Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Icing

Lemon, lemon, lemon, how I love, love, love thee. This blog was almost called Chocolate Shavings and Lemon Zest, but in an effort to contain my sometimes all-over-the-place thoughts, I opted for concise! I can never get over how zesting a little lemon into a dessert makes all the difference in the end result or how squeezing a couple squirts of lemon juice right before serving a pasta dish brings it to a whole new level. Have you ever tried zesting a touch of lemon over a spinach and toasted almond salad with a lemon/olive oil vinaigrette? If not, give it a try next time you want to make a simple salad special and let me know how it goes!

Citrus desserts are really a wonderful way to welcome spring, and, even though it snowed here yesterday, I've decided that this kitchen will be spring-y whether it wants to or not! This lemon pound cake was light and packed with flavor but the icing was my favorite part. (Then again, isn't icing ALWAYS the best part? - for those of us who will eternally be children it definitely always is). This icing contains a little touch of heavy cream which makes it wonderfully thick and glossy and coats the pound cake to perfection. Have you ever made a simple glaze to top a cake and love the taste but wish that it would be more visible and thick over the dessert? A little cream really is the answer to that!

In terms of recent food news, I attended the launch of Food Network Canada's newest show Bitchin' Kitchen. You can check out my account of the night on Food Network's website in a couple days, but for now, all I can say is that Food Network is going to be shaken and changed with this new concept! I'm also headed to Martin Picard's Cabane a Sucre this weekend so there will be a lot of good eating and maple-syrup coming my way. I will keep you posted!

Lemon Pound Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 4-6

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
3/4 cup of granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Dust with sugar, and tap out excess; set aside. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir together the lemon juice and the milk.
Put butter and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in eggs and zest. Working in two batches, alternate mixing in flour mixture and milk mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Tip: The milk will look curdled when you add the lemon juice but don't worry, it won't affect the final result!

Drippy Icing

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Pour through a sieve into another bowl. Use immediately.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

My last few posts have been on the sweet side: after Lemon Cupcakes with Chocolate Icing, Chocolate Fondants with Salted Caramel Sauce and Tiramisu, I thought it might be time to present you with something to eat before all of those treats! This roasted cauliflower recipe is not mine, nor was it made by me but I just had to post it. Mr. O has been cooking wonderful little snacks for me to have around the house while I've been working on a few projects. Although I work around the realm of food, somedays I am just writing away and don't have as much time as I'd want to frolic in the kitchen and try new things. I opened the fridge a couple days ago and this wonderful batch of roasted cauliflower was just calling my name. It's a wonderfully healthy and satisfying way to enjoy cauliflower - a vegetable that I haven't been using nearly as much as I should. It also makes a wonderful side dish to a nicely pan-seared piece of fish and works beautifully to top a simple citrus and nut salad. You will have to wait a little to get the recipe (until Oliver gets back and tells me his secret!) , which, from what I understand, is a tweaked version of Jamie Oliver's recipe.

It really has been a busy couple weeks in this household! Between hosting the Daring Bakers (I can't wait to see everyone's results!), an ever-increasing amount of submissions to go through on Tastespotting, a few exciting food projects in the works, some recipe development, photo shoots and some night classes to well as a small move to London (for a month in the summer for an exciting food project I can't reveal right away) there hasn't been enough hours in the day. If you live in London and have some suggestions for good food spots, local markets, specialty stores or any cool local activities, I'm all ears!

Roasted Cauliflower:
2 heads of cauliflower
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
2 teaspoons of black mustard seeds
1/4 cup of powdered almonds

Boil a large pot of water and add a generous quantity of salt. Heat your oven to 450 degrees farenheit. Using a frying pan without oil, dry-fry the spices for 1-2minutes, add them to a grinder and grind to a powder. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower in half, and then into florets. Add them to the water for 5-6 minutes, and drain. Spread the cauliflower out onto a baking sheet, and allow to airdry for several hours. Alternately, dry in a 100-200 degree oven for 10 minutes or so. In a big bowl, mix the cauliflower with the spices and pour the oil and powdered almonds.

Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until it becomes nicely golden brown and even crispy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes with Chocolate Icing

As I've said many, many times, cupcakes always manage to put a smile on my face. They're not the best desserts in the world by any means, but these individually wrapped packs of sweetness always do the trick for me. They put anyone near them in a light, blissful, childish mood - something most of us could use more of.

I like to play around with recipes and mix and match depending on my mood of the day. These matched a lemon/chocolate type of day and the combination of both was just perfect. A tall glass of cold milk in one hand, a frosted cupcake in the other and the world is pretty much as perfect as it's ever going to be.

Lemon Cupcakes with Chocolate Icing

Makes 6 cupcakes
3/4 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt (use kosher)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 stick of room temperature butter
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon of packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon curd
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Chocolate Icing
Frosts 15 cupcakes

1 stick of butter
1 3/4 cups of confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons of dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt, lemon zest and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, add the sugar and butter. Using a mixer, beat the sugar and butter until the mixture is homogeneous (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one by one, beating until just incorporated. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract and lemon curd and beat until just incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture. Once the mixture is just homogeneous, scoop one ice cream scoop of batter into a cupcake-lined muffin time. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Leave to cool on a cooling rack while you make the icing.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, transfer to a bowl and let cool. Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the confectioners' sugar little by little. Mix for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the cooled chocolate and mix until the chocolate is entirely incorporated. Ice the cupcakes as you please. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chocolate Fondants with Salted Caramel Sauce

I spent a few days at home with my family in Paris which is always a favorite way to catch up on anything culinary. I have difficulty finding fresh fish on a regular basis in Montreal, so Paris is always a great time to indulge. My highlights from this trip were scallop carpaccio with lime vinaigrette and simple pan fried sole fillets with lightly creamed spinach. Another favorite? Marinated salmon with pink peppercorn, pickled cucumbers and good olive oil. I also got to spend a couple hours at l'Atelier des Chefs with my mom - a new cooking class concept where you learn how to make a couple dishes with a chef and then get to taste the results as group.

The main dish was good, but the dessert was definitely an easy favorite: Chocolate Fondants with Salted Caramel Sauce. The salted caramel sauce was definitely the highlight for me. You could spoon it over a less indulgent fruit salad, or over vanilla bean ice cream. It's also a great and easy way to dress up your favorite brownie recipe. The salty-sweet combination is always a winner in my book, so this was a real delight! Have you ever tried adding a little fleur de sel on top of a frothy homemade hot chocolate? If you haven't, give it a try - the deep chocolate flavor just bursts through and it's absolutely delicious!

Chocolate Fondants with Salted Caramel Sauce
Serves 6

For the Fondants

200 grams of Dark Bittersweet Chocolate
20cl of milk
135 grams of egg whites
55 grams of granulated sugar
10 grams of cornstarch
40 grams of egg yolks
20 grams of unsalted butter

For the Salted Caramel Sauce

200 grams granulated sugar
40 grams of salted butter
30 cl of heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 450°F.

In a small saucepan, place the milk and bring it a high simmer. Whisk in the cornstarch until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and reserve. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Butter 6 individual-sized ramekins, sprinkle extra granulated sugar over the butter and shake off excess.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks using a hand mixer. Add the sugar and beat until hard peaks (about 2 minutes).

Make sure the milk mixture is smooth - if it isn't, whisk to bring the mixture back to a smooth consistency. In a separate bowl, slowly mix the egg yolks with the milk (which should be lukewarm at this point) adding yolks a little bit a time to make sure the eggs don't heat too fast. Add the melted chocolate and mix until well incorporated. Add 1/3 of the egg whites and whisk to loosen the batter. Add the rest of the egg whites and very gently fold them in to not break them and keep them fluffy and airy.

Bake in the oven for 8 minutes.

Salted Caramel Sauce
While the fondants are baking, make the caramel sauce. In a saucepan, add the sugar on medium heat and let it caramelized (about 5 minutes). Be very careful and keep a constant eye on the sugar as it will start burning quickly and is extremely warm. If the sugar seems to pile up in certain areas of the saucepan, gently swirl the pan. Don't use a wooden or silicone spoon as the sugar will stick and get messy. Swirl as little as possible though, and let the caramelization happen on its own. Once the sugar just reaches a nice amber color, reduce the heat to low, and add the butter in small cubes. Be careful as the sugar might splatter. Once the butter has melted, add the cream. Taste and adjust with an extra pinch of salted to taste.

Remove the fondants from the oven and, using a small spoon poke a small hole in the center of the fondant. Add a couple spoonfuls of salted caramel sauce and serve immediately.
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