Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chocolate Thumbprint with Chocolate Ganache

The search for new cookie recipes has started. Even before entering the path of becoming a pastry chef I was making Christmas cookies, something that gives me great satisfaction. My selection consists of some traditional cookies, like ginger cookies, cookies with nuts, and cookies that look good together, a contrast of color and textures. While I have a great collection of recipes already, I am always on the lookout for recipes that are different, interesting, and can work in miniature form as I like the cookies to be small. I saw the recipe for these dainty cookies here, a lovely Italian blog called Brodo di Giuggiole. The recipe originally comes from Martha Stewart and you can find it here. I didn't change a thing as they are delicious, maybe I would try to add some nut flour and some spice. The recipe works out well, the cookies are easy to shape, and they taste intensely chocolate. The only set back was that they lost a little bit of shape as they baked.

Chocolate Thumbprints
adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a small bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, and add yolks, cream, and vanilla. Scrape sides of bowl. Beat in flour mixture until just combined.
2. Roll balls using 2 teaspoons dough for each, and roll each in sugar. Place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. With the handle of a wooden spoon, press gently in the center of each to create an indentation. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are just set, about 10 minutes. (If indentations lose definition, press centers again.) Let cool slightly on baking sheets. Transfer cookies to wire racks, and let cool.
3. Spoon warm ganache into center of each cookie. Let stand until firm, about 15 minutes. Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.

I used a white chocolate macha ganache for the centers. The idea was to have a really green center for Halloween, but it didn't quite work as my macha was an off-green color and didn't really turn the chocolate green enough. Maybe I needed to add more.

White Chocolate Ganache
adapted from Alice Medrich

  • 6 oz white chocolate, chopped small
  • 2 oz heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoon macha
Chop chocolate in a food processor. Bring cream to a boil and then pour into the chocolate with the mixer running. Process until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. If it breaks, like it happened to me, remove from the food processor, add some cold cream to the bowl of the food processor and while running slowly pour the broken ganache into the bowl. This should fix it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Roasted Pears & Pear-Caramel Ice Cream

Autumn has officially arrived in the Bay Area so it is time to switch the dessert repertoire, and since I believe that ice cream should be eaten year round I decided to try this full-of-promises ice cream from The Perfect Scoop. David Lebovitz doesn't fail to deliver another amazing recipe, and if you don't have any of his books, run to the bookstore. David suggests using very flavorful pears to stand up to the slightly bitter caramel flavor, and recommends using Comice or Barlett. I decided to try asian pears instead, very delicate in flavor, and very perfumed. According to this site the variety I used is called JunoSan, with a reddish brown skin. I added fresh sliced ginger to the caramel to add an extra kick, and that worked really well. The ice cream was paired with pears baked with an almond streusel (I used the Taylor Gold variety, which were a little delicate but really good and juicy). The dessert was light, easy, and really tasty.

Pear-Caramel Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop

3 medium-sized pears, peeled and cored
3/4 cups plus 2 TBS (180 gr) sugar
2 oz (60 gr) fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
2 cups (500 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/8 tsp kosher salt

Spread the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. As the sugar starts to liquefy, shake the pan to let the liquid sugar heat and melt the remaining sugar crystals. When all the sugar is melted and a deep amber color, add the pear and the ginger pieces (remember to count the pieces of ginger as you want to remove them all before pureeing the ice cream base). Don't worry if some of the sugar solidifies. Cook the pears for ten minutes until softened through, stirring so all the caramel will melt again. Remove from the heat, add the cream and the salt, and let cool. Remove the ginger pieces, then puree the mixture in a food processor. Strain the mixture to remove any tough pear pieces if you wish (I didn't and I liked the extra texture). Chill completely, then freeze according to your ice cream maker.

Baker Pears with Almond Streusel

Peel and core the pears, add three tablespoons of streusel to each half. Bake at 375F until soft and the top is nicely browned. Use either one or two half pears per serving, depending on the size.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will live as one

John and Yoko stayed in the house we own for few weeks. The house is very special for a variety of reasons, and the legacy of John's presence makes it even more so. This song is so inspiration, and I wish more people would live by its meaning.
"Ono indicated that the lyrical content of "Imagine" was "just what John believed — that we are all one country, one world, one people. He wanted to get that idea out."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Panzanella-My way

I just spent two hours picking my tomato plants clean of ripe tomatoes, cutting many of the leaves to allow for more sun to hit the remaining fruit, and harvesting lots of basil before the cold weather kills the plants. It is a warm and sunny Autumn day in the Bay Area, so I am hoping for more ripe tomatoes in the next week or so. Every year in July I tell myself that I will not plant that many tomato plants again, but then in September and October I change my mind when I get to eat the fruit of my labor.

Panzanella is a summer salad originated in Tuscany, and like many dishes of the "cucina povera" (literally poor cuisine), it is a way to use stale bread, Ribollita is another example. A little olive oil and balsamic vinegar turn this simple dish into something delicious. I don't know you, but I could eat tomatoes all summer long.

There are many versions of this dish and traditionally the bread is soaked in water before adding it to the tomatoes. I like mine with plenty of basil and a shallot vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, which is a little French I guess. Sometimes I add cucumber, string beans, or corn to the salad.


2 C bread, cut in cubes
1 T extra virgin olive oil

3 C tomatoes
1 medium shallot
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Basil, salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle the bread cubes with 1 TBS of oil and bake at 350F until dry and lightly colored. While the bread is in the oven, mince the shallot and add it to the vinegar (this will soften the onion and impart a nice flavor to the vinegar), marinate for 30 minutes. Add the remaining oil to the vinegar, mix well, add to the tomatoes and their juices, toss with the cooled bread cubes, and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Serves two.

Buon Appetito!


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