Friday, January 23, 2015

Crusty Fennel Raisin Bread

If you’ve ever spent any time in South Florida, you know that good bread is nearly impossible to find. In fact, when I want great bread, I find the best solution is to simply make it. Luckily I love the process of mixing, kneading and baking, punctuated by numerous periods of idle proofing and resting. This happens to be one

of my favorite breads, a crusty loaf infused with fragrant fennel and studded with sweet golden raisins. The technique comes from one of my favorite bread bakers, Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, from his book How to Make Bread. I adapted Emmanuel’s Pecan Raisin Bread recipe, upping the ratio of whole wheat flour and 

substituting crushed fennel seeds for the pecans. This recipe can easily be doubled, and the bread freezes well, as long as it’s well wrapped. To do this loaf justice, serve it with a European-style butter, such as President or Plugra. It’s also wonderful toasted with just about everything.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

White Chocolate Blood Orange Mousse Pie (aka "Puce Pie")

Blood oranges are as rare as hen’s teeth in my supermarket, so when I see them I automatically pounce. I’m never quite sure what I’ll do with these rare treasures, but I know it will be good and, generally, striking. The Moro oranges I found have a 

more intense flavor and aroma than the standard navel orange, and their flesh is usually a beautiful deep red color (though some oranges are only very lightly pigmented; see below). They are slightly tart, which is why I like to pair them with something sweet, as in this White Chocolate Blood Orange Mousse Pie. The sweet 

white chocolate balances the acidity of the blood orange juice (which I made even tarter by adding some lemon juice). The rich and buttery crumb crust is made from Lorna Doone cookies, though you can use any shortbread cookie you like. It’s a good alternative to the ubiquitous graham cracker crust. Since the mousse filling ends up 

being a very pale puce color, I decided to garnish the pie with candied blood orange slices. Just my luck, my last orange ended up looking a lot like an ordinary old orange-hued orange, without the beautiful coloration characteristic of blood oranges – just a few dark red streaks here and there. Hopefully, your pie will be much more vibrant and just as delicious as mine.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Chocolate-Coconut Birthday Cupcakes

Today’s my birthday, so I decided to make something sweet and delicious that appeals to my inner child (assuming I could get my feeble brain to remember that far back). When I was a tot, my favorite treats were Hostess Snowballs. Remember them? They were devil’s food cupcakes with a (faux) cream filling, neon pink 

marshmallow coating and a sprinkling of sweet coconut all over. I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the rubbery pink marshmallow, but I adored the magic combination of chocolate and coconut, and still do. I didn’t try to recreate the Snowball here (it remains in a class by itself), but used it as inspiration for my own birthday cupcake. 

The devil’s food cupcakes are both chocolaty and tender, while the French-style buttercream, made with whole eggs, is rich and scented with a touch of vanilla and dark rum. A generous handful of flaked coconut adds a sweet, nutty finish. Delightful. Happy Birthday to me; and a very Happy New Year to you….