Classic Chocolate Mousse in Mini Cocottes


I’ve been a lazy, slothful blogger again despite already having this post ready to go since Valentine’s Day. I’m not a big mousse fan, but these little, easy beauties provided me with an excuse to pull out my utterly useless, yet adorable Le Creuset mini cocottes. It’s amazing what little you can do with them, so any opportunity is cause for celebration. This can be made ahead a few days in advance and then dressed up just before serving. I served mine with a dollop od whipped cream with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and fresh strawberries.

Classic Chocolate Mousse

6 Servings

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  • 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream, divided
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup espresso, room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate (61-72% cacao), chopped
  • 2 large egg whites

Beat 1/2 cup cream in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form; cover and chill.

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This recipe calls for yet another excuse to pull out rarely used equipment such as the espresso machine.

Combine egg yolks, espresso, salt, and 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water). Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is lighter in color and almost doubled in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 degrees, about 1 minute.
Remove bowl from pan. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until room temperature.

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Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl on medium speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually beat in remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until firm peaks form.
Fold egg whites into chocolate in 2 additions; folded whipped cream into mixture just to blend.

Divide mousse among ramekins or mini cocottes. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. Do Ahead: Mousse can be made a few days ahead; cover and keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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The serving size of these is more like two servings, not one as it would be in a ramekin.

Before serving, whisk remaining 1/4 cup cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form; dollop over mousse.

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor Carrot Muffins with Brown Butter & Currants


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A friend of ours just recently purchased a new home and I took it upon myself to be kind and neighborly and to make something sweet from scratch…the only problem? She wasn’t home and wouldn’t be for hours. Raj couldn’t bear the thought to leave these muffins out in the cold on her porch…SO? We ate them. ALL. And have no regrets!

We’re not as rude as this sounds, but they were WARM and smelled delicious and why leave something out in the cold when WE could enjoy them? Plus, they’re easy enough to bake again some other day when I’m feeling especially kind and charitable (not often). The fact that they have currants in them and Raj still loved them says a lot. As you know, currants are fancy for raisins, which I’m not especially fond of either, but in this recipe, they add the right amount of layer on top of the carrots, orange zest and spices.

Carrot Muffins with Brown Butter and Currants

(makes 12 muffins)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (about 2 medium) peeled, grated carrots
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
  • To make brown butter, place butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the butter solids are browned and smell toasty, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes or a little longer. Watch carefully so the butter does not burn. As the butter browns, the foam rises to the top and dark brown particles stick to the bottom of the pan. As soon as the butter is dark golden brown, pour it into a small bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

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  • Combine the currants with the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer until the currants are plump, about 10 minutes. Remove the currants from the heat, drain, and transfer to a small bowl to cool to room temperature.
  • Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger together twice, then set the dry ingredients aside.

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  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, and salt. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. The egg mixture should begin to “ribbon” but not hold the ribbon.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer. Without stirring, place the carrots and currants on top of the egg mixture. Then pour the dry ingredients on top, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold everything together. Finally, fold in the browned butter, combining everything thoroughly and gently.
  • Scoop the muffins into paper-lined muffin cups, dividing it evenly, using about 1/3 cup, of batter per muffin.
  • Lightly sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of the turbinado sugar on top of each muffin. Bake until the muffins are cooked through and golden, about 18 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through the baking time. A wooden skewer inserted into a muffin should come out with a few crumbs clinging but no batter.

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  • Remove the pan rom the over and cool on a wire rack about 10 minutes before unmolding.

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DO NOT LEAVE THESE MUFFINS UNATTENDED. Someone may decide to steal them. They are best enjoyed warm with a cup of afternoon coffee or tea.

 

Home Sweet Gingerbread Home


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Last year for Christmas we were in Cairo…this year Alexandria–not Egypt, but Virginia. As a result, last Christmas Eve, we promised to do next year’s Christmas BIG…well, not that big, but anything is bigger than last year. What a difference a year can make.

Check it out…I’m pretty pleased…but now I have more pressing things to do, like unpack our final shipment of furniture and such from Jordan that arrived yesterday.

Here are the steps:

1. I created a template from thin cardboard, fashioned after a picture of our house.

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The bay window on the third floor in my attempt at perspective.

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2. Make the gingerbread dough. I used Martha Stewart’s recipe here. http://www.marthastewart.com/342245/molasses-gingerbread-cookies

This picture is really just to show off my new mixer.
This picture is really just to show off my new mixer.

3. Roll out the dough; place template pieces over dough to cut out shapes; bake.

4. Here’s my favorite part. I smashed up butterscotch candy to melt into the windows so that they would light up.

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butterscotch candies
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Place smashed candy into window and bake at 350 degrees, watching closely until melted.
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Perfectly melted window
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…and some more windows…

5. Assemble all of the pieces.

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6. Assemble the house using royal icing as the glue. This step got a little dicey with no one to help hold the roof into place, resulting in a slight slope.

7. And the finished product…

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Taken in full light…
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…and in the dark, but with the flash you can barely tell there’s light behind the windows…

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Side view of the Necco roofline
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I cut out a square on the back of the house and placed a battery operate tea light like this one into the center to illuminate the stained butterscotch glass windows.

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Sugar Cookies from Halloween & Day of the Dead’s Past


I’ve been living without a functioning kitchen now for over FOUR months now. This means no cooking and no creative outlet. Since I cannot bake or cook or do much else creatively speaking (because everything is on its way from Jordan and isn’t set to arrive for months), and given that I’m at home from work due to the storm, I searched through my pictures of Halloween’s past to reminisce about the beautiful cookies that I could have been baking and decorating if I had a full larder and was equipped with my cookie making supplies.

Inspiration? Jack Skelington
If you plan on making lollipop sugar cookies, make the cookies a little thicker than normal and insert cookie stick into dough before baking.
Dia de los Muertos beauties–my personal favorites
I wish I had a friend like me who bakes and distributes cookies for holidays!

In case you’re inspired enough to want to bake, here’s the recipe for the cookies and the icing:

No Fail Sugar Cookies

Preheat oven thirty minutes before you begin. (This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so I usually cut the recipe in half or save half of it to freeze and use later.)

Ingredients:

6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract or desired flavoring (I like almond myself)
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add a little
at a time
 to butter mixture.  Mix until flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together.

Chill for 1 to 2 hours (or see Hint below) 

Roll to desired thickness and cut into desired shapes.  Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350
degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges.  This recipe
can make up to 5-dozen 3” cookies.

HINTRolling Out Dough Without the Mess – Rather than wait for your cookie dough to
chill, take the freshly made dough and place a glob between two sheets of parchment paper.
Roll it out to the desired thickness then place the dough and paper on a cookie sheet and pop it into the refrigerator.
Continue rolling out your dough between sheets of paper until you have used it all.  By the time you are finished, the
first batch will be completely chilled and ready to cut.  Reroll leftover dough and repeat the process!  An added bonus
is that you are not adding any additional flour to your cookies.

Royal Icing 

Makes 3 cups of base consistency icing

3 3/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
3 T meringue powder
6 T warm water

Beat 4 to 5 minutes
By hand, stir in optional flavorings and desired tints.

Add 8 T of warm water if you want flow consistency.

Penzeys Spices True Love


Get a catalog

Love to cook. Cook to love. That’s Penzeys Spices motto and my adopted motto as well. I’ve been a devotee of Penzeys ever since my sister turned me on to their catalog years ago (yes, Nicole, I give you full credit!). The closest store to us back in California was Torrance (way too far from San Clemente) so we would both study the catalog, read the articles, and then coordinate our orders to save on shipping. Lucky for me, I have access to the fabulous Falls Church, Virginia store, which I have yet to visit, but plan on supplementing my diminishing stores of spices soon.

Some of you may know that I was featured in the catalog a few years back and paid homage to Raj by including our traditional Friday night pizza recipe. One night while I was combing through the catalog in Amman (feeling sad for not being able to ship spices overseas), I was inspired (once again) to respond to their “Calling All Cooks” campaign. I was contacted by one of their pleasant writers and shared with her my experiences of living overseas and a few of my favorite Middle Eastern recipes. The story sort of morphed into a love story about how Raj and I met.

Here’s the link to the Fall, “True Love” catalog http://www.penzeys.com/images/F12.pdf. Our story is featured on page 48-49. Check out my recipes for Shish Tawouk (my favorite, simple and easy grilled chicken kebabs) and fattoush (a mixed salad with toasted pita bread pieces). Enjoy…

Homemade, No Knead, Healthy, Whole Wheat Bread


Jordan is not known for its loaves of bread; pita bread, sure, but loaves of fresh, whole wheat bread, NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. I started experimenting with baking fresh loaves a few months ago after I gave up on trying to locate everyday bread. I can buy beautiful French loaves at Paul’s in Abdoun, but their loaves are expensive and last for a day or two before going stale. (Raj LOVES this bread and ensures that I’m baking it about twice a week, making sure we have fresh bread for his weekend breakfast.)

Here’s the recipe that I’ve perfected through trial and error. It only takes a few minutes to prepare, requires about six hours of sitting on the counter to ‘bloom,’ requires another hour of rising in a loaf pan, and then one more hour in the oven and you’ve got yourself a fresh loaf of heaven.

Make 1 loaf

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups ice water, plus 1 tbl water
  • 4 tbl sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. yeast
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbl canola oil (or whatever oil you have, I’ve used vegetable oil and corn oil)
  • baking spray for the tin and bowl

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Mix and fold all of the ingredients, making sure that all of the flour at the bottom of the bowl is blended. The consistency of the dough is very wet and sticky, no need to fuss over it. Spray the top of the dough with cooking spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for at least 6 hours or overnight. (I’ve accidentally left it out for more than 18 hours and it still turned out great).

2. After about 6 hours, the dough will be a little bubbly and will have risen close to the bowls upper edge. Spray a rubber scraper with cooking spray, fold the dough in towards the center to release it from the bowl’s edges and scrape the dough into a prepared (with cooking spray) loaf pan. Spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for about an hour, or until the dough rises over the top of the edge of the loaf pan.

3. Remove the plastic wrap from the risen loaf, preheat the over to 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. With a serrated knife, slash a line down the center of the bread; sprinkle with the top of the loaf with about 1 tablespoon of whole wheat flour. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for approximately 60 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it.

4. Allow the loaf to cool for about 10 minutes before removing the loaf pan.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread


Cinnamon Swirl Bread

[Makes one 9-inch loaf]

  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c packed light brown sugar
  • 4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 c warm whole milk (110 degrees) [I used nonfat milk]
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 envelope (2 1/2 t) rapid-rise or instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 t salt

1. Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Measure out 2 T and reserve for the topping. Whisk the milk, melted butter, and egg yolks together in a large liquid measuring cup.

2. Combine 3 1/2 c flour, the yeast, salt and 1/4 c of the sugar mixture in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low-speed, add the milk mixture until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

3. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If, after 4 minutes, more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/2 c flour, 2 T at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

5. Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press into a 20 by 8-inch rectangle with the short side facing you. Spray the dough lightly with water, then sprinkle evenly with the remaining sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border at the far edge. Lightly spray the sugar mixture with water until it is damp but not wet.

6. Loosen the dough from the work surface using a bench scraper or metal spatula, then roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the seam closed.

(For some reason my bread roll was so big I cut it in half in the middle and made 2 smaller loaves. I was pretty sure what I had was too big for 1 loaf pan and I didn’t want to risk ruining the recipe and wasting my time and ingredients). Place the loaf, seam side down, in the prepared pan. Coat the loaf with vegetable oil spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and the dough barely springs back when poked with a knuckle, 45 to 75 minutes.

7. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the loaf lightly with butter, sprinkle with the reserved sugar mixture, then spray lightly with water. Bake until golden, 40 to 60 minutes, rotating the loaf halfway through baking. Cool the loaf in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, before serving.

Variation: In step 4, after turning the dough out onto the work surface, knead in 1/2 c raisins by hand until evenly distributed. Proceed as directed.