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How To Make Desserts | Giddy Gastronome
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How To Make Desserts

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Cranberries: Sweet and savory recipes

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Cranberries

How to make food soar, how to make desserts fun

On the agenda, Indelibly rich,  “Crangipane bars” (brown sugar shortbread layer, frangipane layer & a cranberry custard over top), also my version of a Persian Pilau and South African Rooibos tea steeped with cranberries

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I “warmed up” or rather I should say, “wised up” to cranberries, a few years ago when I finally got my head out of the bog and learned that these berries had more than one novel use to offer.  I was put off mostly by the sharp pucker and the bitter after taste, yet,  was always inclined to keep an open mind and garner enough willpower to dispel this frivolous distaste of such a precious fruit.  Not only is the cranberry high in antioxidants and has a rich source of vitamin C, but the juice of this berry has a profound and a positive impact on fighting bladder, kidney and urinary tract infections.

I was also reluctant to mask the nutritional value of this berry with a boat load of sweeteners, but after enjoying its subtle tartness by adding just a little raw and unfiltered wildflower honey, and the fact that it once helped heal my bladder woes, I not only respected its claim to medicinal efficacy, but I began to fall head over heels in love with its culinary magic! So while, this crimson marvel was enjoyed and utilized by the American Indian as mediums for medicinal poultices or dyeing cloth for that matter, for me,  it was the special glory that revealed itself in the sweets! I am darn sure that this goes for a lot of you, skeptics, out there as well. Decades have passed since this beloved crimson jewel with its dynamic versatility was introduced by the American Indian to the Pilgrims;  indeed a gift never to be forgotten and might I add,  a gift more worthy than a shiny, precious stone!

Let the infinite recipe applications begin!!!!! Cranberries will no longer “wane” in the shadow of that “feathered monstrosity” that demands all of our “bloody attention” and praise,  (said in a rather visceral South African accent).

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Desserts

Crazy good, “Crangipane bars,” (I made these for Valentine’s Day)

These are really bar shaped cookies which have three distinct layers; a brown-sugar, soft crumb, creamy shortbread-like base, a frangipane, (almond cream), middle layer and a cranberry custard layer over top. I cut them into heart-shaped cookies for Valentine’s Day. I struggled a bit with the baking science for the three layers,  especially since “the spontaneity of tweaking” was not an option and all the layers had to be cooked evenly, but after two attempts, “the crumb” of this cookie surpassed even my humblest of expectations!

As I bit into the cookie, the crumbly shortbread layer, with its soft crunch, slowly melted away, the almost meringue-like, nutty frangipane layer was rich and slightly crispy, while the delicate cranberry custard layer rendered just the right amount of pucker……sinfully delicious yet virtuously enjoyed!

crangipa634 p6

Top layer of the cookie

This swirling mass of deliciousness is cranberry custard slightly sweetened with raw & unfiltered wildflower Colorado honey, made into custard with eggs and goes over top etc…. I could see this layer just bubble away, while it was still in the oven.

cranberry-custard568

I adapted this recipe from a rather distinguished pastry chef, Ms. Amernick,  but in the interim totally revamped 99.9% of its make-up just because I had other plans for this cookie, laying in the wake of this equally delicious recipe! Perseverance and patience bring delicious things to life! But as you can see, I also had some divine intervention of a little “Angel,” given to me by Jo, of “Literally in the Moment”! Thanks Jo for such a beautiful little keepsake, also the fuzzy bear from “Make a Wish Foundation” for the munchkin and also the scented oil lamp. Jo, who is an avid and knowledgeable gardener in her own right, grows  garlic and religiously mails me bushels of it. I roast the garlic immediately in the oven with olive oil and use it in all of my dishes! I love all of your treasures!

Please take one, on your way out!

crangipane634-frangipane p7

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Savory

Persian Pilau, (Basmati rice with saffron and honeyed cranberries).

I “Americanized” the recipe by adding the honeyed cranberries…..Oh crap, I am almost hesitant to anticipate, how some people are going to give me a freakin thrashing for doing this! Chill out, I say, “don’t get your darn knickers all wadded up! It was a good thing, adding the honeyed cranberries!  This is my party and I’ll do what I want to! He! He!” Anyway,   I also made South African, “Bobotie” (pictures in a future post), as an accompaniment to this Persian Pilau. Sometimes,  I make my roasted turkey dinner as an accompaniment to this luscious rice dish as well!

Let me tell ya, governments should acquire my services for any type of “peace talks” between nations. With this dish alone, I have the Americans, South Africans and Iranians eating out of one “pot.” What can I say,  food is the common thread that holds everybody together!

My Mom and my aunt, Tietie, made a very similar sweetened yellow rice dish called “Geel rys” ( yellow rice) which they always served with “Frikadel” in South Africa, ( by the way the “Geel Rys” and the “Frikadel,”  ( kicked up ground beef casserole),  were wayyy better than this Persian Pilau; I am going to let you into a family secret, my Mom’s eldest sister made the most flavorful food, and now when I ask my husband to taste some of my variations on her classic dishes, he always says, “I do not know your Tietie, so I shall just say what you were going to say anyway, ” It still is a bit shy of  that flavorful stamp of Tietie approval!”You know what,  I am soooo okay with that!!!

Anyway,  I decided to keep the rice savory and used some of my “honeyed cranberries left over from my “Crangipane bars” as part of the sweetened element for this dish. Normally, this rice dish will be even more caramelized on top, with lots of crunchy bits on top. I prefer it a little less crunchy with lots of aromatics, (no disrespect to any cuisine of course). My family will even eat this savory rice all by itself!

Persian-rice-600

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Drinks

South African, Rooibos herbal tea steeped in sentiment and a little cranberries and Minneola Tangelos for good measure!

Indigenous to South Africa, and harvested in the Cedarberg Mountains,  since time immemorial by the Khoisans, this deep-red orange hue of this wonder tea leaf “foretells” nutritional good fortunes and pure satisfaction. It is naturally caffeine- free, mineral-rich and has an antioxidant property – the taste is so unique, there is no other! Look for it at Vitamin Cottage, Sunflower Farmers market or Whole foods

I can still recollect, the times when my mom prepared this tea, the Cape Malaysian way, for my grandfather, (Boeya), and how he would savor it for hours! BTW, Thanks Auntie Mona, for naming me the International Woman of the Year! This means a lot coming from a well-traveled, gourmet cooking expert!

For the South Africans:

” Dit is soos ek hom nou kan hoor, ( my oupa),  “maak my n’ regte koppie tee man,  moenie vir my hierdie “Amerikaanse gemors injaag nie man!” he! he!

rooibos-600-78perc

Recipes

Please use organic ingredients when possible!

Rooibos tea (I make a warm version and also a “Sparkling, iced Rooibos” version!)

  • Rooibos Herbal tea
  • Some of the honeyed, vanilla bean cranberries, left over from the cookies
  • Minneola tangelos or lemons
  • Stick cinnamon
  • Raw, unfiltered wildflower honey (Clarks of Colorado)

Method:

Simmer 3 tea bags in three cups of boiling water with some cinnamon sticks for about 2 mins. Add the honeyed cranberries & simmer for 1 more minute. Take off the heat and steep further in a pretty porcelain tea kettle. Serve in pretty tea cups with slices of Tangelos & some of the juice. Sweeten with the unfiltered honey if you wish.

You can also make a sparkling iced Rooibos tea version, by adding a little ice and sparkling water or ginger & lemon for a sore throat but this is another post!

Persian Pilau

Please use organic ingredients when possible

  • 2 cups fragrant Basmati rice ( the kind that is grown in the Himalayas)
  • 2 big shallots
  • 2 T ghee plus another tablespoon
  • 1 t saffron
  • 2 T pounded garlic, (in the mortar & pestle), about 5 cloves, or more
  • 2 -3 curry leaves
  • 2 green plus 1 black cardamom ( has a smoky aroma)
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ c sultanas
  • Half of a red bell pepper chopped
  • Red chili chopped, seeds removed
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted in a small pan with a little unsalted butter and a special spice mix, you can use paprika.
  • ½ c of the honeyed cranberries, I had some left over from my cookie recipe
  • Garnish with spiced pistachios ( same way as the almonds)

Method:

Boil a kettle of water, and soak the saffron in 1 cup of this hot water, set aside. Keep the kettle on low. Finely slice the shallots and sauté in the 2T ghee until translucent, on medium heat. While the shallots are sautéing, wash the rice in a bowl under running water, ( rub the rice between the hands), until almost all starch is gone, drain and set aside. Add the garlic, curry leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon, red bells and the chili, to the shallots, stir and sauté for another 3 minutes. Now add the drained rice, some kosher salt, the sultanas,  and stir around to incorporate all the aromatics and also to “toast” the rice kernels in a way (about 2 mins.). Now add the cup with the soaked saffron,  hot water and all,  plus another cup of boiling water and turn stove on high, cover the saucepan, and cook until all the water has evaporated. Remove lid and then add enough boiling water again to cover about ½ inch above rice, plus the other tablespoon of ghee & cook until all the water has evaporated, turn stove on low and let the rice simmer for about 15 mins. In an oven safe domed dish, layer the honeyed cranberries on the bottom and then spoon the cooked rice on top, place in a 350 degree oven and let this bake for about 15- 30minutes, maybe a little longer for the crispy and more caramelized bits of rice & cranberries on the top. Unmold on a rice platter, sprinkle with the spicy almonds & further garnish with a little bit of the spicy pistachios

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The munchkin, now  2 yrs old, always jumping, playing and loves good noshes! He cracks me up when he talks on his imaginary cell phone, complete with all of your hand gestures and hilarious expressions. Yep, this little guy knows his way around a computer as well!  Mmmm! I wonder whom he imitates? he! he! When I tell him to pick up his toys, he says that he is tired and just wants to relax, um! didn’t I just say those exact words?. He! he! Kids say the darndest things! I swear he has a personality as big as the Rocky mountains!

A-.J.don't-stop,-keep-it-mo

I love these versions !

Grammy award performance of Chris Brown- Beautiful people.……love, love this version

Grammy award performance of Rihanna- We found love

Grammy award performance of Adele- Rolling in the deep……..adore this song!

Lady Antebellum-Just a kiss..…….love, love this song

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Thanks for visiting!

Love,
Nazarina

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Scones, Red Rocks, Colorado & Usher’s new song!

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

How to make food, How to make desserts soar— vanilla scones

All scrumptious fare affords pleasure! This is particularly true of a  scone with clotted cream, which has been heralded as one of the many time- honored traditions of our friends from across the pond. This delicate confection relies on cold butter for its flakiness whereas most recipes of the American biscuit relies more on vegetable shortening for a crumbly texture. I do not bake with vegetable shortening, however,  I do love crumbly textures and achieve this by adding cream cheese, whenever a recipe calls for vegetable shortening. Whatever, the origin or paradigm of this convivial fare, it is also enjoyed by many all over the world, including my Malaysian elders in South Africa. My mother almost always reverted to preparing it for unexpected company, so without further ado, here is my spin on her recipe.

“French vanilla”  scones

These scones were delicate, flaky & even crumbly, accompanied by a mascarpone mousse, ( tasted almost like French vanilla ice cream).  I also made my strawberry & raspberry preserves from scratch with vanilla beans etc…. These all went to my chiropractor & all the lovely ladies who work at the wellness center at “Arne Chiropractic.” Their remarks….ridiculously decadent!

Tahitian vanilla powder & a little of the white vanilla powder, sifted with the flours, is my little spin on this airy scone! Some of the vanilla powder will be left in the sieve, just dump into the bowl with the rest of the flours

scones-&-homem.-preserves-1 p10

As you can see, lavish amounts of whole sun ripened strawberries & raspberries, not sweet at all, no pectin or sugar needed in my preserves, it’s all about the fruit,  & some surprising ingredients !

preserves-573-auto

I ask this frivolous & not in the least condescending question with the utmost respect of all the ladies out there……Is a woman’s worth really measured by her ability of making a good biscuit? The reason for my question is that I have recently discovered the “Little house on the Prairie” series & now receiving all the episodes from Netflix. Anyway,  there is one episode whereby Carolyn Ingalls is put to the test by making biscuits for a possible position as a cook in a hotel, & ultimately she does land the job for making the best biscuits ever! The former cook who was just lousy at cooking was kicked out!  Hey, during the late 1800′s, if a woman could make a good biscuit and a good pot of stew with potatoes, she was pretty much spoken for! I am transfixed by this era portrayed so beautifully by Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, & the rest of the cast, an American Western drama, I just cannot wait to watch nightly with my husband!

I wonder whether my scones would have landed me an amorous encounter with Mr. Charles Ingalls himself, that is only if my husband was not yet in my life LOL! I hope he does not read this!

scones-preserve573 p12-auto

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Publication

This fruit fondant Madeira cake, that I developed here,  is featured in this British magazine below, the Fall issue #114 on page 114. Originally, I contacted them to thank them for the safe arrival of my package with the delectable fruit fondant powders, I purchased from them and much to my delight, they emailed me, asking for a head shot of myself  & the pictures of this cake and publishing my little article in the ” forum” section on pg 114-115. Anyway,  this cake was indescribably delicious, this fruit fondant powder turns into a rich  fruit coolie when mixed with water!

This magazine is sold at Barnes & Noble.

berry-fondant570-nazarina

Sugarcraft-g-560sugarcraft______________________________________________________________

Colorado

Red Rocks Park is a mountain park in Morrison, Colorado & only 10 minutes drive from my home. I often go here,  either to run up & down the many steps,  go and day dream & most importantly, see my favorite rock bands!. I finally decided to take some pictures last week, while there was no scheduled concert, & share them with you!

Red-Rocks-f-595

I am never without my I Pod, & many of you already know that I love vocal trance. I do love rock too! S..t!**!! this is one run where I really need my IPod, because these steps are forever kicking my big b…..!Anything to detract from the pain will keep my booody moving.

Orjan Nielsen ft Arielle Maren–Redemption

Svenstrup & Vendelboe-Nadia malm…….Danish stars, cool euphoric vocal trance

Medina- Gutter—a Svenstrup & Vendelboe remix….I mentioned her before in my last post, but this is also an awesome remix!

David Guetta ft Usher–without you ( okay, this is no vocal trance, but I still like it)

Red Rocks is my escape from this more often than not frenetic world!

Red-Rocks-e-Naz

Red-Rocks-d

Red Rocks Amphitheater, a world famous venue, hosts many concerts, “Film on the Rocks” ( I love watching movies in the open air), & other events during the summer. I think it seats about 10,000, most probably more! I went to see Santana & the rock bands, Godsmack & Nine Inch Nails, over here. Picture this, after the concerts,  confetti cannons shooting blizzards of confetti shapes from above….pure artistry in motion! It turns serious adults into awestruck children & sends children into giddy glee!

Red-Rocks-cTakes us a mere 10 mins drive to Red Rocks mountain park!

Red-Rocks-580-aRed-rocks-b

Recipes

Flaky vanilla scones with mascarpone mousse & preserves

As usual, please use organic ingredients when possible, however, I used the King Arthur flours here.

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup self rising flour
  • 3 t  “Bob’s Red Mill” double acting baking powder( Aluminum free)
  • 1/2  t Tahitian vanilla powder plus 1 t of the white vanilla powder, just because I have both,  ( optional but not for me! he!he!), Or use whatever one you prefer!….  the Tahitian vanilla powder is finely ground vanilla beans, mine was hardly noticeable in my pictures, because they were dispersed throughout the dough. Trust me when I say that it is potent, but oh so darn delicious!
  • 3 – 4  T organic sugar, I used 3!
  • 6 T cold Plugra ( European, unsalted butter), or any other kind you prefer. I love the richer & creamier taste of Plugra!
  • 1/2 cup of currants
  • 2/3 cup organic milk
  • egg yolk beaten lightly for the glaze

Method

Sift all the flours & the Tahitian & the white vanilla powders together, twice. Some of the Tahitian vanilla powder will be left in the sieve, just dump back into the bowl with the flours.  Remove about a quarter cup of this flour mixture & toss with the currants & set aside, (the reason for this step, so that the currants will not sink to the bottom, but will be evenly distributed throughout the dough). Add the sugar to the flour mixture  & mix with a biscuit cutter. Now cut the cold butter into smaller pieces and cut into the flour mixture with the biscuit cutter. Do me a favor, do not over mix here! It is okay if there are bigger pieces of butter showing! Make a well in the center,  add the currants & then  the cold milk and mix just until incorporated, absolutely no over mixing here either! Always let any dough rest, here for 10 mins. Finally roll out the dough to about 3/4 inch on a lightly floured surface,  stamp out 2 inch heart shape designs, ( please just press firmly down on cutter, no twisting), NB…flip the scones over, so that the bottom of the scone is now on top & then place on the cookie sheet,   about an inch apart, (the cold butter specks will now be on the top & they will rise evenly),  brush with the egg yolk & then let rest again for 12 minutes. N.B. do not let the egg yolk glaze drip over the sides of the scone, this will prohibit the scone from rising! Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. You will really smell the vanilla aroma when these babies are done! Makes about 9 scones.

Mascarpone mousse

Whisk some mascarpone @ rm temp. with cold Horizon, organic whipping cream & some of the white vanilla powder.  Set the bowl over ice when whisking! Serve the scones with a dollop of this mousse & preserves of your liking.

Thanks for your visit, enjoy my version of the scone!

Lots of love,

Nazarina.

P/S…..It is so strange, I make these scones only when we have guests staying over or sometimes for my friend’s B&B, but have never blogged about it before. I did not think that the recipe would be important enough to share until now!

The Plugra & the vanilla powder definitely brought some major mojo to this scone party!

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Pina colada thumbprints, Easter & sea soaps & more!

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Greetings!

How to make desserts soar! How to make soap fun!

Pina colada thumbprints – some with coconut ganache & some with chocolate; also Easter soaps & aquatic & terrestrial soaps

Summer is here, and I am stagnant no more!

My hands are almost automatically drawn to making a myriad of things but lately my mind seems to be tangled in a web of a creative confusion. I seem to find myself there more often than not and even though this bothers me, I have no time to ponder the cause because usually, life gets in the way. A friend once said that multitasking and fatigue can do this to a vibrant brain and implored me to step away from it all. I did comply for a little while, thinking that I was free at last from baking, soap making & photographing, yet strangely enough,  my soul kept hankering for that unnecessary trepidation that goes into the art of making things from scratch. So here I am again, purely driven by  the persuasive powers of a  zealous nature to create & making people smile! Lord knows, how long this will last, yet I always say that imagination is only limited by a blurry vision and consistency best be a recourse for the unimaginative!


This segment is for the South Africans…..

Ek was net fokken lui en my familie het op my senuwees gewerk! Som tye will ek vir hulle ‘n warme paar klappe gee vir aand ete!…en “call it quits.” Gelukkig kan my familie nie Afrikaans verstaan nie he! he!

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Pina colada , chocolate ganache thumbprints

Dessicated coconut, ( I cannot bake with no other), thumbprints filled with a dark chocolate ganache & garnished with a toasted coconut flake. I made these for a dear friend’s baby shower including all the soaps below! This recipe is so different to that of my other thumbprints!

nazarpinacolada590

Pina colada thumbprints filled with a coconut white chocolate ganache, made with coconut cream & garnished with a maraschino cherry. Who knew what freeze-dried pineapple powder & coconut extract would do to hike up the ego of these absolutely scrumptious coconut shortbread beauties?

……  like  Freddie would say, (‘n Suid Afrikaner wat ek in Miami ontmoet het) sal se, dit is nie lekker nie, dit is moer se lekker!

pinacolada590

I love the unexpected twists & turns in this recipe, it made the diners at this baby shower wish for more! They all wanted to know, how I achieved this delicately balanced recipe & not at all sweet to boot!

pinacolada-choc590

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My hand-made soaps for curious little munchkins

Chocolate brown bunnies & cheeky chicks….Easter essentials for tiny tots. These were a bit cumbersome to make…..not an easy project but with a little perseverance, I achieved the final images conjured in my imagination.

easter-soaps-bunny-600

Luminous soaps, slippery sea critters basking on the boardwalk. I had to buy the “sea sand” from a craft store for the decoration on the tables for the baby shower….Is this not pitiful? Where is the ocean when I need it?

sea-soaps600

Soapy Aquatic ” monsters” & terrestrial critters that hide in your bath-tub. I found these rather inexpensive molds, not for soap- molding at all, but used them anyway! I am glad that I am making a little guy, named Cooper,  so happy at bath time!

animal-soap580

Remembering

This post is especially for you Auntie Fatie & all of my aunts & uncles, (in Cape Town, South Africa), & most of all our dearly departed…….

I sincerely miss those days when we were all together….joyous & loud for all to hear,  but then again, we are extremely lucky with all those beautiful memories that Mamma, Boeyah, Grandmother Galiema, my Mom, uncle Omar, uncle Toyer, uncle Yusuf, (a magnificent artist in his own right)  have given us the pleasure to savor! Their creativity was mesmerizing!

To Uncle Mitch who is still wowing people in his part of the world! Are you not glad that you took what may have seemed as woodworking abuse by Boeyah, to a now revered pastime & a means of income? To Uncle Issie who taught us that loyalty toward family takes precedence over everything else!  To Tietie, with her delectable twists and turns in food & making any unsuspecting diner wish for more of what they thought, they disliked! To Auntie Mona, for that entrepreneurial spirit & teaching us to explore the “other side” of the world! I am happy to report that “this other side of the world” is what I now call home!

Because of Uncle Omar & you, Auntie F, I can still make huge additions mentally just by looking at numbers, this I learned by working in your store on the week-ends & much later in my Mom’s store.  Both you & my Mom taught me the beauty  & the love for fabric among countless other things…..my Mom, who could turn any rag into a robe fit for a runway… & what can I say about my Grandmother J, she was one of a kind, she is still making sure that up to this day, I am making her craft proud, her confectioneries were insane!!! I know in my heart of hearts that she helps me every step of the way through this satisfying journey of  tasty cookery!

To my Grandmother G, who with great ease, made vats of tangy mango pickle & delicious home-made fizzy ginger beer & from whom I take after in looks and mannerisms! I have yet to master the art of ginger beer…..I shall soon!

Auntie F, I still remember the time when you showed me off in a sari when I was twelve! I loved those scrumptious,  baked turmeric colored potatoes you made in the oven….& now of course I make them for my family , friends & acquaintances  all over world & not without the beautiful memory that goes with them. My friends thank you’ll! There are just not enough accolades in the world to commemorate what you all have instilled within us. I miss those dearly departed! I am because of what they made me to be!!  I thank God every day, that I had such caring elders who embraced life with so much passion & making this, sometimes unattractive world, so appealing!

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Hope you guys are having a spectacular summer! Will post a recipe soon!

Love as always,

Nazarina.

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Digestive biscuits & another pumpkin pie

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Here is the link to the Red Cross if you want to donate to the plight of the Tsunami victims in Japan. My prayers are with all of my Japanese blogger friends, especially OCHI, who Thank God is okay & all of the Japanese during this tumultuous and difficult time!

How to make desserts soar!

On the agenda today: Digestive biscuits ( regular and chocolate); Vanilla bean whipped cream pumpkin pie and foxes!….. Need there be more?

This digestive biscuit post is my contribution to a  garnishing event held by Food Fanatic


Garnishing-event

The gift of the Digestive biscuit, (cookie), was given to us by our friends from across the pond, namely the English! This is my version of this irresistibly, delicious snack. I can still recollect the days when my Mom and I used to share the chocolate Digestives in the purple package in Cape Town, South Africa! My Mom rocked! “Dit is nou vir jou n’ lekker koekie!”

Well, my quest here was to develop a recipe that would be a wholesome snack for skiing and a little chocolaty for high tea or in my case, milk! Somehow, I do not think that the British would go for the milk! Nevertheless, I often serve this biscuit at high tea as well & do the unthinkable…..I dunk!!!

It seems to me that this biscuit has somewhat of a conflicting nature……should I be savory or should I be sweet this time? You know, just like  when those crazy voices in your head are at loggerheads with each other! LOL!

For the savory factor, just garnish a cheeseboard by cutting out whimsical shapes from the cheese of your choice with cookie cutters & stack for further interest. The digestive biscuits are perfect mates for sharp cheddar cheese / Swiss & maybe a dollop of spicy cranberry chutney on top of the cheese!

Mmmm, to be chocolaty or to be cheesy that is the question?

Cheese-digestive580-Naz copy.psd br12 co4

For the sweet factor, adorn the Digestive biscuits with dark chocolate ganache! Boil your cream, pour over dark chocolate with a small pat of unsalted butter and incorporate & slather over the crispy biscuit. To make the wavy pattern, use a cake comb and please do wait until the chocolate sets!

choc-digest560 p1p7-naz copy.psd br14 con7

I ” love” this biscuit so much, I even put it in writing! For the garnish, “LOVE”, just pour the dark melted chocolate into a paper cone made of parchment & write the word,”Love” onto parchment & let it harden.

I made 10 of these gift boxes, covered in cellophane for my neighborhood bake sale for the Strength.Org charity event. They flew off the table like hotcakes! I love doing charities like Strength.Org because this is where I can really flaunt my baking expertise!

This biscuit had a “malty” overtone with a slight crisp & shortbread-like taste! Absolutely yum! A Nazarina special!

Naz-digestive520-cookies

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A wildlife intervention

These are my new pets! Just kidding, I vow never to keep the wild in confinement! “Foxy” (female) came to me limping (really badly) from the nearby  Rocky mountain during September of last year. I felt an immediate pang of sorrow for Foxy because of this limp so in my regular  “Nazarina-like-fashion”,  I coaxed her with some food & nursed her leg! She came almost hypnotized by my soft spoken voice & it was almost as if she knew instinctively that I meant her no harm but only to help. There are lots of these foxes in my area. I love foxes, white wolves & polar bears! Gosh, I love all animals!

My 22lb cat, Oscar, stealthily went after her, trying to chase her off his domain. I intervened & stopped the confrontation in the nick of time! Cats, I tell ya are so territorial! LOL! I am sure you are most probably thinking that I am being terribly facetious, especially taken into account that I am dealing with foxes here!

Well Foxy came back this January  and brought her mate,” Moxie” (male) along with her. Aren’t they cute! Moxie follows Foxy everywhere and my sweetie shared a piece of  fox trivia with me saying that once they find their mate, they stay together forever! BTW, this is just a light dusting of snow compared to the norm.

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They love to run and hide underneath my studio (now as you can see just ravaged by the continuous snowfalls and arctic-like cold air)! This is where I make my soap & other crafts. This picture is a bit blurry because I was running after them, trying to take their picture! Anyway, I have not seen them for a couple of days now, maybe they went back to the nearby mountain! Funny thing though, just when we forget about them, they reappear in my backyard! Do you think that they bonded with me?

foxy-moxy600

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Finally, remember this post (Streusel topped pumpkin pie).……… that I wrote about a year ago?

pumpkin550-NA

……..I revamped my pumpkin pie yet again! This time, I still kept the streusel, but piped a swirl of mousse y vanilla bean whipped double cream on top & abstractly “Jackson Pollocked” the melted dark chocolate all over the pie! My friend, Vanessa, was having a bad day & quit her job over the phone, so I made her this pumpkin mousse pie & named it “Vanessa is out livin her life, so shove your job where the sun don’t shine! pie”  She liked the message so much and left it on voice mail & that was exactly what her Employer heard when they eventually called her back!

Stop me please!!! how many more times am I going to change this gift that just keeps on giving?  I use Dr. Oetker French vanilla ( all the time see my old blog), ….a friend of mine, Zoe, went to Canada from Miami & brought back 20 packages, all just for me. I just got tired of asking Cost Plus to get the French Vanilla! I did add the double cream to the mousse as well though to make it extra light & fluffy! “Zoe, many, many, thanks you are the bomb! You are a great gourmet cook in your own right! Delicious breyanis and heavenly cakes are amongst her specialties!”

Oh! BTW, this time I made the crust  & streusel with organic coconut flour (Bob’s Red Mill ),  almond flour etc…… . It came out better than a French sable’ type of dough!

another-pampoen590-nazarina copy.psd lev248.psd br9 co3


Recipes: As usual, please use organic ingredients when possible!

Digestive biscuits: Makes about 13 biscuits or more if you use a smaller cookie cutter than the one described in my “method.”

(This is my version)

  • 1/2 c organic wheat bran
  • 2 T extra fine Dessicated coconut ( Buy this at an Indian Grocer)
  • 5oz unsalted softened butter
  • 1/3 c brown sugar minus 1 T
  • 1 T Barley Malt syrup
  • 2 t  pure vanilla extract ( I use the one from Santo Domingo)
  • 1 egg yolk (I love baking with just the yolk, because the end result is always rich!)
  • 1-2 t ground ginger (optional but not for me!)
  • 1 t finely grounded (super-fine) cardamom (optional but not for me!)
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder

Organic-wheatMethod:

Toast the wheat bran & the coconut together in the oven 350 degrees for about 10-15 mins; just until you can smell the toasted coconut aroma & the wheat is slightly colored. Remove & cool

Cream the butter, brown sugar, malt & vanilla together with an electric beater until light & fluffy. Add the egg yolk,  ginger & cardamom & incorporate. Sift cake flour, wheat flour & baking powder & then whisk in the toasted wheat bran & coconut.  Gingerly fold in this dry ingredient mixture  in 3 batches with a spatula. If the dough seems a bit wet, lightly dust hands with extra cake flour & then knead lightly and finally refrigerate 30mins-1 hour.

Roll out the dough to a little less than a quarter inch and cut out rounds with a 2 & half inch cookie cutter, ( or to whatever size you prefer),  & dock with a fork. I also love to roll the dough out thinner than this this on baking paper (tape the ends down on work surface or plastic wrap!),  & then place on baking sheet, but you really have to watch the browning…..this makes for some of the biscuits,  a lot more crispier! Refrigerate again for about 10 minutes & then bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 16 mins. or until slightly brown along the edges. Cool on the baking sheet and then garnish with the chocolate ganache or just eat them plain with cheese.

That’s it folks, I am signing off.

Love,

Nazarina.

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“Thomas”, the train made from chocolate gingerbread!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

How to make dessert fun

This was a really cool and delicious project and especially prudent to make since I am compelled to watch “Thomas the Train” and several other kid friendly movies with the munchkin.  To say that I am bored, (thinking out loud rather facetiously), with his TV choices would be an understatement!  I have succumbed to the notion that “Madagascar” and “Cars”, to name a few, are to be my only form of entertainment!
I am no longer in charge of the TV remote or allowed to satisfy a sudden urge to watch one of my favorite shows!……..  just kidding! he only has 1 hour of allotted TV time over here!

Even with this displayed, illiberal behavior, I still wanted to be his heroine, so making this train out of gingerbread and dark chocolate more than likely would have averted his pretty, little “TV head” to something way more enjoyable, such as cutting out  parts of the train from soft gingerbread dough. I succeeded, only to realize that now my cherished bake-ware is at the brunt of his rambunctious baking demeanor. Lord! have mercy, he is extremely messy and disorganized as well…. some things, I just cannot appreciate….. I love my “mise en plus” just way too much ! I do have standards , you know! LOL! ” Sure!” you would say, now, most probably, would be a good time to let go of all your peculiar kitchen antics and anal cleaning mannerisms because this is not about you! Rug rats rule!

Anyway, I know that this is the only way he is going to learn by having “his way” with all my treasured cookware , so forgive my unnecessary rant. He will most probably recollect all of our baking sessions together, just as I of my Mom and Grandmother.

Chocolate gingerbread cookie train for a little boy who loves trains!

This is a chocolate gingerbread dough,  “glued” together with chocolate ganache. You can also use Royal icing, but frankly I much prefer the chocolate. The result is a much more neater and way more delicious result. I also used the dark chocolate M & M’s , Twizzlers & Christmas peppermints to further decorate the train and the track.

choc-gingerbread-train-for-

I prepared, measured and baked the different parts of the train on one day and did the decorating on the following day.

You are also going to need  honey grahams to serve as support for both the engine and coal car. Glue six of the gingerbread  wheels together to form the boiler and then glue onto the graham stack support inside the “engine sides.”

gingerbr-choc-parts490

This is the template for the train. Measure the different parts and just place directly onto the dough and cut with a pizza cutter. Use a craft knife for the little window on the “engine side.” I used a two & half inch round cookie cutter for the wheels. BTW, it is most probably a good idea just to place the templates back onto the baked pieces and just trim uneven sides, you have to do this really gingerly, otherwise they will crack. I used the template from Family Circle, but not the recipe.

You do not need a bottom part to this train, as the graham cracker stacks will keep the engine & the coal car up!

ginger-train-template400

Recipe: Please use organic ingredients whenever possible!

Really easy, all the ingredients are mixed in the food processor!!!

I could not use my really delicious gingerbread dough recipe on my old blog, for fear of it not being able to “stand up” to this project. Turns out, I was wrong, so next gingerbread project will definitely be with that old recipe!!!

  • 1 & 1/4 cups All purpose, unbleached flour
  • 3 t ground ginger
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground cardamom
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t ground clove
  • 1/4 cup Valrhona French dark chocolate powder 64% ( Grand Cru de Terroire, “Tainori” Dominican Republic. I am now using this in almost all of my chocolate creations!
  • 1/2 t bicarbonate of soda ( do not use baking soda, this has a soapy taste, I know because I also make my own soap!). Buy it from your local Middle Eastern store.
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 6 T unsalted butter (slightly softened & cut into small pieces)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • honey grahams for support only
  • chocolate ganache for “gluing”the parts together

Method:

In a food processor, sift together flour, spices, salt, bicarbonate of soda and chocolate powder. Give two quick pulses. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles course sand. Use the on and off pulse button to achieve this OR  a biscuit cutter if doing this by hand.  Add the sugar and beaten egg and pulse again until the mixture comes together. Remove and lightly knead by hand into a smooth ball, wrap and refrigerate for about two hours.

You will have to make this recipe 4 times in order to make all the different parts of the train and then use the remainder for gingerbread boys and/ or girls, whatever your fancy. Use your realm of creativity. The dough should be rolled out into slightly less than a quarter of an inch. See further instructions & captions at my pictures. You are going to need to glue together 7 graham cracker cookies to serve as  support with chocolate ganache. Just snap the cookies along the perforated edge. Make 4 of these stacks. Take two stacks and glue to the side of one of the “engine” parts. Let the chocolate harden a little and then glue the other part of the “engine” to the graham crackers. This will make your “engine” car stand up. Do the same with the coal car. Proceed by gluing together all the other parts of the train, just like in my pictures above.

I used melted dark chocolate ganache ( dark choc. boiled heavy cream a pat of unsalted butter), in a pastry bag to glue all the parts together.

If you do not want to use chocolate ganache then use this Royal icing recipe:

  • 3 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • meringue powder( prepared as per instructions on the can) OR 2 fresh egg whites, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice

Sift & beat ingredients together to form a fluffy icing. Just use a plastic zipper bag, if you do not have a pastry bag to do all the piping!

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As you can see from the messy picture below, his favorite food is steamed butternut squash but he can also clean up very nicely!

He was only allowed to munch on a gingerbread boy, because we donated the whole  cake to a lady with lots of children. Hopefully, I shall make a different design when he is a little bigger and I shall definitely use my old chocolate gingerbread recipe that is on my old blog!!!

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Love, as always & have fun making this train, & if you have any questions about this cookie train, ask me in your comment, & I shall answer, the best way possible!

Nazarina

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