Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Party 2012

Saturday was our 2nd annual Ugly Christmas Sweater and White Elephant Party. The house was filled with delicious desserts and horrendous fashion. It was a great time. I made classic gingerbread cookie, my pumpkin pie spice cookies, sugar cookies, stained glass cookies, and delicious glitter cookies. I was particularly excited to use my brand new 'A Christmas Story' leg lamp cookie cutter. This is my favorite holiday film and thought this was such a fun shape to make. Everyone had a great time. Little did I know that I'd be making chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream a couple days later for another holiday get together.

This will be my last post for a little while. We're going out of town all next week for my birthday and Christmas. I'll have updates on all the delicious food we eat while we're in St. Louis. I'm excited to try some new restaurants. In the meantime here are some pictures from the party. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

French Lemon Cream Tart

When I came across this recipe by Dorie Greenspan I couldn't wait to get into the kitchen and start baking. Ever since I first made lemon curd I was amazed at how a few simple ingredients could be transformed into something so delicious. But of course, Dorie Greenspan, with some help from Pierre Hermé, took lemon curd to the next level. Instead of adding the butter at the beginning you first cook the lemon curd then pour it into a food processor, or blender, and slowly add the butter. By emulsifying the butter it turns the lemon curd into an amazingly creamy taste and texture. Wow. Move over lemon curd, this new method is taking your place. Top a crispy baked tart shell with this creamy lemon curd along with some whipped cream and I am amazed. This is a recipe that you have to try.

Tart Shell or pâte sablée
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
9 tbsp frozen (or very cold) unsalted butter, cut into tbsp
1 egg yolk

1) Place the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times to mix them together, then add the butter, being careful not to over process the dough, you want it to be sandy and have visible pieces of butter. The pulse in the egg yolk slowly then pulse for 10 seconds until everything is combined.
2) The dough will be very loose and you will have to work it together with your hands to form the dough, just be careful not to over-knead the dough.
3) Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan and then press the dough into the pan, working up the sides to make sure the dough is evenly dispersed. If you have extra save some to fill in cracks if necessary after baking.
4) Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes
5) Butter the shiny side of some foil and press it against the tart shell then bake in a 375 F oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 8 minutes, you can bake it slightly longer, just be careful that it doesn't burn.
6) Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack until completely cool before filling with desired filling.

French Lemon Cream Tart
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 cup sugar
Zest from 3 lemons
4 eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks plus 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tbsp (room temperature)

1 fully baked tart shell

You will need a thermometer for this recipe

1) Add the lemon zest to the sugar and combine these ingredients to make a lemony sugar, rubbing the lemon oils into the sugar. Whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice and place them in a double boiler over simmering water.

2) Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it reaches 180 F, it will thicken while it cooks, just keep whisking, this can take about 10 minutes
3) Once the mixture reaches 180 F take it off of the heat and pour it through a sieve, to remove the zest, into a food processor or blender and let cool to 140 F, then turn the machine on and slowly add the butter, about 5 tbsp at a time, you may have to scrape the sides down a couple times
4) After the butter is incorporated let the machine run for about 3 minutes to fully emulsify the butter and lemon mixture together

5) Pour the lemon cream into a container and press with plastic wrap and let cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours (this will keep in the fridge for 4 days). Just make sure it is airtight

6) Once the lemon cream is cooled you can then pour it into the cooled tart and let it set up for a few minutes. I like to add freshly whipped cream on top. Then slice and serve and enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rictotta and Olive Tortellini

Ricotta. Or as I refer to it. The forgotten cheese. Why you may ask? Well, because whenever I get an impulse to buy ricotta it inevitably ends up getting pushed to the back of my fridge and forgotten, until I find it and ask myself, "what am I supposed to do with this?". Ricotta is fine, its not the greatest cheese that has even been crafted, but it does have some great uses. I've added ricotta to a delicious cake, I've even made gnocchi. It seems as if everytime I buy this cheese I am stuck wondering what to do with it. So when life gives you ricotta I say make tortellini, or ravioli. 

I made homemade pasta and mixed together the ricotta with some basil and Kalamata olives then got to work filling and shaping the tortellini. I usually make ravioli, but I wanted to try to make tortellini. It took a few duds to get the shaping correct. Trial and error. Don't worry you'll get the hang of it. Sure you may have a few odd shaped pieces, but that doesn't mean they are any less delicious. 

Homemade Pasta
Adapted from Trattoria Grappolo (aka one of my favorite restaurants)

5 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups AP flour

1) Beat together the eggs, salt, and olive oil and set aside
2) You can either do this by hand or use a food processor. I've done both. The food processor is a lot quicker, but sometimes I don't want to wash all those dishes. 
3) If using food processor add the flour and with the machine on add the egg mixture and pulse until combined and a dough has formed. 
4) If mixing by hand make a mound of flour and then make a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the center and slowly incorporate the dough into the egg mixture and knead until mixture is combined
5) Divide the dough into 3 balls and wrap with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. 
6) Set up your pasta machine and get the dough out and start rolling it out into the desired thickness and cut and shape into desired shape

Olive, Ricotta, and Basil Filling
Adapted from Cook with Jamie

Bunch of fresh basil, finely chopped, divided 
9 oz of ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1/4 cup of Kalamata olives
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced
14 oz of fresh tomatoes, or use canned (but use really good quality here)
Balsamic vinegar

1) Mix together the ricotta, nutmeg, olives, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and half of the basil in a bowl

2) Have pasta rolled out into 4-inch squares and the place a small amount of filling into the pasta and shape into tortellini. You will have to practice this a few times before you get it right. 

3) When the pasta are filled place them on a sheet pan with a liberal dusting of flour to prevent them from sticking. You can cook now, or place in the fridge until ready to cook. (These are best the same day)

4) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with lots of salt
5) While the water is coming to a boil begin making your sauce bu adding some olive oil and butter to a pan then add in the garlic and the remaining basil, then add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes

6) Add the tortellini to the water and cook for about 2-3 minutes then drain them, reserving some pasta water if needed for the sauce.
7) Add the tortellini to the sauce and let them cook in the sauce for a minute and toss with some more Parmesan if desired, and add pasta water if sauce is too thick

8) Add to a plate and enjoy!