Thursday, December 22, 2011

Red Onion Jam

I can't believe I haven't posted in almost three weeks, where did the time go?   The last two weeks have been intense, on many levels.  Three of our new chickens turned out to be roosters, which is something  I had to deal with, why were the odds against us?  One of our chicken was killed by a hawk, luckily she wasn't one of our favorites, but it was traumatic nonetheless, it also meant that netting had to be installed.  I worked in my house, trying to organize office space, magazines, craft items, it is a never ending story, I wish I was born a natural organizer and a minimalist.  We also had a birthday party in the family, and a catering gig, which went really well.  I also decided to be tested for celiac disease, which will be confirmed in a week or so, but the process took two days, not fun either.  I have two more posts I would try to get done by the end of December, hopefully I will make it.  Phew, how do the great bloggers out there do it?

If you are still looking for homemade Christmas gifts, you can find great inspiration everywhere in the web these days.  For many it is a time of frugality, for others it is the desire of making something by hand, a tradition that is disappearing but also kept alive by many.  Giving something home made  represents the desire to acknowledge the people who make my life great with their work or presence, and since cooking is the thing I do best, that is the craft of my choice.  I have been making Christmas cookies for years, a tradition started more than ten years ago, but sometimes I find inspiration elsewhere, one year I made chocolate fudge.  This year the cookies may not make it, I don't know if I will have the time, that's why this marmalade is perfect, it came together fast, it was easy to make, and is delicious.  The only drawback is the eye stinging, so make it on a day you can open the kitchen windows and let the air in.  I wore swim goggles while cutting the onions, imagine that!

I always thought of marmalade as a citrus fruit preserve, but according to Blue Chair Jam Cookbook and the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a marmalade is a jelly with pieces of fruit and fruit rind present.  Why this preserve qualifies as a marmalade I am not sure, but the book where I found the recipe, Preserve It!, calls it a marmalade so I will stick to the term.   I love this book because it is not just about jams or marmalade,  but has instructions on how to preserve almost everything edible, even in the freezer.

Happy Holidays to all of you!

Red Onion Marmalade
Makes about 2 medium jars

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 lbs-1 kg red onions, peeled and sliced
pinch of salt and freshly grated pepper
1/2 cup red wine
3 TBS balsamic vinegar
3 TBS white wine  vinegar
6 TBS light brown sugar

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-duty stainless steel pan.  Add the onions, the salt and some black pepper.  Cook on medium low for about 30 minutes, until the onions soften and turn translucent, stirring occasionally so they don't stick, slow cooking is essential for the caramel taste to develop.  Raise the heat a little, add the vinegars and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally for another 30-40 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Remove the pan form the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.  Spoon into warm sterilized jars with a non metallic or vinegar-proof lid.  Store in the fridge to allow the flavors to mature for few weeks.  Keep refrigerated.


Here are few more ideas for this Christmas season:

Almond sticks with cocoa nibs
Blood orange caramels with almonds
Chocolate thumbprints cookies
Congo brownies
Korova cookies
Pecan shortbread cookies
Sunflower ginseng macarons

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake & A Blog Anniversary!

We went to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving and it felt extra good to be there especially because of the recent passing of a dear family member, a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather.  The weather was great, and I even got to exercise!  Sadly though, I decided against making the apple tart since someone else brought an apple dessert.  I ended up making a version of this cake instead, and I am glad I did because it was delicious.  The inspiration comes from Cook's Illustrated publication, Chocolate Desserts.  I chose the recipe not just for the decadence, the visual appeal, and the hazelnuts, but because it contains only two tablespoons of flour, so it could easily be turned into a gluten free cake.

The first time I made the cake without changing the proportions, but I thought it was a little too sweet and dry.  By comparing it with a flourless chocolate recipe I love, I decided to make few changes, namely add 1 oz of butter, decrease the chocolate by 1 oz, decrease the yolks by one and increase the whites by one. 

The chocolate glaze recipe comes from Alice Medrich, it is rich but not too sweet and it adds another layer to this wonderful cake, you can easily omit it if you prefer a simpler cake.  Keep it in your repertoire though because it is silky and delicious and makes any cake look elegant.

The candied grapefruit peel also adds wonderful taste and color to this cake, and can be substituted with orange peel or entirely omitted.

Happy 3rd  Birthday!

I imagine this cake at a Christmas table, or to celebrate New Year's Eve, but I made it again to celebrate my third blog anniversary.   I can't believe three years have passed since my first post, which had no pictures, just a recipe.  It has been three years of discovery, new friendships, and the discovery of a new passion for photography.  I am so grateful to have this platform,  I love blogging, it is a great creative outlet, especially since I am out of work again, it gives me an excuse to keep on baking and discover new recipes.  

Food photography is a new challenge and I have lots of learning to do, I believe I only scratched the surface of this new realm, so much to lean, so much to improve.  As I go deeper, I learn new tricks, meet amazingly talented people, and find never-ending inspiration.  One day I will have to list all the food photographers that I admire.

A special thanks to my readers who keep me going, I would love to see more of your comments when you stop by, so don't be shy!

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 1/3 cups hazelnuts (7 oz.)
3/4 cup sugar
2 TBS corn starch
5 oz unsalted butter, softened
5 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1/4 tsp salt

Toast the nuts in a 325F oven for 10 minutes. Using a kitchen towel rub the nuts against one another to remove the skin.  Cool completely.  Preheat oven to 350F, grease and paper line a spring form pan (mine was big, hence the short cake, if you want a higher cake use 8", it will take longer to bake).   Place the chocolate in a bowl over a water bath and melt, stirring occasionally.  Beat butter with 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy.  In the mean time, grind the cooled nuts, 1/4 cup sugar, and the corn starch in a food processor until fine, and set aside.  When the butter is nice and fluffy, add the egg yolks, one at a time.  Clean the side of the bowl with a spatula and slowly add the warm chocolate.  Mix until incorporated, cleaning the sides of the bowl few times.  Add the nut mixture and mix until uniform.  Whip the egg whites in a clean bowl with the salt until stiff.  Slowly incorporate the stiff whites into the cake base.  Pour into the spring form pan, level with a spatula, and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40-45 minutes.  Cool and remove from the pan.  To assemble, pour the glaze on the top, spread it with a spatula and add the candied peel.



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