself next to the plastic container of brownies giving evil eyes to everyone that dared to take one of my brownies.  At the end of the night I stuffed all the remaining brownies into my purse and coat pockets and brought them home (no shame).  

I waited all of 12 hours before asking for the recipe. After getting it, I waited all of 24 hours before I set out to make them myself. (I can't believe I waited that long.)

These brownies are addicting (I think I demonstrated the truth of this statement based on my aforementioned behavior).  They are dark, rich, dense and fudgey (aka my dream brownie).  Coupled with a caramel that's sweet, salty, and subtly tangy (you can thank the sour cream for that) and you basically have a recipe for the best brownie ever.  I adore baking them around Valentine's Day because everyone loves chocolate, caramel, and salt (if you didn't I would question your sanity), they store incredibly well (so you can make them today and share with your loves on Friday), and they ship brilliantly which means your Valentine's both near and far can taste the love. 

But might I suggest you hand out the recipe as well.  Everyone will thank you.  



Sweet and Salty Brownies

A couple of things to note.  You do not want to touch/remove/eat these brownies until they are 100% cool.  They will fall apart and you will be sad about this.  I recommend letting them cool in their pan and then placing them in the fridge for a couple hours (or overnight which is ideal) before cutting them.  Doing so makes slicing them a breeze.  Everyone will think you are a professional and you will be very happy.  This recipe makes a lot of brownies.  I freeze the extras and have been known to eat them straight from the freezer.  They are magical when cold.  Also, this recipe makes more than enough caramel for the brownie assembly. Use the extra to serve with the brownies or to make awesome brownie ice-cream sundaes (Best. Idea. Ever.). 

For the Caramel 

1 cup sugar 
2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
½ cup heavy cream 
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 
½ cup sour cream 

For the Brownies 

1 ¼ cup flour 
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 
11oz dark chocolate, chopped (I used Valrhona) 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes 
1 ½ cups sugar 
½ cup packed light brown sugar 
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla 

To Finish 

1 ½ teaspoons fleur de sel 
1 teaspoons coarse sugar (i.e. Demerara  or Turbinado sugar) 

Make the caramel: In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, ¼ cup water and stir together carefully. Cook this mixture over high heat until an instant read thermometer reads 350F OR until the mixture is dark amber in color (6-8 minutes). Watch this carefully as it will go from amber to burnt in a matter of seconds.  Remove from heat and slowly add the cream (be careful it will bubble up), then the salt, then the sour cream.  Set aside to cool. 

Note: This recipe makes more than enough caramel for the brownie assembly. Use the extra to serve with the brownies or to make awesome brownie ice-cream sundaes. 

Preheat oven to 350, line a 9x13 glass or light colored metal baking dish with buttered parchment .

For the brownies: In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder 

Put the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over simmering water and stir occasionally until chocolate and butter are melted. Take the bowl from the heat, add both sugars and whisk until thoroughly combined. 

Add three eggs to the mixture and whisk until just combined, add the remaining eggs and vanilla. 

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and fold to combine, do not overbeat or your brownies will be cakey instead of fudgy. (Trust me, you do not want this.) 

To assemble: Pour half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Drizzle about ¾ - 1 cup of the caramel over top while being careful to make sure the caramel doesn't come into contact with the edge of the pan. Gently spread the caramel into an even layer using your offset spatula. Finish by topping the caramel layer with big dollops of the remaining brownie batter and gently smooth the top. 

Bake the brownies for 30 – 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. (Mine took about 38 minutes.  I started checking at 30 minutes and continued to check every 2 -3 minutes after that). 

After removing the brownies from the oven, sprinkle them with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar. 

Cool completely before cutting and serving.





Thursday, February 6, 2014

doughnuts on the brain.

I have doughnuts on the brain.

It started about 2 weeks ago when I got it in my head that we have to have doughnuts at our wedding (this would be in addition to the wedding cake, cookies, and knowing me, homemade pie).  I keep envisioning a tower of glazed orange (grapefruit/lemon) and pink (passionfruit with cocoa nib) doughnuts served on a beautiful white cake stand. This image will not leave my head. 

This doughnut craving wont be going anywhere until I consume about half a dozen, so the weekend plan includes making a visit to the Doughnut Plant or perhaps Dough in Brooklyn or if the snow gets the best of me, it may be time to finally tackle the homemade doughnut (both yeasted and cake, duh).  

(This is a picture of the pistachio doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant on 23rd street.  They were damm good and I wish I had some right now.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

jalapeno flour tortillas.



























Do you know how many ridiculous ingredients are in flour tortillas from the supermarket?  A lot. I know this because I have a slightly absurd obsession with reading labels in order to better understand some of the ingredients that get added to the simplest of foods.  Out of principle, I don't buy bread that contains 2 inches worth of ingredients.  If I want bread I bake it or I buy it from the awesome French bread shop down the street from my apartment (hi Choc-o-pain!) or I buy Bread Alone bread since they don't add all of that extra junk.  

For a while I struggled with what to do about flour tortillas because there is a certain level of convenience associated with tortillas from the supermarket.  But after another week of wondering why I needed to eat something with azodicarbonamide in it (which is apparently a dough conditioner according to Google and is also used to make yoga mats YUM), I decided to finally tackle the flour tortilla at home and after doing so, I wondered why I waited so long.  These homemade tortillas ate the tenderest version I have ever encountered and FAR superior to anything you can purchase in the stores. They are oh so fluffy and perfect for everything from bean and cheese quesadillas to steak fajitas.  Once you make them once, you'll find yourself looking for things to stuff in them.  

Jalapeno Flour Tortillas 
Recipe adapted (barely) from the Homesick Texan

The original recipe called for roasting a chile and while I normally would have done that, it was cold and I didn't feel like visiting the supermarket for the 10th time that weekend so I added some diced jalapenos and that worked beautifully, just pat them dry before adding them to the dough. The jalapenos can be omitted if you so desire but they make an excellent addition especially if you are using the tortillas for breakfast burritos.  

¼ cup pickled jalapenos, diced small
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup warm water

To make the tortillas, in a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Stir in the diced jalapeno until well distributed. Pour in the oil and warm water, and stir until a soft dough is formed (if it feels too wet, you can a more flour, a tablespoon at a time.) Cover the dough and let it rest for 1 hour. 

After an hour, divide the dough into 8 balls. Lightly flour a clean surface and one at a time place a dough ball on the floured surface, pat it out into a 4-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about 8 inches in diameter. If the jalapeno fall out of the dough as you roll, pick them up and then lightly press them in the center of the tortilla, flip the tortilla, and then continue rolling. 

Keep the rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook. 


In a dry cast-iron skillet heated on medium high, cook for 30 seconds on one side, flip it and then cook for 1 minute on the other side. It should start to puff a bit. Flip it again and cook for 30 seconds more. Place cooked tortillas in a basket lined with cloth. Repeat process for remaining balls of dough. 

These will keep refrigerated for 1 week. 






Tuesday, February 4, 2014

blush.

Blush is my latest obsession.  

(Anyone know where I can find a leather jacket in this perfect shade of pale pink?)

It's breathtakingly beautiful when paired with green, gold, and graphic lines.  

But I adore it with black for a little edge.  








































Image via Pinterest.