Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make Mine Malt

Malted milk is a powdered food product made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour and powdered whole milk. Originially developed as a nutritional supplement for infants by London pharmacist James Horlick, it eventually became popular for its flavor and was the star ingredient in the classic American malt shake. Malt has a slightly sour, earthy flavor that works well with sweets and desserts. When I was a fresh-faced student at Smith College, one of most popular treats at the campus eatery was a Dusty Miller, a hot fudge sundae generously sprinkled with malted milk powder. The crunchy, earthy granules pair well with chocolate, giving it a malty endnote. Here’s a recipe for dark chocolate cupcakes topped with a silky chocolate malt buttercream and garnished with Whoppers, chocolate malt candies. Whoppers aren’t quite as good as I remember them when I was 12, but they do make a nice garnish that says “malt.” 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It’s All in the Bouké

Bouké is a very special new-ish wine. It’s special not only because it’s wonderful, but also because it was created by my good friend Lisa Donneson. Lisa and I met on the tennis court--we belong to the same club in Brooklyn Heights, NY--and I have long been impressed by her intelligence and fierce curiosity about, well, everything. I bumped into Lisa on the street one day and she told me she had just earned a coveted Diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. Next thing I knew, she had launched a wine company called Bouké in 2007. Bouké is produced on Long Island, and Lisa has partnered in this venture with Gilles Martin, a French-born winemaker who has worked in many of the world’s finest wine regions. Lisa’s goal is to “satisfy the tastes of an emerging generation of American wine drinkers who share her belief that wine should be an everyday pleasure for the senses.” The Bouké line includes a white (my favorite, it’s a floral blend of 43% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Gris, 17% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Gewurztraminer); rosé (a fruit-forward, stainless steel-fermented blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot); red (a full-bodied blend of 35% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot); and the newest member of the line, Bouquet dessert wine. Bouquet is a fortified wine that is a blend of 96% Gewurztraminer and 4% Chardonnay. Its color is white gold, and the wine has notes of orange, ginger, passionfruit, lychee and rose, a fruity-floral counterpoint to its crisp acidity and 17% alcohol content. Bouquet should be served chilled, obviously, and is an ideal accompaniment to desserts, biscotti and petits fours or savory foods such as foie gras and semi-soft cheeses. It also makes a great gift for dessert lovers, who will have ample opportunities to enjoy Bouquet. To learn more, visit Lisa’s website at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cup of Cheer

Eggnog—alcohol-free, of course—was one of my favorite after-school treats when I was a youngster. Ok, so I was a little weird. I’d whip it up in the blender, using just raw eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Looking back, yes, that was kind of gross, but I was blissfully unaware of the dangers of salmonella, and enjoyed every nourishing sip. Today I make a safer, richer and much more spirited version of this classic holiday beverage. I cook milk, eggs and sugar together as a custard, then enrich it with some real cream and fortify it with some good bourbon. I do love Kentucky bourbon and, after all, it’s been a REALLY tough year, so we could all use a cup of good, strong eggnog. Happy holidays, everyone, and let’s hope next year’s a great one for all of us.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Raspberry Palmiers: A Lesson Learned

I’ve been baking for a long time (let’s say 30 years or more—as you can probably tell from my youthful appearance, I started VERY young). Despite this, I still experience my share of baking screw-ups. Things don’t always go perfectly in the kitchen, even for me, Tish Boyle, baking genius (it’s not polite to laugh here). Case in point: Recently I had an inexplicable urge to make some palmiers (a.k.a. elephant’s ears), but I wanted to do something a little different with them. I started off by making a quick and excellent puff pastry dough; the recipe is from my book The Good Cookie. I then rolled the dough out, one-half at a time, using granulated sugar instead of flour on my work surface. Rolling sugar granules into the dough makes these pastries sweet and gives them a beautiful golden color. All run-of-the-mill, routine palmier stuff so far. It was here that I decided to wander off the reservation and spread a thin layer of raspberry jam, seeds and all, over the dough. Yummy, right? Yummy, maybe, but all hell broke loose when my pretty raspberry-filled palmiers hit the oven. As they baked, the high-sugar raspberry jam bubbled up and pushed the dough out, uncurling all my perfectly formed, lovely little palm leaf pastries. To salvage the situation and all my hard work up to this point, I simply pushed them back together before I flipped them over to finish baking them. Not so easy with piping hot jam scalding your tender fingers, but, hey—nobody ever said pastry was easy, right? I'm giving you my straight Palmier recipe, sans the raspberry jam filling, but the photo above is of my hard-fought Raspberry Palmiers. My new motto, as far as palmiers go, is “keep it simple.” Stick to sugar and maybe a little cinnamon, if you want to go wild.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cinnamon, That American Spice

I went to cooking school in Paris in the mid-80's, and I have great memories of that time in my life. I frequently think of one of our French chef instructors, Claude, who had strong opinions about food and was quite funny. He hated cinnamon, and referred to it disparagingly as "that American spice." Not sure where he came up with that idea (it's native to Sri Lanka, for Pete's sake), but I'm happy to be associated with such a lofty and fragrant ingredient. Cinnamon is a wonderful holiday flavor, so I decided to make a Cinnamon Gelato to go with sweet oven-roasted pears for dessert recently. For the gelato, I simply took a plain gelato base and infused the milk with eight cinnamon sticks—the sticks have more flavor than powdered cinnamon and won’t turn the gelato a muddy brown color. The gelato remains cream-colored, so the intense cinnamon flavor is a real surprise when it hits your tongue. Paired with roasted pears or apples, it makes a simple, elegant and very flavorful winter dessert.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Slightly Salty Almond Toffee Crunch

Toffee is one of my all-time favorite confections, probably because it combines some of my favorite flavors: buttery caramel, toasted almond, and chocolate. It’s one of those recipes, however, that requires your full attention while you’re making it. I made the mistake of casually calling my mother while I was making this batch, and realized that I had forgotten to chop the chocolate. So I poured the toffee out and chopped the chocolate in record time—luckily the toffee was still hot enough to melt the chocolate nicely. Next time I'll wait until the toffee's done before phoning up Mom. I recommend that you read the recipe through at least once, and have all your ingredients measured out and prepped before you begin. Coarsely chopped, this slightly salty toffee also makes a great topping for or addition to vanilla ice cream (add it during the last minute of churning) for Almond Toffee Crunch Ice Cream.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Macaron Madness

French macarons have become extremely popular in the past few years. They're not quite as popular as cupcakes, though, probably because the perception is that they're a little more difficult to make (which is really not true). And, after all, cupcakes are an American creation, while macarons are have a French pedigree. But I love how versatile macarons are, how many different flavors one can conjure up, and how supremely light they are. Here's a simple coconut variety, made with organic unsweetened desiccated coconut, which you can get at health or whole food stores. By the way, if you prefer to buy them--and they make a great holiday gift--my friend Florian Bellanger, owner of Mad Mac, makes the best, along with a great selection of madeleines (

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Great Strawberry Christmas Tree Centerpiece

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and it's always nice to plan to do something a little different for the holiday table. Recently I worked on a food styling project for Driscoll's strawberries, creating a Christmas tree centerpiece using whole strawberries and a Styrofoam cone (don't use floral foam--it's carcinogenic!). I secured the strawberries to the cone using toothpicks, and scattered sprigs of fresh mint between the berries. I used a mango slice, cut into a star shape, for the top. I think it's lovely--just make sure you get beautiful strawberries. By the way, the photo above was done by super-talented food photographer John Uher (