Thursday, January 29, 2009

Angélique Schmeink and Michel Roux: Tuiles

This is the first time that I have ever made tuiles, and I've got to say, I'm not super impressed. These were pretty tasteless and blah. Oh, and I didn't have an expensive tuile stencil, so I could never get mine thin enough to be really crunchy once they cooled. Plus, they seem to be just a side show for whatever you put in them. I think these are a pass from now on, but on the other hand, the berries I managed to find were absolutely fantastic!

Adapted from recipes by Angélique Schmeink and Michel Roux

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
½ cup sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at low speed, cream butter, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla sugar to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Add the flour and cocoa in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter. Be careful to not overmix.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter or spray and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil or cardboard template. Press the stencil (if using) on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread the batter. Leave some room in between your shapes.

Bake tuiles for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from the baking sheet and proceed to shape or bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, so you might want to bake a small amount at a time or put them in the oven to warm them up again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Baking: From My Home to Yours: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

When I first got a look at this recipe, I was a little concerned. Okay, a lot concerned.  Among the cooking instructions were statements like: "Don't be concerned if the cake has domed and cracked - it will settle down as it cools" and "The edges of the cake might be quite brown, but don't fret - you can trim them after you ice the cake". I have to say that this is the first cake I've ever made where the author tells you up front that it's going to fall and burn. Always a good sign.

Luckily, my worrying was unnecessary.  Although the cake did fall and get a little brown around the edges, it was otherwise pretty delicious.  The spice and chocolate were perfect for each other.  As in, fated lovers perfect.  And I didn't even bother with the icing.

Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate - 2 ounces melted and cooled, 4 ounces finely chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely chopped stem ginger in syrup (available in Asian markets and supermarkets; optional)

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon strong coffee
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and put it on a baking sheet. (Pan must be a full 9-inch square size or batter will overflow - measure first).

Put the fresh ginger and sugar in a small bowl, stir and set aside.  Whisk the flour, baking soda and spices together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment,or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar and butter together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled at this stage. Pour in the molasses and beat until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate, along with the sugared ginger. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 additions (begin and end with the dry ingredients),mixing the batter only as much as needed to blend the ingredients. Fold in the chopped chocolate and the ginger in syrup. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Don't be concerned if the cake has domed and cracked-it will settle down as it cools. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then unmold the cake. Turn right side up to cool to room temperature before icing the cake. (The edges of the cake might be quite brown, but don't fret-you can trim them after you ice the cake.)

Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, put the chocolate and coffee in the bowl, and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl and, using a small whisk, stir in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the chocolate and stir in. Transfer the bowl to a counter and let the icing sit for about 10 minutes.

Put the gingerbread, still on the rack, on a piece of wax paper or foil (the drip catcher). Pour the icing onto the center of the cake and use a long metal spatula to spread the icing evenly over the top. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes (you can hurry it along by chilling the cake briefly). If the edges of the cake are overbaked, now is the time to trim them. Then cut the gingerbread into 9 even pieces.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Casserole Crazy: Broccoli, Cheese, and Rice Casserole

Ever since I was child, and I first tried the cheesy rice and broccoli casserole they served at the cafeteria, I was hooked. I loved it. It had everything I loved in it. It was creamy and cheesy and perfect. Only problem? The only recipes I could find called for Velveeta, the non-cheese cheese. That quickly put a stop to my consumption. Who knew I loved plastic cheese so much??

Just recently I received a new cookbook to review called Casserole Crazy. And guess what just happened to be in the book? A recipe for Broccoli, Cheese, and Rice Casserole, with NO Velveeta. Just good 'ol Cheddar in this one. And it cooked up just as creamy and rich as the original, with no lingering chemical flavor. Perfect comfort food when the weather's kinda nasty and you need something nice in your tummy.

Note: I used 2 cups of rice (mostly because I didn't want to throw the extra out), and it turned out just fine. The original recipe calls for 1½ cups.

Broccoli, Cheese, and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Casserole Crazy by Emily Farris

1 head of broccoli (about 2½ cups), chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup baby Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk or half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups cooked long grain rice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bring a medium pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add the chopped broccoli and cook, covered, for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil, adding more olive oil as needed, until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 1 minute, then add the butter. When the butter melts, add the flour and mix quickly and thoroughly. When the butter and flour are fully integrated, slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Salt and pepper to taste, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the milk mixture is hot, but not boiling, slowly add all but ½ cup of the cheddar cheese, stirring constantly. When the cheese begins to melt, add the rice and stir until everything is thoroughly mixed. Add the broccoli, salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat, and transfer to a 2½-quart baking dish and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Remove from the oven and top with remaining cheese. Bake 5 to 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and golden on top.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Baked: The Baked Brownie

About two months ago I bought a cookbook called Baked with the recipes from a bakery in Brooklyn with the same name. Everything looked stunning, but when I got to the recipe for The Baked Brownie, I knew I had to try it. This brownie has been lauded by everyone it seems, including Oprah and the Today show. I even ordered a special box of Valrhona cocoa powder to use.

And the taste? I will admit they are pretty rich. My coworkers loved them. But having tried Ghirardelli's recipe for brownies also, these don't seem that much more spectacular. With all the hoopla, I was, frankly, expecting a mind-blowing experience. Without the hoopla, yeah, these are pretty good brownies.

The Baked Brownie
From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk just until combined. Add the vanilla extract and stir until combined. Don’t overmix at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.  Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and fold until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Florilège Gourmand: French Yule Log

When I first saw this recipe, I almost choked on the food I was eating. The recipe, including variations, is somewhere around twelve pages long. It is the longest, most involved, ridiculous item I have ever made. This cake took around fifteen hours and a year off my life. It used something in the neighborhood of a carton of eggs, a carton of heavy cream, and four chocolate bars.

The cake itself has six different parts that must be separately made from scratch, layered in a pan to create an amazing showpiece that you would normally only find in the best restaurants.  The six layers of the cake are: a crème brulée insert, a praline feuillete insert, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, almond dacquoise biscuit, and a robe of chocolate on the outside.  I finally got to taste my creation last night, and guess what? It's so incredibly rich, it actually made me kinda sick to eat it.

French Yule Log
From Florilège Gourmand

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

¾ cup almond meal
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
About 3 medium egg whites
4 tablespoons granulated sugar

Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).  Sift the flour into the mix.  Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.  Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.  Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.  Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip, etc...) and to a height of ⅓-inch. Bake at 350°F for approximately 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

2½ sheets gelatin or 1¼ teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons thick corn syrup
½ ounce water
About 3 medium egg yolks
6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream

Soften the gelatin in cold water. If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.  Beat the egg yolks until very light in color (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).  Cook the sugar, corn syrup, and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F. If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.  Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.  Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.

In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.  Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.  Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup of whipped cream to temper. Add the egg yolk mixture.  Add in the rest of the whipped cream, mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

4 tablespoons granulated sugar
⅔ cup minus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon unsalted butter, softened

Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color.  While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.  Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.  Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

To make 2 ounces of gavottes (lace crepes):
⅓ cup whole milk
⅔ tablespoon unsalted butter
⅓ cup minus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon beaten egg
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil

Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.  Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.  Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it. Bake at 425°F for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

To make the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 ounces milk chocolate
1⅔ tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons praline
2 ounces gavottes (lace crepes) or 1 ounce rice krispies/corn flakes

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.  Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.  Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

½ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 medium egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Heat the cream, milk, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.  Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).  Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.  Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (to fit inside yule log) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.  Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

2 sheets gelatin or ½ tablespoon powdered gelatin
¼ cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup water
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.  Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.  Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.  Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gel), use immediately.

To Assemble:
Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with acetate (clear hard plastic) or plastic film. Acetate will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.  Take the Crème Brulée Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.  Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Crème Brulée Insert.  Cut the Praline Feuillete Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.  Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.  Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.  Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.  Close with the Dacquoise.  Freeze until the next day.

The order is:
1) Mousse
2) Crème Brulée Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline Feuillete Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

The following day:
Unmold the log and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.  Cover the cake with the icing.  Let set. Return to the freezer.  Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

For the Love of Cooking: Baked Zucchini Coins

Yesterday I found a fun new store near my house called Chef Central. And you know I just couldn't pass up a store with that name. It's like a giant toy store for adults. I walked slowly down the aisles, fondling the All-Clad pans. I caressed the Le Creuset French ovens. I coveted the glimmering knife sets. I stared openly at the kitchen in the back where a cooking class was taking place. And then I joined reality and bought a $3 crinkle cutter to make myself feel better. Okay, so I also got some vanilla beans and a cupcake book, but still!

I have been looking for one of these FOREVER, and no, I don't want to have to get out a mandolin slicer every time I want crinkles. This is so much easier, and it may be the best $3 I've spent lately. I used it to make some really good zucchini coins dusted with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

Baked Zucchini Coins
Loosely adapted from For the Love of Cooking

2 large zucchini
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
½ cup of Parmesan cheese
Dash of garlic powder
Dash of dried basil
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Cut the zucchini into coins, about ¼-inch thick. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings thoroughly. Dip the zucchini coins into the breadcrumbs and Parmesan mixture, making sure to coat evenly. Place on baking sheet and spray the tops of the coins with cooking spray. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown and tender.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Baking: From My Home to Yours: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

There seems to be a lot of cornbread in my life recently. I may be approaching cornbread burnout.  But these actually sounded pretty good, especially since I enjoy jalapeño pepper with just about anything that can be made Southwestern-ish. Unfortunately these muffins came after the best cornbread I've ever had, so I can't give them their due, but they were pretty good. Colorful and pretty good.

Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
¼ red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chili powder and black pepper. In a large measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter and egg yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. The batter should be lumpy. Stir in the corn kernels, jalapeño and red pepper. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin to finish cooling.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chockylit: Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

I have long awaited the arrival of the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe.  It needed to be a tender cake crumb with a sweet icing, and the whole thing should absolutely scream chocolate.  What's the point of a chocolate cupcake if it doesn't taste like a rich chocolate cupcake?? Cupcake nirvana arrived in the form of a recipe from a blog I stumbled on, and impressively, it also called for a peanut butter center. Normally I would consider this a double score (and I'm sure at some point this will make it's own appearance), but for now I just did the chocolate cupcake thing.  I've included the full recipe though.  Because I'm nice like that.

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache
From Chockylit blog

5.4 ounces dark chocolate or ¾ of a 300g bar of Valrhona 61% cacao chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Valrhona)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
Peanut Butter Filling
Chocolate Ganache

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare 2 muffin pans with paper liners.

Melt the chocolate and butter over a water bath. Add the sugar and stir. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer for 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each egg. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the chocolate mixture and mix until blended.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Frost with Chocolate Ganache.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Peanut Butter Filling
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until combined.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add the milk and beat until combined.

Chocolate Ganache
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Chop the chocolates and transfer them to a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 1 minute, then stir to combine. Add the butter and vanilla and stir until combined. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool for 10 minutes. Sift the powdered sugar into the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Continue to beat with the mixer until the mixture becomes lighter in color and creamy.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bon Appétit: Butterscotch Pudding

Okay, so maybe I'm a little behind the times, but I honestly didn't know that real butterscotch pudding actually had Scotch in it. Really. Unfortunately that involves me going to the local liquor store and asking for a travel size Scotch, which makes the owner look at me like I am definitely an alcoholic.  Well, it was definitely worth the judgement.  This pudding is so rich, you almost want to serve it in shot glasses instead of parfait glasses.

Butterscotch Pudding

¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup whipping cream
½ cup packed light brown sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
2 tablespoons Scotch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir ¾ cup sugar and ¼ cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan. Remove from heat. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir until smooth. Set caramel sauce aside.

Mix brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Stir over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and boils, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in caramel sauce.

Whisk egg yolks in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk 1 cup warm caramel mixture into yolks. Gradually whisk yolk mixture back into caramel mixture in saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Gradually whisk in butter, Scotch, and vanilla. Make sure the mixture thickens again before pouring into parfait glasses.

Divide pudding among 8 parfait glasses. Chill until cold, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Casserole Crazy: Baked Scallops and Shells

I love scallops.  And I'm kinda partial to cheesy casserole.  So what better than a cheesy casserole filled with...scallops?  I know, right?  Fast, easy, filling, warming.  Oh for goodness sakes, just go make this already.

Baked Scallops and Shells
Adapted from Casserole Crazy by Emily Farris

½ pound medium shell pasta
1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound large fresh bay scallops
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon Spike seasoning
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
¾ cup half-and-half or whole milk
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until just under al dente.  Drain and set aside.

In a large pan over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the butter until the onions are translucent.  Add the scallops and 2 more tablespoons of the butter.  Season with salt and pepper, and Spike seasoning.  Stir constantly until the scallops are lightly browned.

In a large bowl, mix the shells, Gruyère, half-and-half, and parsley.  When the pasta is coated, salt and pepper to taste, and add the scallops, onion, and garlic.  Mix well and transfer to a 2½-quart greased or buttered casserole dish.

Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoons of softened butter.  When the casserole is bubbly, remove from oven and top with the bread crumb and butter mixture.  Bake approximately 10 more minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 to 5 servings