Archive | May, 2008

VTV – Spinach Salad

30 May

Jen is my brand new co-host for VTV chose Spinach as this week’s veggie.  A few years ago I didn’t think I liked spinach.  The only time I ever had spinach was the frozen kind that my dad liked to cook in vinegar (? I don’t know if that’s what it was, but that’s what it smelled like).  Yucky!  Then, when I met John I started having dinner at his parents house.  Eating at someone else’s house is always somewhat adventurous… what happens if they cook something I don’t like?  Do I suck it up and eat it or politely pass on the dish?  Well, soon after John and I started dating his step-mom Patti made spinach salad… hmmm, what should I do.  Should I eat it polietly or just pass?  Well, I decided to take a small helping of it, and guess what? I loved it!  I use spinach in most all of my salads now.  So I present to you, Patti’s spinach salad that changed my mind. 🙂

Mandarin Orange Spinach Salad

Spinach (I used 3/4 of a bag)
1/4 cup oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar (I didn’t have any, so I used balasamic vinegar)
1/2 cup candied almonds (I used pecans since that’s what I had)
1 can mandarin oranges

To candy the nuts, put 3 tablespoons of sugar into a nonstick skillet and turn onto medium-high heat. When most of the sugar is glossy and melted, add the nuts.  (I added several handfuls of pecans) Stir to coat, then slip onto a piece of wadded aluminum foil.  Caution: These are very very hot when they come out of the skillet.


Assemble the salad at the very last moment so the dressing doesn’t make the spinach too soggy, enjoy!


March MB Entry – Easter Candy

28 May

Let me just start this post by apologizing to the lovely host Nikki for having this entry so extremely late…. better late than never though right?

So, way back in March, the MB theme was Easter Candy.  I was excited by all of the possibilities for creating a yummy dessert.  I thought of a wonderful idea, went to the store bought my candy….. and proceeded to forget about it until last week.  I thought it would be nice to make John a nice dessert before I left him for 5 days while I went to Florida.

I had originally had more chocolate bunnies.. but sometime over the month’s since then, they have lost their lives prematurely…  So, I had to supplement with some regular hershey’s chocolate.  We got this fondue pot as a wedding gift and this is the first time we’ve used it!  Stupid dieting…. 🙂

Once the chocolate melted I added a little milk to make it smoother.  Then I served with an assortment of fruits and sweets.


28 May

My Florida trip was oh so fun…. once I finally got to Florida.  Last Wednesday morning was on of the worst in my entire life I think.  I have debated on whether or not to blog about this, but I have decided that I will, as a public service announcement to everyone.  Here is the awful dreadful tale…


 I woke up early that morning and my parents dropped me off at the airport so I could catch my 7:10 flight (It was a little before 6:00 when they dropped me off).  I decided I would use one of the fancy kiosks to check in for my flight.  I entered my information and it said “please see person at desk.”Well, that’s stupid” I thought, why have these kiosks when they don’t work.  So, I waited in line and walked up to the teller.  She asked me what time my flight was and I replied it was at 7:10 to Dallas.  She asked if I had my itinerary because she didn’t have a 7:10 flight. What?!?  She had to, I mean I had a ticket for it right?  She looked at my itinerary and pointed out that I was supposed to be at the Tulsa airport not the Oklahoma City airport!  I could not believe I made such a stupid mistake.  There was no way we could make it to Tulsa for my flight.  So I asked the lady how much it would be to fly out from OKC.  After talking to a few people, she came up with the price of $590!  So much for my cheap $238 ticket…  After a few calls to John, he agreed that we should just pay the money and not look back. During these phone calls I felt completely nauseous, I had to sit on the floor at the check-in gate because I was about to pass out… twice!  This is why it’s not a good idea for me to travel by myself!  This was my first attempt at it, and I compeltely botched it up!!  But I ended up making it to Tampa, just a few hours after I was supossed to originally…

My trip was so much fun!  We didn’t really do a whole lot, just kind of relaxed, which is the best kind of vacation I think.

We went to the beach a few days, and I got burnt to a crisp!

We went to dinner at this neat little restaurant on the beach for Christa’s birthday.

Christa’s church had a Western themed murder mystery party one night that we went to.

And we saw an odd “piece of art?” in Sarasota.  Does anyone know what this is or why it’s there?  So strange to see, lol.

I think that’s enought pictures and rambling for this post. 🙂  All in all, it was the perfect vacation to see on of my best friends.  If you’ve done something stupid like I did, let me know in a comment so I don’t feel so dumb. 🙂

TWD: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

27 May

I’m back from Florida just in time for TWD!  I have lots to tell you about the Florida trip, but we’ll keep that for another post. 🙂 

I wasn’t sure if I would have time to make this recipe.  I knew I would be at my friend Christa’s house and I wasn’t sure how making the Brioche by hand would work.  Christa does not cook, so I knew there was no way she would have a mixer.  But I decided to pack my cookbook anyway, just in case.  When I got to Christa’s house on Wednesday, imagine my suprise when I saw a KA mixer sitting on her cabinet!!  Apparently it was her sister’s but she never used it, so she gave it to Christa.  So, when we went grocery shopping a little later, I bought all the ingredients to make the Sticky Buns.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Makes 15 buns
For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)
For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).
To make the glaze:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissovle the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinle over the pecans.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.
To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you’d like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glae recipe accordingly).

Christa didn’t have a rolling pin, but a can of cooking spray worked just as good!

With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they’re very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns ahve doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.
Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees  F.
Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.  Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily.  Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven.  If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil.  Be careful – the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):
2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can– this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you’re doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you’ll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You’ll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)
Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Florida Here I Come!

21 May

Bright and early this morning I am boarding a plane to visit my friend Christa in Florida!  I’ll be gone until Sunday, so the posts will be very few until I get back.  While I’m in Florida I am visiting a fabulous cupcake-ry, so stay tuned for the review!

TWD – The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

20 May

This week’s TWD recipe was the Mandeline’s.  Since many people don’t have a mandeline pan, we were given the option of choosing any previous recipe to make this week.  I have a very sweet spot in my heart for citrus-y desserts, so I chose The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart.

This tart was so yummy!  It was so tart, simply delicious.  Next time, I will let the cream set up longer before I put it in the crust.  This is not a recipe to hurry. 🙂

Check out the TWD Blogroll for all the fun treats this week!

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Douch, Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts, or Spiced Tart Dough (see book), fully baked and cooled

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10-1/2 ounces)
       unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size
       pieces, at room temperature

Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.


Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk—you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes. (Hubby helped me do the straining.)

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days and, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate ‘until needed.

Serving: It’s a particular pleasure to have this tart when the cream is cold and the crust is at room temperature. A raspberry or other fruit coulis is nice, but not necessary; so is a little crème fraîche. I know it sounds odd to offer something as rich as crème fraîche with a tart like this, but it works because the lemon cream is so light and so intensely citric, it doesn’t taste or feel rich.

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead, once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Sweet Tart Dough

Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer—it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

In French, this dough is called pâte sablée because it is buttery, tender and sandy (that’s what sablée means). It’s much like shortbread, and it’s ideal for filling with fruit, custard or chocolate.

The simplest way to make a tart shell with this dough is to press it into the pan. You can roll out the dough, but the high proportion of butter to flour and the inclusion of confectioners’ sugar makes it finicky to roll. I always press it into the pan, but if you want to roll it, I suggest you do so between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper or inside a rolling slipcover (see page 491 of the book).

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons)
          very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.

Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads up.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed—press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress—it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

 Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts: This dough has a slightly more assertive flavor than Sweet Tart Dough above, but you can use the two interchangeably. For the nut dough, reduce the amount of flour to 1-1/4 cups and add 1/4 cup finely ground almonds (or walnuts, pecans or pistachios).

Of Lemon Cream and Pierre Hermé

I am thankful to Pierre Hermé, France’s king of pastry, for many things, chief among them his friendship—we have written two books together—and his lemon cream. When we were just beginning work on our first book, Pierre explained the cream to me. In his typical fashion, he spoke softly, explained thoroughly and added just the meekest editorial comment: “It is nice,” he said, with a sly little gone-in-a-flash smile. I immediately put two stars next to the recipe, a note to myself to try it right away.

At first glance, you would think that the lemon cream is just another version of lemon curd—the ingredients are almost identical. What’s different is how they are treated, and it makes an enormous difference in the taste and texture.

In a curd, the eggs, lemon juice, sugar and butter are cooked together until they thicken. The result is silky, lemony and, above all, unmistakably rich and buttery. In Pierre’s lemon cream, the eggs, lemon juice and sugar—but not the butter—are cooked together until they thicken, just like curd. The mixture is then poured into a blender and allowed to cool for a few minutes. Then the butter is added, in pieces, and the cream is whipped around for a few minutes. Here’s the genius—instead of melting as it does in curd, the butter emulsifies (just as oil does in mayonnaise), so that the resulting texture is velvety and deceptively light. It is a stroke of culinary magic.

Like curd, lemon cream is a utility player. It can be spread on toast, used as a filling for cakes and pies, spooned over fruit desserts or just eaten off the spoon when no one is peeking. And, it can also be played around with, which is what I’ve done to create Creamiest Lime Cream and Meringue Pie (see the book) as well as Fresh Orange Cream Tart (see book).

VTV – Broccoli

19 May

VTV Logo

I have pictures of this yummy soup, but I left my camera at home this morning. 😦  I will update tomorrow with pictures though.

I had some broccoli in the fridge needing to be used.  And broccoli was this week’s VTV ingredient I was in luck! 🙂  I will leave you with the recipe for now, and pictures will be added tomorrow.

Broccoli Cheese Soup



1/2 cup butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

11 cups water

3 cubes chicken bouillon

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into bite-size pieces I omitted the chicken.

2 heads fresh broccoli, cut into florets

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup light cream

3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese



In a 5-quart pot, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in flour, stirring constantly until a thick paste forms. Remove from pot, and set aside.


In same pot, combine water, bouillon cubes, chicken, broccoli, salt and pepper. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 45 minutes.



Stir in the flour mixture a little bit at a time until soup thickens. Simmer 5 minutes.


Reduce heat, and stir in cream. Mix in cheese 1 cup at a time, and stir until melted.