Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Warm Chocolate Soufflé with Pistachio Crème Anglaise

No doubt about it, soufflés get a bad rap. They are generally regarded as fussy, temperamental and prone to failure, and home cooks avoid them like the plague. Most people wouldn’t dream of

 making them for, say, an intimate dinner party for eight. In my mind, though, they are the ultimate dinner party dessert, for the following reasons:

            ͻThey can made up a day in advance (up to the point of baking).
            ͻThey are very easy to prepare.
            ͻThey are served in their own ramekins, so no slicing or spooning out is required.
            ͻTheir presentation is dramatic, and is bound to elicit lots of ‘wows’.
            ͻAlmost everyone loves them.

Since dark chocolate and pistachio is a favorite flavor combo of mine, I opted to make a warm chocolate soufflé served with a pistachio custard sauce. The cold sauce is served alongside the

 soufflé, and poured into its center at serving. The key to a successful soufflé is serving it straight out of the oven – dawdling to admiring your work is not recommended. Once served, the rich, warm center of the soufflé melds with the cold, fragrant sauce, creating an unforgettable texture and flavor. Make sure to use a high-quality chocolate here, as there’s quite a bit of it in this recipe. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Ordinarily, I exercise restraint in self-promotion. Yesterday, however, I was honored by Cooking Light magazine (ironic, non?), and I feel compelled to share this exciting news. The Cake Book was included in Cooking Light’s top seven baking books of the past 25 years! Gads! Knowing there are so many great baking books out there, I recognize this as a great honor, indeed. Check out the article here, and read about the other six books – I am in very good company (congratulations to my dear friend Carole Walter, whose book Great Cookies also made the list). I sincerely thank the editors of Cooking Light, and wish them all – along with you, loyal readers of this blog – a wonderful, gluttonous, very happy Thanksgiving. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Warm Chocolate Panettone Bread Pudding

Though it might insult my Italian friends to say it, I’ve never been a huge fan of panettone, the sweet yeast bread from Milan that's so popular at Christmastime. It might have something to do with a press trip to Italy I went on years ago that was filled with endless 

tours of panettone and biscotti factories. The low point of the trip was a long presentation in a stifling room by an executive from one of the largest panettone producers. His English was not perfect (though admittedly far superior to my Italian), and he repeatedly 

pronounced the word “dough” like “dog” throughout his speech. One of my co-workers actually nodded off during the presentation, letting out a loud snort as he jerked himself back into consciousness. I still giggle at the memory. But back to the 

panettone. Though I love its subtle orange flavor and richness, I find it a bit dry. It’s not bad when dunked into coffee, but I’ve found a better alternative: using it as the base for a rich chocolate bread pudding. Originally conceived as a frugal way of using leftover or 

stale bread, bread pudding has since evolved into a sophisticated dessert. The basic bread pudding recipe calls for sliced or cubed bread, milk and/or cream, eggs and sugar. But I’ve gilded the lily by using panettone in place of plain bread, and added some melted 

bittersweet chocolate to make a rich and very chocolaty version. If you’re a panettone purist, you’ll no doubt be rolling your eyes in horror after reading this post, but if you’re like me, you’ll be happy you found a great reason to go out and buy your own panettone. Ciao!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Macarons

The Chocolate Show has been in New York for the past few days, so I thought it fitting to dedicate this week’s blog post to something that even chocolate purists would love: classic chocolate macarons. I don’t claim to be a macaron expert – I haven’t exactly 

perfected my technique, and chocolate macarons can be especially tricky for some reason. I prefer to make a French (as opposed to Italian or Swiss) meringue for my batter, which is a bit less stable. A pastry chef who worked for Laduree for several years recently told 

me to try making them with an Italian meringue, and to use it while the meringue is still hot. This, he explained, is very stable and gives you the added bonus of a shorter drying time for the piped macarons. I will try that next time, but for now, my slightly 

imperfect macarons will have to do. I sprinkled the tops of each with cacao nibs, which are a slightly bitter counterpoint to the sweet macarons, and add a pleasant crunch. The filling is a classic ganache, and can be tailored to your taste by your choice of the cacao percentage of your dark chocolate. Because the macarons are sweet, a high percentage chocolate is ideal here (around 70%), particularly if you want to maximize the chocolate punch.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carrot Cake Cookies

Just in time for the holiday baking season, several new cookie books have hit the cookbook scene. I received a review copy of one of these recently, Cookies at Home With The Culinary Institute of America by Todd Knaster (Wiley, 2011; $34.99). It’s the latest in 

the CIA’s ‘At Home’ series, which features recipes for the home cook. It’s a big, beautiful book, filled with lots of full-page color photos and almost 100 recipes. The recipes lean toward the home-spun – nothing too complex here – but many of the cookies feature 

intriguing flavor combination (i.e. Pistachio Orange Biscotti and Sweet Potato-Pecan Pie Bars). The book includes all the classics, and even has a savory cookie chapter, which includes recipes such as Parmsan Taralles and Jalapeno Cheddar Zaliti. After flipping 

through the book a few times, I kept coming back to one recipe, though: Carrot Cake Cookies. What a great idea! These oatmeal-based cookies are loaded with all the goodies that are found in carrot cake – grated carrots, walnuts, raisins and cinnamon. There’s 

even some coconut thrown in for good measure. The cookies are sandwiched together with a lush and glossy cream cheese frosting, the icing on the proverbial cake. Or cookie. These cookies are quite delish, and may just be the star in your holiday cookie assortment this year.