Candied Citrus Peel – Tangelo and Pomelo

 

CandiedCitrus

 

I hit the tail end of the citrus season with a slightly frenzied and frenetic pace this year. It seemed like I was never going to have enough time to make use of all the pomelos, minneola tangelos, meyer lemons and blood oranges that I would gleefully find in the produce aisle. Their beautiful yet brief appearance at grocery stores here in Michigan was one of the few things that kept me from jumping off a bridge in mid-February. Have you noticed how folks who live in or near the tropics are so damn happy all the time? Hello – they have teh sun! I think the way the cold drags on can be downright miserable for some of us (tele-skiers being exempt, of course.)

Oh, it’s not all doom and gloom, friends. Thanks to Jen, I had the inspiration and know-how to make candied citrus peels. Instant sunshine and a little happiness — that is what they bring. What I find most appealing about making this is that it is the ultimate Recycling Addict’s recipe: the fruit is eaten, the peel is candied and the citrus-y syrup left over from the candying process can be used to sweeten lemonades, coffee, tea; for brushing the tops of sweet breads and loaves, for making meringue with citrus flavor, etc.; nothing to waste, or rien ne se jete, as Warda wrote on her post for making candied orange zest.

Tangleos make excellent candidates for candying because their peel comes off rather easy, much like tangerines. Their strong fragrance and striking, almost crimson color add a gourmet touch to any candy tray. Pomelos are a favorite fruit of mine and I was curious about how they would turn out. Luckily, they turned out just as delicious as the candied tangelos.

 

Candied citrus

Candied Tangelos

Sugared

 

I adapted Jen’s recipe to suit my tendency towards eating “less sweet” desserts. Of course, that seems a bit silly since we’re talking about candying fruit. Nevertheless, I prefer to scrape away as much of the pith after blanching the peels (before candying them) because I want to think that less pith means less matter for the sugar to adhere and attach itself to. I sliced the peels only after the blanching process was complete because I found the delicate tangelo peels fared better that way (less breakage). As a result, they were slightly more delicate and a bit more tender than regular orangettes. I think some fruit need to be blanched more than others. I blanched the tangelos three times and the pomelos five times before I felt enough of the bitterness was removed. Also, I did not dip them in chocolate as Jen did but, maybe next time. Lord knows I like to gild the lily. Besides, there’s always another fabulous winter to look forward to…

 

CANDIED TANGELOS and POMELOS

adapted from Use Real Butter

5-6 tangelo minneolas or 2 pomelos
2 3 cups (600g) sugar
2 cups (480mL) water

1 cup (200g) sugar for rolling
or
8 oz (~230g) chocolate for dipping

Harvest the peel by scoring the tangelo vertically along the center (think Earth’s Meridian). Carefully pull the peel back so that you end up with two hollow halves of tangelo peel. Repeat with the rest of the fruit. For the pomelos, score the fruit into 5 or 6 sections and peel back and separate the skin from the fruit. Because pomelos have so much pith, I used a sharp paring knife to cut some of the pith – in a similar manner as I would to fillet fish. (I don’t know if this decreased the number of times I would need to blanch the peels, but I thought it didn’t hurt.)

Place peel halves/segments in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat on high until water comes to a boil. Pour off the water. Repeat three times more (or however many times you think is enough to remove bitterness). Once the blanching is complete, use a sharp spoon to [carefully] scrape off some of the pith (as much as desired.) Cut peel into 1/4 (or 1/2) inch [~.5 or 1.5cm] strips.

Combine sugar and water in the saucepan and bring to boil over high heat until temperature reaches 230F (110C). Add peel and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until peels are translucent (30 minutes or longer). Remove peels from syrup and roll in sugar if desired, and set on rack to dry for several hours. Once the peel is dry, you can dip in tempered dark chocolate – shake off excess, and place on foil, wax paper, or baking sheet to dry. Store in a tupperware, or if not chocolate dipped, store in sugar.

Bon appétit!

 

REDBUD TREES AND THE HURON RIVER AT GALLUP PARK, ANN ARBOR

 

Redbuds and The Huron River

 

 

Turkish Yogurt Cake – Yoğurt Tatlisi

 

Yogurt Cake

 

The foyer where I stayed during my semester abroad in Angers was run by a group of Franciscan nuns who kept a watchful eye on all the girls who stayed there. While they didn’t enforce a curfew, one of the sisters would be sure to remark about hearing the loud sound of the creaky gate doors during the previous night (or early morning, depending on who you ask – and depending on which girl!) They were a lovely group of women who made simple yet elegant meals everyday. On occasion, they asked me to help them with a few desserts. One of the desserts was a cake made from fromage blanc. It tasted like an airy, lighter and slightly tangier version of American cheesecake. It was fabulous – smooth, creamy and with a hint of lemon. I’ve tried to make it using the fromage blanc that is sold here in the States but the results have been less than moyen.

I came across this recipe for Turkish yogurt cake that calls for using strained yogurt and I thought it might taste similar to the one I made with the sisters. Indeed, it tastes very much like it and perhaps even a bit better. You can use Greek-style strained yogurt (I’m another fan of Fage) or you can easily make your own, as I did. To do that, I strained my homemade yogurt by pouring (about 6 small jars) into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and allowed it to drain overnight in the refrigerator. Either way, it’s an easy dessert to make that is fairly low on the carbs but high on the flavah. 🙂

 

Yogurt Cake

 

TURKISH YOGURT CAKE – YOĞURT TATLISI

from Claudia Roden’s Arabesque

INGREDIENTS: (6 servings)

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup (60g) superfine sugar
  • 3 Tbl (40g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (425g) strained Greek-style yogurt
  • grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon ( I used Meyer lemons)
  • juice of one lemon

Optional Orange Syrup:

  • 2/3 cup (160mL) water
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
  • 1 Tbl. (15mL) lemon juice
  • grated zest of one unwaxed orange

STEPS:

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar to a thick, pale cream. Beat in the flour, then the yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon juice until it is thoroughly blended.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the yogurt mixture. Pour this into a round, nonstick baking tin (about 9 inches [22 cm] in diameter), greased with butter. Bake in an oven preheated to 350F° (175 C°) for 50-60 minutes, until the top is brown. It will puff up like a soufflé and then subside.

Turn out onto a serving plate, and serve warm or cold.

If you are making the syrup, boil the water with the sugar, lemon juice, and grated orange zest for 3-5 minutes. Let it cool, then chill in the refrigerator.

Bon appétit!

 

Pandanus Crème Brûlée – Kem Nướng Lá Dứa

 

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Ah, crème brûlée, I remember you well. I first tasted you on a big-girl date wearing big-girl heels and blue eye shadow. We were so young (and so regrettably unfashionable) then, weren’t we? And now, that boyfriend-turned-psycho is but a distant memory and I’m no longer a size 2, yet and yet, you’re still with me, after all this time. How nice of you…

You know, I’m a self-professed vanilla custard purist. I don’t go for the lemongrass/thyme/verbeena/yuzu/sha la la la/sha la la la- infusions. I want plain, vanilla bean custard – c’est tout. But, for no apparent reason, I bucked all that and made crème brûlée with one of my favorite flavorings – pandanus (Lá Dứa.)

 

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Pandanus is a fragrant, green leaf, sometimes referred to as Asian vanilla because of its sweet, earthy perfume. Vietnamese recipes call for steeping the leaves in coconut milk, soy milk, silken tofu or sticky rice for various dessert dishes. It can also be used in savory dishes where it is steamed with jasmine or basmati rice or as a wrapper for fish, seafood or meat. I don’t know how to best describe its flavor and perfume but I know it’s one of my favorite scents. (If, by chance, anyone has the Dior or Chanel hookup, a pandanus-scented perfume would be really awesome.)

I’m very, very pleased with the flavor of this dessert and my heretical leap. The pandanus flavor was not too strong or overpowering as I was fearing but just enough to make me want to hair spray my bangs and wear a cropped, pink tank top all over again. It’s that good.

 

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PANDANUS CRÈME BRÛLÉE – KEM NỨỚNG LÁ DỨA

adapted from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2

INGREDIENTS (6 servings):

  • 4 cups (1 L) cream [I used Calders]
  • 7 pandanus leaves (if fresh is not available, you can find these in the freezer — oftentimes near the frozen banana leaves at many Asian grocery stores) — tied into a knot.
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (225 g) superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup (112 g) superfine sugar (for the topping)

STEPS:

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Place the cream and pandanus leaf bundle in a saucepan over low heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Slowly pour over the cream mixture to the saucepan and stir over medium low heat for 6-8 minutes or until thick enough to coat the pack of a spoon. Remove the pandanus leaves and strain the mixture into 6 x 3/4 cup (each 6 fl. oz/185ml) capacity ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to come up halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the custard is set. [You can test by gently wiggling the ramekin – the outer edge should be almost set and the center should jiggle like Jell-O]

Place the ramekins on a baking tray, sprinkle with the extra sugar and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Place ice cubes in the tray around the ramekins, place under a preheated broiler and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is melted and golden.

Check out these blog posts:

Crème brûlée with Jen’s amazing step-by-step photos at Use Real Butter

Crème brûlée from Nordljus

Crème brûlée from WhatsForLunchHoney

Bon appétit!

 

 

Chè Trôi Nước – Sticky Rice Dumplings with Caramel Ginger Syrup

 

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Happy Year of the Rat! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

To start the New Year’s Day right, I wanted to make a sweet dish that is perfect for the hangovers cold weather we’re having. I recently came across Deb’s article on NPR’s website about dumplings and it got me thinking about the sweet rice dumplings that we often made at home – Chè Trôi Nước. I’ve never liked desserts that are too sweet or cloying and I am not exactly a die-hard fan of caramel either. Yet, somehow, this dessert and flan (both have caramel sauce) might be my favorites. In this case, the sweet caramel is balanced with the slightly savory but sweet mung bean filling, and the fresh ginger adds a nice, little kick to entire dish. We use Asian brown sugar (sometimes labeled Brown Candy or Chinese Candy Pieces) which is usually sold in 1-pound packages, consisting of of several thick slabs of sugar. It adds a beautiful, dark color and a subtle roasted flavor to the caramel.

Sweet dumplings are easy to make and even more fun if you have your children help. When we were young children, we used help our mother make these dumplings and we would try to see who could make the roundest, perfectly shaped dumplings. I think you know who won 😉

This can be served warm or chilled. Before sprinkling the top with toasted white sesame seeds, you can also spoon a little coconut milk over the the dumplings.

 

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CHÈ TRÔI NƯỚC – STICKY RICE DUMPLINGS WITH CARAMEL GINGER SYRUP

 

INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 1.5 cups (~260 g) dry mung beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced or minced [the white bulbs of green onion can be substituted]
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4-5 slabs Asian brown sugar
  • 8 cups (~2L) water
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned into small strips
  • 3 heaping cups (~5oog) glutinous [sticky] rice flour
  • 1 .5 cups (350 mL) hot, boiling water
  • white sesame seeds
  • coconut milk

STEPS:

  • Add the soaked mung beans to a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover the beans by at least one inch (2cm). Cook on medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Gently boil the beans until tender (approx. 20-30 min) and drain in a colander. While they are still hot, mash them with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add salt and blend. Set aside. Next, sweat (gently cook) the shallots in oil until soft and translucent. Add them to the mashed mung beans and mix to combine. Measure about 1 Tbl. (1 cs) of the mashed mung beans and form into round, compact balls. Repeat with the rest of the mung beans.
  • In the same saucepan that you used to cook the mung beans (heat on med) , add 8 cups of water, ginger and brown sugar. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, use a wooden spoon to combine the flour and hot water in a mixing bowl. While the dough is still very warm (but cool enough to handle), form into a round and cut into several slabs. Roll the slabs into round links (approx. 1 inch (~2.5 cm) in diameter. Cut the dough into 1.5 inch (~4cm) pieces. Using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, flatten into a disk that is approximately 1/8 inch (~.3cm) thick and 4 inch (~10cm) in diameter. Place a mung bean ball in the center and enclose with the entire filling. Gently roll the dumpling between the palms of your hands until you have a smooth, crease-less surface. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients. If you have leftover white dough, make smaller balls without filling. We called the filled dumplings mamas and the smaller, plain dumplings babies 🙂
  • Add the dumplings to the simmering syrup. Once the dumplings rise to the top (about 2 minutes), carefully transfer them to a small bowl (along with syrup) and top with coconut milk and sesame seeds. [You can add or discard the ginger, depending on your preference.]

 

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Bon appétit!

 

 

Tea Time

 

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Ever since the time I had afternoon tea at the Savoy Hotel in London a few years ago, I’ve wanted to recreate that experience here. I wanted dainty cucumber and egg salad sandwiches. I wanted clotted cream and scones and biscuits. I wanted fragrant tea served from silver tea pots and jam with buttery biscuits. And I wanted a haughty, snotty waiter in full penguin tux to place the napkin on my lap.

Fast forward to this past Sunday, 3pm. People are arriving any minute and I’m not ready as-per-usual. I’m scurrying across the living room hiding our junk into every corner and crevice of our home. I haven’t finished preparing the sandwiches and then, as I open the box where I keep my dainty ceramic teapot, I find it broken in half. Major bummer, lemme tell ya. [Note to self: Have an intact teapot/vessel before planning a tea party.]

Of course, the pressure was on because I wasn’t having my regular, thuggy group of friends over. Sorry, John 😉 I was to be in the company of a few fabulous food bloggers from Southeast Michigan. Warda, of 64SqFtKitchen, brought her big smile and a most exquisite platter of her Chocolate Sparklers and Rose Jam Stars. From Shayne of Fruitcakeornuts, there was a beautiful Jelly Roll with raspberry and lemon curd. From MothersKitchen, we had dainty (yay for dainty!) Coconut Mini Cupcakes. From the Farmersmarketer, we had perfect heart-shaped scones and her prize-winning Raspberry and Rose Jam as well as her Strawberry jam. My tea sandwiches were made with Flo’s eggs (+ my homemade mayonnaise) and a wonderful pain de mie from Café Japon – thank you Miyoko! Where all this fits into my ARP, I can’t tell you. But take a look, don’t you wish you also had friends in high places? 🙂

 

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We got to know each other a bit and talked about how we got into this blogging thing. While we may have started for slightly different reasons, we all enjoy it immensely. We all have very similar taste in television chefs too – we seem to like and highly dislike the same ones. And apparently, some of us have the same, exact taste in cameras:

 

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Thank you all for a lovely time and thank you for bearing the frigid cold in and outside our home. You know, I found that hosting a gathering of highly talented food bloggers is cool and radical because the following day, you get to enjoy the best Goûter of the Year:

 

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edit: it was the best goûter minus Warda‘s chocolate sablés and jam stars, thanks to a certain hubby. Ahem.

 

 

Galette des Rois – Epiphany Cake

 

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Yesterday, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the Three Kings Day. Together with many French households across the globe, we enjoyed a cake that is traditionally made with frangipane sandwiched between two buttery and flaky layers of pâte feuilletée (puff pastry). The recipe I used is a variation on the traditional cake, which has melted dark chocolate added to an almond mixture, which is then topped with sliced pears. I couldn’t find my ceramic fèves, so I used a small seashell. Not just any seashell, though, this one we found on an island in Hạ Long Bay, Viet Nam.

This recipe comes from the online journal Linteraute, a fabulous resource for lifestyle tips and all sorts of information on how to be cool. Their culinary page is full of modern and traditional recipes that come with mouth-watering photographs. You can even watch a video of adorable chef David Alexandre make this recipe here. The written recipe with step-by-step photos can also be found here. Please note that the entire site, as well as the video are in French. But that shouldn’t stop you from watching David bake. French men are sexy. French men who cook and bake are heavenly creatures.

 

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We had the pleasure of sharing our galette with our neighbors Pierre and Claudia, along with their children Annick and Miguel. What are the odds of having a husband and neighbor named Pierre in Ann Arbor? Anyway, below are photos of our celebration. They were kind enough to indulge us and went under the table as I cut the cake. Annick called out who got what slice. She ended up having the slice with the fève (coincidence?) and thus, won the crown and bragging rights for a year.

While the official feast day was yesterday, people in France will enjoy this galette all through the month of January. In the past, this was an 8-day feast that began on January 6 and ended on the octave of the Epiphany on January 13. Therefore, you still have time to celebrate. So what are you waiting for?

Alors, bonne fête!

 

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GALETTE DES ROIS

adapted from Linternaute

INGREDIENTS:

  • 125 grams (1 cup) freshly ground almonds
  • 100 grams (~7Tbl) softened butter
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 grams (~3.5 oz.) dark chocolate, gently melted over a double boiler or on low heat in the microwave
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and stemmed, with each half cut into 8 slices (you can also use canned/preserved pears)
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • 1 ceramic fève
  • egg wash (one egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp. of milk/water)
  • simple syrup – equal parts melted sugar and water (optional)

STEPS:

  • Roll out one the pastry sheets and cut a circle with a 10-inch diameter. Using the other pastry sheet, repeat and cut another circle, but make this one 10 1/2 inch in diameter. (This larger circle will go on the top of the filling later). Place both pastry rounds in the refrigerator to chill and rest for at least 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small/medium bowl, blend with a spoon the ground almonds, butter and sugar. Add one egg and mix until thoroughly combined. Now, add the second egg and mix again.
  • Next, add the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Set mixture aside.
  • Preheat your oven to 475F.
  • Take the chilled rounds of pastry dough from the refrigerator and with a knife, gently score the larger disc. You can make large criss-crosses, spirals or whatever fancies you.
  • Lay the bottom pastry disc on a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Add the chocolate-almond mixture and spread in an even layer (be careful to leave at least 1.5 inch space at the edge).
  • Top the chocolate with pear slices. Nestle the fève into the filling.
  • Cover with the top pastry disc. Carefully seal and crimp the edges. With a knife, score the edges.
  • Brush the center of the cake (not the edges) with the egg wash.
  • Bake on a baking sheet at 475F for 10 minutes. Then lower the the heat to 350F and bake for another 20 minutes.
  • When the cake is done, remove from heat and while it is still hot, you can brush simple syrup over the entire cake. This will add a lovely sheen.

Note 1: If you look at the photos, you’ll see that I placed the pastry round in a tart pan. *Bad idea* So, don’t be silly like me – form the cake on a sheet of parchment or wax paper, which will make it easier to transfer to a baking sheet. I also didn’t leave enough space at the edge (1 in. instead of 1.5in.) of the pastry round, but I made do and it turned out fine – but I’ll know better next time.

Note 2: To make the traditional version, just omit the chocolate and pears from the recipe.

Bon appétit!

Truffes au Chocolat – Chocolate Truffles

 

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I know what you’re thinking…chocolate truffles for Christmas – how truly innovative. And yes, you’ve seen them all before. But scroll down and take a gander at them. Aren’t they a sight to behold? Silky. Creamy. Luscious. Are we still talking about chocolate? Yes. Right.

Though I’m no choco-holic, this week has been a real tug o’ war for me lately. Should I make these, these, or, oh la la, these. Let me start by saying that I’m all for bucking traditional flavors when it comes to chocolate — hot chiles with chocolate (fabulous); smoked salt with chocolate (why didn’t I think of that before?); tea-infused chocolate (caffeine+more caffeine = oh joy!); and even bacon with chocolate (piggy, chocolate-y — mmmm).

In the end, I decided to buck my inclination to buck traditional flavors and made a classic truffle recipe. There’s not too much of a recipe as it is a ganache made from equal parts cream and dark chocolate, which is allowed to chill for a couple of hours before it is rolled into little truffles. With so few ingredients, I reached for some of the good stuff — Callebaut chocolate and Calder Dairy’s heavy cream, one of the loveliest, richest creams this locavore’s tasted in a long time.

If you’ve never made truffles, you can click on the video link in this article to see Mark Bittman of the NY Times demonstrate the minimal (pardon me) effort involved in making truffles. Now, do I really need to tell you how these turned out? Chocolate plus Cream. Cream plus Chocolate. Come ON.

FOR MY GANACHE:

  • 500g Callebaut dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 500 ml heavy cream

STEPS:

  • In a medium to large saucepan, heat the cream until it begins to steam. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate to the cream. Stir until the chocolate is melted and fully combined with the cream. Allow to cool before placing in the fridge to cool for about 2 hours.
  • Once chilled, you can use a small melon baller or a small spoon to scoop out the ganache and quickly roll it into a ball. You can then roll the truffle in cocoa, nuts, powdered sugar, etc.

 

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My conformist turns notwithstanding, I opted to make another batch of truffles, this time adding a little booze. That always helps things, you know…something my mother taught me. Okay, really, my aunt taught me that.

Rose‘s trio of truffles sure did thrill me, particularly since they use butter instead of cream. They turned out a bit more dense than the cream ganache above yet smooth and every bit delicious. It was also great to use the Cointreau that I had bought during a visit to the original distillery, located on the outskirts of Angers, France. These truffles give those liquor-filled chocolates you find at the market a run for their money. They’ve got just enough orange liqueur and orange zest to brighten the cocoa flavors of the chocolate.

 

TRUFFES AU COINTREAU – CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES WITH COINTREAU

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INGREDIENTS:

recipe adapted from 64sqftkitchen 
  • 170g (~6oz) chocolate
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 75 g butter (~1/3 stick, unsalted butter) softened
  • 1 ½ tsp Cointreau
  • Zest of 1 orange

STEPS:

  • To make the basic mixture, melt the chocolate in double boiler until the chocolate is melted and lukewarm. Remove from the simmering water and add the egg yolks. Stir with a whisk for a few seconds. It will probably tighten and lose its shine.
  • Add the butter in small pieces and whisk well. The mixture may become smooth or it may remain somewhat separated. Do not worry about it. Add the orange zest and Cointreau and whisk.
  • At this point the mixture should become smooth. If it doesn’t, add 1 tsp of hot water to each bowl and whisk until it does. It should not require more than 1 tbsp of water at most. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  • Get the truffles out of the fridge at least 15 minutes before starting shaping them; this way it will be easier to shape them. With a small spoon, scoop out the chocolate and, with the palms of your hands, form into little balls the size of extra-large olives or smaller.
  • They will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Serve at room temperature.

 

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Bon appétit!