Tag Archives: Butter

La Bête Noire: An Elegant, Decadent & Unforgettable Chocolate Dessert

La Bête NoireJust one bite of this amazingly fudgy, impossibly creamy, positively addicting cake is proof positive of the healing power of chocolate.” 
Bon Appetit magazine, September 2006

On this Christmas Eve, I have a quick post for you that is all chocolate.  My bookshelf holds a well-used issue of a Bon Appetit magazine; the cover shot features a piece of the most decadent, rich and fudgy flourless chocolate cake that is aptly named La Bête Noire, which translates to “The Black Beast”.  I have served it many times for special occasions and it never disappoints.  This year it was the perfect finale for a Christmas dinner feast with friends.  The bottom layer of the cake consists of a flourless chocolate cake and to make it even more luxurious, a layer of ganache (cream and chocolate) is spread over the top. Whether it’s for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a Birthday or Dinner party, La Bête Noire is one of my favorite elegant desserts.  Someday when I find a 5” springform pan I may reduce the recipe by half, but for now I always make the full recipe of 16 slices of chocolate heaven.

The recipe may seem daunting, but it’s fairly simple to make as you can see below.  It’s not included in this post but you can easily view and print the recipe here. To get started, you’ll need to prepare the springform pan for a bain marie, or water bath.  Three pieces of foil are wrapped around the sides, which help protect the batter from the water and provide insulation during cooking.Foil-wrap the springform pan_Text

For the batter, I melt the butter first and then stir in the chocolate for easier melting.  I used 12 ounces (about 2 cups) of 60% cacao chocolate chips and 6 ounces (about 1 cup) of semi-sweet chips.Cake Batter_ Melted Butter & Chocolate

Simple syrup is whisked in and then some eggs – the batter is done and ready to be poured into the pan.Finished Batter

A classic cooking method, the recipe uses a bain marie, or water bath, to cook the delicate cake.  Now you can see why so much foil is needed around the springform pan.
Place the springform pan in the bottom of a large roasting pan, pour the batter into the springform pan and then pour hot water into the roasting pan, enough so it reaches halfway up the side of the cake pan.  Bake for 50 minutes.Cake Batter in Bain Marie

After cooking, the foil is removed from the sides and the cake cools completely.Bottom Layer_Cooling

The decadent finish: a layer of Ganache is spread over the top.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight.

Pour Ganache over Cake

Serve with fresh whipped cream (if you have on hand, use a fresh vanilla bean for more flavor!) and savor every bite.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  I hope your celebrations are filled with chocolate, love, peace, joy and happy times.

Eat well and share the love!Logo Foodie for Two

Snow in DecemberWe’re excited that snow is in the forecast this Christmas Eve, plus we’re expecting a White Christmas tomorrow!  And thankfully, after being without heat for the last five days, our heater is being replaced this afternoon – sweet.

Advertisements

Homemade Limoncello with Pistachio Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

There’s reason for celebration because my batch of homemade limoncello is ready, just in time for David’s birthday! I started the limoncello on August 16th and it was ready last Saturday (November 3). The recipe is from Joanne Weir and takes 80 days to cure. Made from lemon peels, 2 bottles of 100-proof vodka and some simple syrup, this limoncello recipe is easy to make, yielding crisp and bright flavors. My Mom has been making it for years so it was fun to carry on the tradition with my first batch here. An Italian classic, limoncello is served ice cold and sipped after dinner. I made pistachio chocolate chip shortbread cookies for something decadent and sweet. They offer a buttery, rich texture and pair well with the lemony, smooth alcohol. The shortbread cookie recipe is from Martha Stewart, with an added 1/3 cup each of the nuts and 60% cacao chocolate chips, both chopped. Be sure to roll the cookie sides in sugar (used turbinado for texture).

Speaking of sugar, you may remember from the Day 40 post that I used organic sugar in the simple syrup, which changed the color from the usual light golden (as shown here with Mom’s May vintage) to a tea color. Thankfully the color lightened considerably, but it is still darker than normal. I’m happy to report that the flavor is uncompromised.

The recipe yields 12 cups of lemony goodness. To make the bottle filing easier, ladle the limoncello into a measuring cup with a spout, place a medium funnel in the bottle and pour slowly, leaving an inch of space at the top. I found the long neck (small and large) limoncello bottles with red-capped corks at World Market; they also sell bottles with a clamp stopper, shown here.  Pier1 has some vintage-looking bottles with corks, and Amazon sells the clamp stopper bottles, plus more.
Store the bottled limoncello in the freezer.

Aside from waiting, the only labor involved is peeling all the lemons on Day 1. To recap from my earlier posts, here’s the abbreviated 80-day limoncello process (click on links for blog posts and recipe):
· Day 1: Add peels from 15 lemons to a 1-gallon jar, add 100-proof vodka
· Day 40: Add simple syrup and more 100-proof vodka
· Day 80: Strain mixture and bottle. Store in freezer and serve ice cold in small glasses

You can buy pre-made tags for your limoncello bottles, or quickly make your own:
o    Use beige heavy card stock, cut strips then pieces of the desired size
o    Cut the edges with wavy lines instead of straight 
o    Hole punch the top, use a highlighter to color the outer edge
o    Make horizontal lines inside the color and add a line around the inside edge
o    Finish it off with some interesting yarn (alpaca/wool yarn shown here), ribbon or colored raffia and if desired, make it long enough to tie a bow at the end knot

Done! Bottle tags are ready for use.

I believe a few friends have made a batch of limoncello after I posted and would love to hear how theirs turned out – friends, are you listening? Always love it when you share. How about you, did you start a batch, or have you made some before? Not just for the holidays, limoncello is wonderful on Valentine’s Day, for birthdays (including yours!) or just because.  Do make some, and please share.

Cheers, and Happy Birthday to my man!

Eat well and share the love!

Moroccan Mint Tea & A Cookie With Many Names

A cookie with many names…….Growing up in the Southwest, we called them Mexican wedding cookies – a melt in your mouth buttery, shortbread-like cookie with a sweet, nutty flavor.  They are also known as Russian Tea Cake, Italian Butter Nut, Southern Pecan Butterball, Snowdrop and Viennese Sugar Ball.  In the September 2012 issue of Food & Wine there is a version called walnut snowball cookies; it is just one of several recipes from two friends born in Jerusalem who are chefs and restaurant owners in London, and releasing a new cookbook inspired by their home country.  When I saw the beautifully photographed plate of cookies, I was inspired to get baking and indulge my sweet tooth!  My next thought was how wonderful our family recipe for Moroccan Mint Tea would be with this can’t-eat-just-one cookie.  I was also sold because the recipe uses some fresh vanilla bean, which always promises full vanilla flavor.  The hot, sweet mint tea proved to be the perfect pairing with the cookies.

The walnut snowball cookies tasted even better than I remembered (the vanilla bean really does make a flavor difference), and the recipe is easy to prepare.  I made a few modifications to the F&W recipe: increased oven temp by 25 degrees, added water in order to get dough to come together and used a hand-mixer instead of upright mixer (the first two were probably due to our high altitude and the low humidity) – the recipe below includes my changes.  I also reduced the recipe by half, for a yield of about 20 cookies.  Trust me; you’ll want extras of these addicting little cookies. In fact, this post was supposed to be for last week but we ended up eating most of the cookies (among other photo mishaps) before I got my main photograph!  The plate just didn’t look right with only 6 cookies on it, so I made up another batch the next day and got out the camera again.

My family’s beautiful Moroccan tea pot held countless glasses of mint tea when we were growing up; I am glad I ended with up with this heirloom!  We lived in Kenitra, Morocco (outside Rabat) for a few years in the early 1970’s while my father was stationed there with the Navy; as a young child, it was a cultural experience that opened my eyes in many ways.  We lived for a short time in the middle of the city, in a villa surrounded with high walls.  The large yard held a garden, including mint plants – it was in this garden where we discovered as kids how delicious the honeysuckle flower nectar tasted fresh off the vine.  For her Moroccan Mint Tea, I remember Mom snipping off several sprigs of mint, adding them to the tea pot filled with sugar and tea leaves, and then the fragrant aromas when the hot water was added.

It’s been a while since we made a pot of tea so I had to call Mom to get the official family recipe.  Loose black tea leaves (didn’t have any hand so I got permission to use a tea bag instead; gunpowder green tea also shown in picture with tea bag), sugar and whole mint sprigs are added to the tea pot and hot water is poured over it all.  The mixture steeps for 5 minutes and after a taste for sweetness, it is ready to enjoy.

The Moroccan Mint Tea and walnut snowball cookies will definitely be served together in our house again, and again.

Eat well and share the love!

Moroccan Mint Tea with Walnut Snowball Cookies   (print recipe)
Original Cookie Recipe: Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi
Cookie Recipe Adapted by: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Makes about 20 cookies (adapted recipe is halved from original; recipe can be doubled)

Moroccan Mint Tea
Serves 2, makes 3 cups

Ingredients:
1 tea bag (black tea) or 1 tablespoon loose black tea
3 whole mint sprigs
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups steaming hot water

Directions:
Add the sugar to a tea pot or serving pitcher; add the mint sprigs and tea, and pour hot water over mixture. Stir a few times to dissolve the sugar and close the tea pot lid (or cover up pitcher). Let steep for 5 minutes. Serve hot; pour into glasses tableside.

Walnut Snowball Cookies
Ingredients:
¾ cup walnuts (3 ounces)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
½ cup, plus 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cold water

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the walnuts on the baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Add the butter and vanilla to a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Using a hand-mixer beat the butter with the vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through. At low speed, mix in the salt, then gradually add the flour, 2 teaspoons water and walnuts and beat just until the cookie dough comes together, scraping down the side of the bowl halfway through.

Roll level tablespoons of the dough into balls and arrange them on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for about 17 minutes, until they are lightly browned on the bottom; rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Let the cookies firm up on the sheets, about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool slightly.

Put the remaining 2/3 cup of confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar to coat and return to the rack to cool completely. Roll again in the sugar.

v  Make Ahead: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


A late-summer sale that I couldn’t resist: These zinnias are happy in the indirect sun and continue to bloom. They are a welcome sight to the almost spent flowers and changing colors of Fall around us.

Check Mark for Life List #2 & Chocolate Melting Cake

(Life List #2: Zip line through a forest canopy)

Last week we got away and took a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate my niece’s graduation, and my birthday happened to fall during the trip – not too shabby!  The week was just what we needed – no thinking required, fun and relaxing.  And it was exciting because I was able to check something off my life list: zip line through a forest canopy.  It’s otherwise known as a bucket list, which sounds so depressing to me. These are things that I want to do during my life to enhance and enrich it, not just when I am older.  There are over 30 things scribbled in my little book so far and new things will be added along the way.

We signed up for a zip line in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and a hike up Dunn’s River Falls with our niece, Sara (we are so proud that she just graduated from Brandeis University, summa cum laude with highest honors!). 

It was a thrill to experience it and rewarding to check off my list (pictures right, and below: the walk back after the zip line).  Something else exciting was diving in Grand Cayman where I conquered my lingering fear/hesitation with the sport.  After all, with about 30 dives logged so far I have a lot to be proud of, and have gazed upon some beautiful sights underwater. Next goal: log 50 dives.  As you can see, there is a lot to celebrate and chocolate is just the thing.  On board the cruise ship, we had the Chocolate Melting Cake every night after dinner – sometimes one to ourselves, and on other nights one for the table to share.  And we always ordered it with a scoop of ice cream, usually vanilla.

We were lucky enough to get the recipe for the Chocolate Melting Cake during a “behind the scenes” ship tour for the guys, which was an unexpected treat! The cake is pure chocolate, with a warm and gooey center that coats your spoon as you dig in the middle. Scoops of your favorite ice cream create a sublime finish – any flavor will do, really. I used Häagen Daz Caramel Cone and Mint Chip. For two people (3 servings) I cut the recipe in half, which is perfect for us. It’s easy to make and cooks in about 10 minutes. Any leftover cake is great the next day after a 20 second warm up in the microwave.

Do you have a list? Have you checked anything off recently? I would love to hear about it. Cheers to having adventures in life, and lots of chocolate to celebrate!  And a huge thanks to Beth, Steve and Sara for inviting us along for the ride, we had a blast!
Eat well and share the love!

Chocolate Melting Cake (print recipe)
Recipe: Adapted from Carnival Cruise Lines, June 2012
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 7 minutes; Cooking time: 12 minutes / Total cooking time: about 19 minutes

Ingredients:
3 ounces unsalted butter (5 tablespoons), plus ½
tablespoon, softened, for greasing ramekins
3 ounces chocolate: 2 ounces 60% cacao chips and 1 ounce
semi-sweet chocolate chips (about ½ cup total)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 ounces sugar (about 1/3 cup)
1 ounce flour (about 6 tablespoons)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 390º and grease 3 ramekins with soft butter, set aside.

Add 5 tablespoons butter to a small saucepan and turn heat to medium-low. When the butter is half melted, stir in the chocolate chips and continue stirring until the chocolate has just melted. Turn off heat and remove pan from heat; let cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix well for 1 minute. Add the flour and whisk well until all the flour is completely mixed in. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix until it is smooth and incorporated.

Pour the batter evenly into the three greased ramekins, about ¼ inch from the top. Cook for 12 to 12½ minutes until the top of the cake is just firm and the cake still has a slight jiggle.

Remove ramekins from oven and let cool slightly. Serve with small scoops of your favorite ice cream or gelato.

Valentine’s Day Starter: French Onion Soup

With Valentine’s Day less than one week away, it’s time to start planning something scrumptious from the kitchen.  As a small portion, this classic soup is an intimate start to an evening of food with you and your honey.  The house gets filled with aromas that delight your senses and then you get to dig into this bowl of gooey goodness!  You’ll need to set aside some time to make the soup – about 2 hours – but you will be richly rewarded with the best little bowl of homemade French Onion Soup. The star of this soup is of course the onions, which cook and cook and cook until they have released their natural sugars, get soft and creamy, and develop a rich brown color.

I love that there are few ingredients in this soup but the resulting flavors are incredible.  The onions are thinly sliced and cooked low and slow, with a bay leaf and some fresh thyme to infuse their flavors.  White wine is added, then some roux (melted butter and flour mixture used to thicken), beef stock and then it cooks a little bit more.  The soup can be made a few days ahead of time and reheated before adding the croutons.  The croutons are the highlight of French Onion Soup, with melted Gruyère cheese; the top is crispy and golden, and underneath it’s slightly soft from the juices of the soup.

If you’ve only tried this delicious soup in a restaurant, I highly recommend that you give it shot in your kitchen.  It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day indulgence that is a feast for your eyes and your senses!

Eat well and share the love!

French Onion Soup
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies (makes about 4 cups)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium sweet onions (or yellow onions)
1 large shallot
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 stalks fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ cup good Chardonnay wine (one that you would drink)
3 cups low-sodium beef stock
Roux: 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter and 1 ½ tablespoons flour, mixed together
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 to 4 baguette slices, toasted (season with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper)
¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese

Directions:
Cut off the ends and peel the onions and shallot.  Cut each onion in half and then cut each onion half (and the shallot) into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick.

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy soup pot, turn heat to medium-low and add the butter.  Let melt and add all of the onions with ¼ teaspoon salt.  Stir a few times to coat the onions with the butter and cook for about 20 minutes without stirring.  Stir in the sugar, and add the thyme stalks and bay leaf.  Cover with a lid and continue to let the onions cook for another hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the onions are very soft and golden brown.

Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and add the minced garlic, cook for 30 seconds.  Add the wine and cook uncovered until most of wine is evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the beef stock, roux, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and let cook for another 30 to 45 minutes until onions are very soft and soup has thickened.

To serve, turn the broiler to high.  Add ¾ cup to 1 cup of soup in an oven-proof ramekin, soup tureen or mug.  Add the toasted bread slice (or slices) on the top of soup and top with half the cheese. Place the ramekin under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is melted, golden and bubbly. Serve hot.