Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gâteau de Crêpes with Green Tea Cream

The day I opened my copy of Chocolate Epiphany , by Francois Payard, I knew I had to make this cake. While there are so many amazing recipes inside, this one just spoke to me. I love layers- and this one had 20 mouth watering layers of chocolate crepes, infused with orange zest, filled with a luscious green tea (Matcha) pastry cream. Not something this dieting gal could just make and leave lying around though ~*sigh*~ . A perfect opportunity presented itself though, with the celebration of both my Mother-in-law and Sister-in-laws birthday yesterday.

I enjoyed this so much better than a traditional birthday cake. Despite its use of chocolate and pastry cream, this cake was light in texture, the green tea and orange zest a perfect pairing.

I was a very good girl, you'd all be proud- I only had a sliver. Even with all of the baking I've been doing this past week, I've still managed to lose 16 lbs so far since this get fit challenge began. But I have to admit, I battle thoughts daily of immersing myself in pastry cream, painting myself with chocolate and sprinkling myself with bacon bits... an odd combination, I know, but when you go without for so long, the combination just sounds so irresistibly sexy.

Gâteau de Crêpes with Green Tea Cream
by Francois Payard

Chocolate Crêpes
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (220g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (30g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
Pinch of salt
8 large eggs
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (500g) whole milk
Grated zest of 2 oranges
10 tablespoons (5 oz. or 150g) unsalted butter, browned
1 cup (250g) heavy cream
Vegetable oil, for the pan

Green Tea Pastry Cream
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (500 g) whole milk
2 teaspoons (10g) powdered green tea
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (120g) sugar
5 tablespoons (40g) cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons (2oz.; 60g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup (250g) heavy cream

Make the crêpes: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and orange zest. Incorporate them gradually into the dry ingredients, whisking constantly with one hand as you pour them with the other. Doing this slowly will prevent lumps from forming. Whisk in the butter, then the cream. Strain the batter over a bowl to make sure that it is smooth, then whisk it again so that it is thoroughly combined. Cover the batter, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Whisk the batter well. Place a small crêpe pan or nonstick skillet (about 8 inches in diameter) over medium heat. Pour about 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in the pan to grease it. Once it is hot, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup or a small ladle to pour a little less than 1/4 cup of batter in the pan. There should be just enough batter in the pan to coat the bottom in a thin layer. Tilt the pan in a circular motion so that the batter is evenly spread in the pan.

After about 2 minutes, the edges of the crêpe should start firming up. Use a spatula to lift a side of the crêpe and flip it over. Cook on the other side for about 1 minute, then remove the crêpe to a plate. Repeat the process until all of the batter is used, piling the crêpes one on top of the other as they are cooked. If the crêpes start to stick to the pan, add a little more oil. Cover the stack of crêpes with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cool, up to 1 day.

Make the Pastry Cream: Line a shallow pan, such as a 9-inch square cake pan or a small rimmed baking sheet, with plastic wrap. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the green tea powder.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, and whisk in the yolks. Continue whisking until the yolks turn a very pale yellow. Slowly pour a fourth of the milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Once the milk is well incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, and cook, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot with the whisk to prevent lumps from forming, until it becomes very thick and bubbles start popping from the center of the pan for at least 20 seconds. You need to bring it to a boil so that the cornstarch gets activated.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Pour the pastry cream in the prepared pan and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate it until it is completely cool, up to 1 day ahead.

Whip the heavy cream at medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until it holds soft peaks. Whisk the pastry cream to a creamy texture, then gently fold in the whipped cream with spatula.

Assemble the Cake: Place one of the cooled crepes on a serving platter. With a small offset spatula, spread a very thin layer (about 1/16 inch) of the green tea pastry cream over the crepe, going all the way to the edges. Place another crepe on top and repeat the process until the cake is 2 to 3 inches tall. Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving, up to 6 hours ahead, so that the cake has time to set.

Makes one 8-inch cake; serves 8

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Friday, March 27, 2009

18, already..?!

A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter turned 24. That, for some reason, was easier to swallow than my oldest son turning 18 this past weekend. Wow. Come August, he'll be getting settled into his dorm room, loving his new found freedom, and starting the next chapter in his life... excuse me while I cry...

For reasons we haven't quite figured out, he requested MC Hammer's Greatest Hit's emblem to adorn his cake. He doesn't listen to him. He doesn't even like him. He just thought it would be a cool thing to have on a cake. If any of you out there have any clue's, please, fill me in, because I am seriously lost... Still, I started coloring fondant and tried my best at recreating the emblem he so desired. He was happy, and that's all that mattered.

One thing we are clear on, though, is his love of Architecture. He has a natural, God given gift- amazing artistic talent, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him.
This kid's gonna be big... he's gonna go far... everyone's gonna know his name.

For now, though, his baby sister is going to finish off his cake, hoping no one will notice...

On another note, I was over at Patsy's blog- Family, Friends, and Food. She had a post with THE most scrumptious looking brownie, titled "Brownies to Rock Your World". How can you possibly ignore something like that?! Now, I trust Patsy's judgment completely, and felt that our family needed some good "world rocking" this weekend, as we have a potluck party to attend tomorrow, so I followed the recipe link included in her post, and spent the day baking away. I'm glad I did. These are OMG good! As I plated them up for tomorrows party, I shared some with my hubby (and I stole a bite!), while he just rolled his eyes in his head and gave a contented ~*sigh*~. Yup, Patsy, worth every dirty dish!

If you don't want to follow the link above, here is the recipe I followed, from Nosh With Me.

Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

Brownie Ingredients
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients
7 ounces mini marshmallows
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup Jif peanut butter
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 ½ cups Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate, butter, and ¾ cup of the semisweet chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir occasionally while melting. Set aside and cool for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, place the eggs and whisk thoroughly. Add in the sugar and vanilla. Stir the melted ingredients into the egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in the dry sifted ingredients and mix well. Fold in the remaining ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and even with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the corner of the pan comes out with moist crumbs.

Remove the brownies from the oven, and immediately sprinkle the marshmallows over them. Return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes.

While the brownies are baking, place the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat, add the cereal,and mix well. Allow this to cool for 3 minutes or so.

Spread the mixture evenly over the marshmallow layer. Refrigerate until chilled before cutting.

Makes 12 3×3-inch bars.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Four years today

Yup, four years today! Sorry guys, no food pics or recipes today- been kinda busy having fun throughout the day. Yummy stuff to post of in the next couple days though- stay tuned!

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gorgonzola and Butternut Squash Pizza

I have a nice collection of cookbooks- over 120 at last count. In the past, I used to read them like novel's. It seems though, that since so many recipes have become available over the internet, my cookbooks have gathered a little bit of dust. Sad, since there are so many amazing recipes available in them.

So, I sat down the other day and looked through some of my "least popular" books, and was happy to find this recipe for Gorgonzola and Pumpkin Pizza in a cookbook called Greatest Ever Baking by Parragon Publishing . I know, pumpkin is obviously different than my post title. Well, I don't know about you, but after the holiday season, I get a little burned out on pumpkin... So I substituted some butternut squash that I already had in my freezer, and was very happy with the results. While my photo doesn't quite show it, this pizza did brown well, and was quite pretty when finished.

This was a healthier alternative to traditional pizza. While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, it had rich flavor, and a nice chewy texture- perfect when your sick of "rabbit food" while dieting!

Gorgonzola and Pumpkin Pizza

Pizza dough:

1/4 ounce active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups whole wheat AP flour
1 1/2 cups white AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil


14 ounces pumpkin, peeled and cubed (I used Butternut Squash)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pear, cored, peeled and sliced
3 1/2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
1 sprigs fresh rosemary,for garnish

Place the yeast and sugar in a measuring cup and mix with 4 tablespoons of the water. leave the yeast mixture in a warm place for 15 minutes. Mix both of the flours with the salt and make a well in the center. Add the oil, the yeast mixture and the remaining water. using a wooden spatula, mix to form a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with an oiled sheet of plastic wrap and leave to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl. Knead the dough for 2 minutes. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to form a long oval shape, then place it on an oiled cookie sheet (I used my pizza stone sprayed with Olive Oil cooking spray), pushing out the edges until even. The dough should be no more than 1/4 inch thick, as it will rise during cooking.

To make the topping, place the pumpkin (or Butternut Squash) in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and cook under a preheated broiler for 20 minutes. Top the dough with the pear and the pumpkin, brushing with the oil from the pan. Sprinkle over the Gorgonzola. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 for 15 minutes or until the base is golden. Garnish with rosemary.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Isn't this the funkiest little fruit you've ever seen..? It's known as a Rambutan. Of course this little guy isn't as pretty as a freshly picked one, but with a trek all the way from Indonesia, I guess a little change in color is to be expected.

I was bored last week, and decided that if I couldn't (ok, shouldn't) stuff my face with unhealthy things, I'd go in search of healthier stuff to snack on. One of my favorite places to go when I am bored is AJ's Fine Food's. I love the unique food items, the prepared meals, the gift items, and they also have a fabulous wine cellar.

While walking through, I came across this little critter. I honestly thought it had something to do with seafood, but then felt pretty stupid since I was obviously in the produce department. I was so intrigued by it, that I bought two of them. Only two. At $12.89 a lb. It was either going to be an expensive fruit that I hated, or a cheap, spiny looking pet.

After I cut the Rambutan open, I started to laugh. It was if it was staring at me. The color of the fruit creeped me out, too. It really looked as if an egg had gone bad.

But once I popped the little bugger out of his shell, he looked less like an egg and more like an eyeball. It even felt like what I thought an eyeball would feel like. Maybe I should have saved this for Halloween..?

I braved it though, and took a bite. I have to say, it was pretty tasty. It had the texture of a very smooth kiwi, it's taste similar, but not with the tartness that a kiwi can sometimes have.

I still have no idea what kind of recipe I could possibly make out of these. But the entertainment value was pretty good, and they did keep me from eating the Toll House bar cookies my daughter made. Have I mentioned I can't wait until this diet and fitness challenge is over..? Only 23 lbs more to go...

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Asian Pears With Vanilla Poached Kumquats- Bookmarked Recipes

I was visiting over at Patsy's blog- Family, Friends, and Food, and saw the invite to participate in Bookmarked Recipes. She is hosting this coming Mondays event (where all recipes will be shown), and I thought it a great opportunity to try this recipe I've been thinking about for some time now.

I was looking through a small, free newspaper I had gotten on my way out of our local farmer's market, and was just about ready to throw it in the recycle bin, when I came across this recipe for Asian Pears With Vanilla Poached Kumquats. It sounded light, unique, and fit perfectly into my healthy eating of late- 14.7 lbs lost so far on a totally satisfying healthy eating plan, and daily exercise.

Another thing I liked about this recipe was that I already had most of the ingredients- I only needed some Kumquats, which were easily found at my local Trader Joe's. I called ahead, asking if they had any in stock (so that it wouldn't be a wasted trip), and mentioned that I had my 2 year old in tow, and they kindly put aside the amount I needed by the registers for an easy check out. I love that store!

This was such a refreshing alternative to traditional dessert items. The tartness of the kumquats, paired with the mellow vanilla- lime syrup, and the crisp bite of the Asian pears, left me feeling like I wasn't missing a thing at all in my quest for health. Now, I'm not saying this wouldn't be good over some rich vanilla ice cream, I'm just saying I didn't go there...

Asian Pears With Vanilla Poached Kumquats
1/2 vanilla bean pod, halved lengthwise
1/2 c water
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 c sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 lb kumquats, about 20, ends trimmed, seeded, and sliced crosswise, 1/3 inch thick
4 large Asian Pears, peeled, cored and sliced lengthwise, 1/4 inch thick

Combine water and lime juice in a small, heavy saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod and add beans and pod to the water, along with sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer for three minutes.

Add Kumquats, cover pot and simmer until they just begin to soften, three to four minutes. Arrange pears in a heatproof bowl. Pour kumquats and syrup over pears and toss gently, then cool. Chill fruit, covered, at least two to six hours. Serves 6.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009


Did you know that you can record your own cell phone ringer..? Nope, neither did I. I've had the same ring tone for quite some time. Of course, when you recognize your ring tone, you respond by answering, But when you hear something that is obviously not your ring tone, you don't. Such as when a muffled noise comes from slightly behind you, and you think, oh my God, who would do that in public?!! That's when you realize your 12 year old son is in the next aisle, laughing hysterically, calling your cell phone, which is ringing in your purse, after he recorded a fart and made that your default ring tone!! God, I love that kid...

That was the start of our weekend. But it ended on more of a flavorful, and more mature note, with the cake you see above. It was a birthday request from my oldest, who turns 24 tomorrow. ~*sigh*~ Because she has youth on her side, and a size 3 to boast of, I was happy to indulge her request by using every last bit of butter I had. I was good though, and only had a sliver.

With inspiration from Bakerella, my daughter decided that this was the cake to commemorate the occasion. While the recipe she used called for round aluminum pans, we could only find square, which in the end provided a more elegant presentation, in my opinion.

The cake, despite its large quantity of sugar, did not taste very sweet. Which was fine since the icing more than made up for that. While the recipe may seem lengthy, it comes together fast- the most time consuming part was preparing the pans, as I buttered, floured, and used parchment paper to line the bottom. I also used Bakerella's Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting rather than the frosting included with the below recipe, as I wanted something a bit richer. After making the buttercream, I warmed it in the microwave until it was of pouring consistency, to get the effect I desired. You know though, when a cake comes out like this, and it makes your first born smile, it doesn't seem to matter how long it takes.

The Smith Family 12 layer Cake (made with 14 layers)

* 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , sifted
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter , at room temperature
* 2 1/2 cups sugar
* 6 large eggs , at room temperature
* 3 cups milk
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

* 3 cups sugar
* 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder , preferably Dutch process
* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , cut up
* 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* Pecan halves, for garnish

Recommended technique: If you buy inexpensive aluminum foil cake pans at the grocery store (they can be saved for another time as well), you will be able to knock out layers in no time. And no washing between baking!

Position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375°. Lightly butter four 8 1/2- to 9-inch cake pans (you will bake the cakes in three batches) and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Flour the pans and tap out the excess.

To make the layers, sift together the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Sift the mixture one more time, and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle blade on high speed until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl and be sure the mixture is well-blended. On low speed, add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the milk, beginning and ending with the flour, and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl often with a rubber spatula. Beat in the vanilla. Using a scant cup for each layer, spread the batter evenly in the pans. It will make a thin layer.

Staggering the pans on the racks so they are at least 2 inches from each other and the sides of the oven and not directly over each other, bake the layers until they feel firm when pressed in the centers and are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans, about 12 minutes. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Invert the layers onto cake racks, remove the parchment paper, and cool completely. Wash and prepare the pans. Repeat the procedure until all 12 layers have been baked and cooled.

To make the icing, bring the sugar, cocoa, butter and evaporated milk to a full boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the icing has thickened slightly (it will resemble chocolate syrup but will thicken as it cools), about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Let the icing cool until thick enough to spread, but still pourable.

Place a layer of cake on a wire rack set over a jelly-roll pan. Spread with a few tablespoons of the icing, letting the excess run down the sides. Stack the remaining cakes, icing each layer. Pour the remaining icing over the top of the cake. If you wish, smooth the icing on the edges to cover the sides. Place pecan halves around the top perimeter of the cake. Let stand until the glaze sets. (The cake is best served the day it is made. To store, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.)

Bakerella's Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa)
1 box (1 lb) confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-3 Tbsp milk

Cream the butter and cream cheese with a mixer. Add the cocoa and vanilla. Add the confectioner's sugar in small batches and blend on low until combined. Scrape down sides with each addition. Add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until you get the consistency you desire.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Orange, Radish, and Mint Salad

I have been so good about planning my meals ahead, and making sure I have ingredients on hand to make healthy dishes. I have found that if you do a little cookbook reading, and plan your meals ahead of time, you are less likely to eat poorly and/ or cheat, especially when trying to eat to live, rather than live to eat. Yesterday though, was one of those failure to plan days. A family illness has redefined our priorities and brought relatives from far away places. Thankfully, our family member will recover, and hopefully be able to sit at the table with the rest of us before all make the trip back home.

With circumstances like these, the "old me" would have reached for the nearest Costco Chicken Bake, blissfully ignorant to it's nutritional information.

The "new me" however, reads this stuff, and can't believe I considered that to be one out of three of my daily meals. With calorie and fat counts like those, that is not far now from what I allow myself for an entire day!

Thank goodness I have been keeping healthy ingredients and fresh produce on hand. On my table I had placed a huge bowl of clementines, and in my fridge was an enormous bag of radishes. So I googled the two and found this recipe from Ellie Krieger. While the recipe calls for oranges, I substituted the clementines, and found this to be a delicious, satisfying, and refreshing dish. I was also able to use a gift, from my cousin, Steve, in the recipe- a touch of Pasolivo Olive oil. A perfect touch in this recipe. Thanks, Steve!

I'm at a 9.5 lb loss my friends, and feeling really, really, good.

Orange, Radish, and Mint Salad

4 navel oranges
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
8 radishes, cut in half, then thinly sliced into half-moons
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the top and bottom off each orange. Stand the orange on one end on a cutting board and, following the curve of the fruit, cut away the skin and woolly white pith of the orange. Cut each orange section away from the membrane.

In a medium bowl, toss together the orange sections, onion, radishes, and mint. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. This salad will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about a day.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 cup

Per Serving:
Calories 145; Total fat 7g (Sat fat 1g, Mono fat 5g, Poly fat 0.5g); Protein 2g; Carb 20g; Fiber 3g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium155 mg

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Monday, March 2, 2009

I "heart" you , Boston

If I don't take a break from thinking about food, I will accidentally climb into my freezer and eat the frozen Reese's Peanut Butter Cups some one put in there around Halloween. I've lost 9 lbs in the last 3 weeks... I can't screw it up. Thanks for understanding. So in the meantime, I thought a trip down memory lane might be fun.

While leaving exercise class this morning, me and a couple of the other moms were talking about music and old lead singer crushes. It was funny how we all went crazy for some of the same guys. But I will never forget this one- Brad Delp, the lead singer of Boston, one of the greatest groups of all time.

I remember, when I was a teenager, taking my Boston album to school so that I'd be able to play it in art class- on a RECORD PLAYER!!. Even the teacher (who was fairly young herself) was singing away with us. This was me, long, long, ago in a teen galaxy far, far, away...

And this is the song that, to this day, I will sing along with in the car and not care who is staring at me.

You turned it up, didn't you..? You're singing along, aren't you..? Don't worry, I can't hear you... Bust out!

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