Bananas Foster

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My husband asked me to make Bananas Foster for his birthday recently, and how could I argue! Neither of us is much of a sweets eater, or we like to pretend we’re not, but with Bananas Foster, you make it to order and there are no leftovers! Unlike a cake or pie…

The recipe I’ve always used for Bananas Foster, is from the cookbook, American Cooking: Creole and Acadian.


From the book: This elegant dessert of flamed bananas and ice cream, created at Brennan’s over 20 years ago (this book was published in 1971!) for a regular patron named Richard Foster, has become one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.

Bananas Foster
Adapted
To serve 4
printable recipe below

4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 firm ripe bananas, peeled and cut lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup banana liqueur
1/2 cup rum or spiced rum
1 pint good vanilla ice cream

Slice the bananas horizontally so they lay flat.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a skillet and stir until the mixture becomes a smooth syrup.

Add the bananas and baste them with the syrup for 3 or 4 minutes, then sprinkle in the cinnamon.

Carefully pour in the banana liqueur and rum, and let the liquors warm for a few seconds. They may burst into flame spontaneously. If not, ignite them with a match.


Slide the pan back and forth until the flames die, basting the bananas all the while.

Place two banana halves in each elongated dish. Add a scoop of ice cream to each serving, then spoon the sauce over the top.

Serve at once.

And don’t forget some freshly grated nutmeg.

If you don’t have elongated individual serving dishes, slice the bananas evenly before sautéing, or at least cut them in half crosswise. Then serve in a shallow bowl.

Bananas Foster can also be prepared at the table in a flambé pan, such as a crepes Suzette pan.


Note: The original recipe calls for twice the amount of both rum and banana liqueur. If you enjoy alcoholic desserts, double your liquors!

 

The Dirty Snowman

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It’s rare that I peruse a men’s clothing catalog, because my husband isn’t a stylin’ kind of guy. Which is fine with me, since I’m not either. We probably often look like a couple of vagrants.

But during the catalog-intense period of time prior to Christmas, I happened to check out a men’s catalog that intrigued me. It’s called Huckberry, and the catalog pages were cute, with photos like this one.

But what got me excited was a cocktail recipe that was in the catalog, called The Dirty Snowman.


It contains cognac and dark beer, neither of which I like. I think it was the chocolate and hazelnut rim on the glass that got my attention!

Here’s the recipe:

The Dirty Snowman
Makes 1 drink

Cocoa nibs and chopped hazelnuts, for garnish (I used chopped bittersweet chocolate)
1/2 ounce simple syrup, plus a little extra for the rim
1 teaspoon cocoa nibs (again, chopped bittersweet chocolate)
1 1/4 ounce cognac
3 ounces dark beer (I used Guinness)
Splash coconut milk (I used freshly whipped cream)

Use simple syrup to rim a glass with the hazelnuts and chocolate.



In a shaker, muddle the 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of chocolate.

Add the cognac and shake well with ice.

Strain into the rimmed glass, add ice, and top with beer.

They suggest floating a splash of coconut milk on top, which could be tasty, but I preferred to add unsweetened whipped cream.

My husband loved it, and suggested I make some on Christmas eve.

Oh, and it turns out that Huckberry sells much more than men’s apparel. Cute stuff.

Summer Berry Pie

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There is an obvious lack of desserts on my blog. For one reason, I prefer savory over sweet any time, any day. But the other reason is that if I do make dessert, I’ll eat it. I mean, I’ll finish it.

When I made the mille crêpe cake for my birthday a while back, my husband and I both had a piece, and then I asked him if he’d want more. He shook his head no. He can get a little carried away as well, like when you get a hankering for that dessert that you know is in the fridge, and it’s 9 o’clock at night.

So into the garbage went that beautiful cake. I know, a waste, but I don’t really know anyone who wants to eat desserts either.

Recently I saw a Strawberry Slab Pie online. It was probably on Pinterest, and when I clicked on the pretty photo it went to the Country Living website.

It’s a strawberry pie baked in a jelly-roll pan and decorated with flowers. A fruit dessert is typically healthier than, say, a chocolate cheesecake to have sitting in the refrigerator taunting me at night. But what intrigued me about this pie is what the pie-maker did with the flower cut-outs of crust.

As with my mille crepe cake, this would be another baking/pastry challenge for me, because I’ve never done much more with pie crust dough than lattice.

First I had to locate some flower cookie cutters, which I found on Sur La Table.

What I also like about this pie is that the filling is basically all berries, plus a little sugar and cornstarch. None of that goopy pie-filling-like stuff.

Here’s the recipe:

Summer Berry Pie

Pie Crust, 2 or 3 recipes

All-purpose flour, for work surface
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 pound strawberries, hulled, sliced
1 pound whole blueberries
1 large egg white

To make the pie, preheat oven to 425°F with the rack in lowest position. On a lightly floured surface, roll 2 recipes of dough. Transfer to a pan and trim. Crimp and chill.

I obviously used a shallow, large, round terracotta pan to make this pie instead of a jelly-roll pan.

Roll remaining dough to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough with assorted flower-shaped cutters. Transfer flowers to prepared baking sheet, and chill.

Stir together sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Add strawberries and blueberries and toss gently to combine.

Transfer to bottom crust, packing tightly into pan.

Whisk together egg white and 2 teaspoons water in a bowl. Brush dough flowers with egg wash. Arrange dough flowers, slightly overlapping, on top of berries. Brush edges of dough with egg wash.

Freeze 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes. I had to adjust the temperature after 30 minutes; my crust browned too much. If this happens, place a piece of foil over the top of the pie and continue baking at 400 degrees.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool until set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I served the pie with whipped cream.

I baked some pie-crust cookies separately, and stuck one in the whipped cream for decoration. I’m obviously not a stylist. So I ate it instead.


So, although a bit challenging but not stressful, I will leave the fancy pie-crust makers to their fancy pie crusts. The good thing is that the pie itself was very good.

I love that it’s just about crust and berries.

Check out this pie from Williams-Sonoma.

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse

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Back when I followed the recipe for a chocolate and nutella spread that was supposedly “better than Nutella,” I made three suggestions for utilizing the spread. One was to mix it with whipped cream and create a chocolate hazelnut mousse.

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So that’s just what I did. I’ve actually done it with real Nutella. It takes a little coaxing, but eventually the whipped cream and Nutella will blend into a wonderful mousse-like texture.

It’s so easy. The most important thing is to warm the Nutella to room temperature first.

Pour 2 cups of whipping cream into a large bowl. Whip the cream, using an electric mixer, until stiff peaks form.

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Place about 6 ounces of the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a large bowl.

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Add a few tablespoons of the whipped cream, and gently beat the two together until the spread softens.

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Then gently fold the remaining whipped cream in to the Nutella, taking your time.

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Save about 4 tablespoons of whipped cream for a topping, if desired.

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Place in 4 serving glasses.

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If you don’t mind deflating the mousse a bit, you can use your electric mixer to get a smoother blend.

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The mousse can be served immediately; it doesn’t require chilling.

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Serve with a dollop of the extra whipped cream, or marscapone or creme fraiche.

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Chocolate curls would be pretty too!

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Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, I enjoyed my mousse with a glass of sherry!

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Enjoy!

Berry Cherry Hazelnut Galette

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When I see desserts on blog posts, I rarely check them out. First of all, I’m not a baker, and have no desire to bake any more than I do. But mostly it’s because many cakes and desserts are just too fancy for my taste. Not that I don’t appreciate the skill that goes into making them. In fact, I’m truly in awe of pastry chefs.

It’s just that I’m a pretty plain Jane, and that speaks for my lifestyle as well as the food I prepare. So I am attracted to simple, rustic desserts like this galette.

I found this recipe on Epicurious here, and what attracted me was the title – Raspberry-Hazelnut Galette. I’m a huge fan of both raspberries and hazelnuts so I was determined to bake my first galette. Yes, my first, even though I’ve coveted them forever!

When I went through the ingredient list, I realized there weren’t fresh raspberries in the darn recipe, so I used the recipe for the hazelnut crust, and did my own thing with the filling, using cherry jam and fresh raspberries. Here is what I did:
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Cherry Berry Hazelnut Galette

3.5 ounces raw hazelnuts, skins on
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick, 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 ounce or so of water or juice
Orange-flavored oil
6-7 ounces cup fruit-only cherry jam
Fresh raspberries
Raw sugar or pearl sugar
Whipped cream, optional

To make the crust, first process the hazelnuts, flour and salt in a food processor until a hazelnut-flour meal is formed. Place the meal in a bowl and set aside.

Using the same food processor jar, add the butter and sugar and process until smooth. Add the egg yolks and water or juice and process just to combine.

Turn out the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Gently form the dough into a disc and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.


You might notice that my “dough” on the left looks a bit crumbly. And it was. I followed the directions, but the amount of hazelnuts on the original recipe states 3/4 cup, which I estimated at 3.5 ounces. I actually think that might have been too many hazelnuts, but to compensate for the dryness, I simply sprinkled about 1 ounce of water onto the dough until it stuck together. Thus the addition of the liquid in the above recipe.

When you’re going to make the galette, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Roll out the dough into a circle, approximately 14″ in diameter. Brush about 2″ of the outer edge of the crust with oil – I used an orange oil. I only did this because I realized I was completely out of eggs!

Spread on the jam, and top it with the raspberries. I trimmed the crust just a bit, and then gently folded it over the cherry berry filling. I brushed a little more of the orange oil on the crust.

This is when I discovered I had no turbinado or raw sugar, which was in the original recipe, so I used pearl sugar instead. With an egg wash, the sugar would have stuck better!


Transfer the galette to a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. The crust should be golden brown.
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Transfer the baked galette to a cutting board to rest. If you don’t own one of these giant spatulas, believe me. They really come in handy!
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After about 45 minutes, I cut the galette into fourths, added a little more pearl sugar, and put cream in my whipped cream gadget. Another thing you shouldn’t be without!

Serve the galette still warm, or at room temperature. Ice cream would also be fabulous instead of whipped cream!
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verdict: The hazelnut crust, which is like candy, would definitely be good with just the jam filling, but I really feel that the raspberries add to this dessert!
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Strawberry Tiramisu

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Many years ago, my girlfriend Gabriella made a strawberry tiramisu, and I’ve never forgotten it. It was made in the same manner as a traditional tiramisu, but without the coffee element. Instead, it had layers of beautiful spring strawberries.

So I wanted to finally make this twist of the popular Italian dessert using traditional ingredients like Savoirdi biscuits and marscapone, plus strawberries. However, I pondered upon what liquid to use in which to dip the biscuits.

A million years ago, approximately, my husband and I went to a Food and Wine Tasting in Aspen, Colorado. It was the same week that O. J. Simpson “allegedly” killed two people. I remember the actual day that he was followed along highway 101 in the white Bronco because it was my younger daughter’s birthday – June 12th.

In any case, the festival itself was a bit crazy. I think they sold too many tickets! Being short, I was always being elbowed by tall men who’d obviously never tasted wine or food before. Even if I was in front of a vendor table, people were reaching past me, around me, and over me. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not much of a crowd lover, so it was a bit stressful and painful for me. The good parts were having Stephen Pyles sign my cookbook, even though I was accused of stealing it (I had already purchased the cookbook in Denver before heading to Aspen), seeing a demonstration with Patricia Wells, and then attending a demonstration with Julia Child. Even my husband really appreciated that.

So why am I bringing this all up? There was a new winery at the festival – Quady Winery. The representatives were serving small scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of Essencia, made from orange muscat grapes. It was fabulous. I personally think there’s a proper place for sweet and dessert wines, and these have since become award-winning wines.


There’s Electra as well, which is made from a black muscat grape. If you ever see them, give one a try. I actually have used both in making sangria, to replace the brandy element that’s too strong for me.

So back to the tiramisu. I thought an orange element, from the Essencia and from oranges themselves, along with the strawberries would create a perfectly delicious spring dessert! Here’s what I did.


Strawberry Tiramisu

16 ounces Marscapone, at room temperature
16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3 oranges, juice and zest used
Strawberries, picked over, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Essencia
1 – 7 ounce box Savoirdi biscuits (I only used half)
Pearl sugar, optional

Begin by placing the marcapone and yogurt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar.


Add the zest of three oranges, and beat again until well distributed.

Set aside the marscapone mixture, and begin with the berries. I had hoped to use my own garden strawberries in this dessert, but they’ve been attacked by some kind of creepy crawly.

Slice the strawberries into even slices; mine were approximately 1/4″ thick. Place in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, and the juice of 1/2 an orange.


Toss well and set aside.

Using a square baking dish 8″ in diameter, begin by placing a layer of half of the marscapone mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Using a spatula, spread smooth.
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Pour approximately 1 1/2 cups of Essencia into a flat baking dish. Add the juice of one orange and stir well. Taste the mixture. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey or agave syrup.

Place the biscuits in the wine mixture, then turn over. You don’t want them to fall apart, but you do want them softened. Work with only a few at a time.

Place them over the marscapone in the baking dish. Make them fit however you have to!
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Add half the strawberries, then cover with the remaining marscapone, and top it with the remaining strawberries. There is only one layer of the softened biscuits.
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Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Slice and serve. I had mine still chilled with an espresso for breakfast!

But of course it’s perfect for dessert, warmed to room temperature, and served with Essencia or another dessert wine.


I put a few sprinkles of pearl sugar on the top for fun! It adds a sweet crunch.


This recipe doesn’t touch the traditional version of tiramisu, see note below, but it’s still really fun and highlights the sweet spring strawberries!


note: Traditional Italian tiramisu is typically made with a sabayon. My version is simpler, but not better. The sabayon makes the marscapone layer much lighter. Also, lady fingers and savoirdi biscuits have a similar shape, but that’s all they have in common. Lady fingers are light and soft, while savoirdi biscuits are hard and crisp. They should not be confused.