Friday, March 20, 2009

French Almond Financier Cake

With Lemon Infused Créme Pâtissiére & Fresh Berries

So if I haven't mentioned it I love Chris. He is such an amazing man; he touches my soul and inspires me to be the best version of me possible. Needless to say I had to make him an incredible birthday cake. I asked him if he wanted something deeply chocolaty and rich with a warm gooey center think chocolate soufflé or something bright and fresh with spring fruit. Much to my surprise he went for the fruit option. Of course I had to pull out all the stops; I hit the cookbooks and the internet until I remembered I had a really basic recipe for these beautiful, petite, golden, French almond finger cakes that I had never used and well inspiration hit and before I knew it I was elbow deep in french pastry pefection.

The original recipe was for 12 small finger cakes which were not going to fly for a birthday cake, so I doubled it. (I also do not own the special molds to make these in the traditional shape, I think you could probably use Madeline molds or any other small cake pans.) I know there are some of you out there shaking your head that I would make a new recipe along with changes the first time for something as important as a birthday.

Perfect example of haw amazing Chris is; he reassured me that even if it didn't turn out perfect there was enough butter in it no matter what, it would taste amazing. He is always my champion supporting me when I am playing mad chef in the kitchen making an incredible mess. Have I mentioned I love him yet?

I baked the cake in a large shallow Maryann cake pan; it is a bit like a tart pan only with a depression in the center so when you unmold the cake it is perfect for filling with cream or frosting. I hoped this would be a good choice because the original recipe only cooked the little cakes for 12 min and I feared a deeper larger pan might cause problems, so I went big but shallow. It worked marvelously; it turned out a perfect base cake, golden and delicious, with the most amazing texture, light but still substantial and a little spongy.

I filled the depression with this amazing lemon infused pastry crème. I just tweaked a basic recipe to include the lemon because I love a little lemon with my fresh berries, it just sets them off. You could also throw some zest into the cake to give you the same effect. I decorated the top with fresh raspberries and strawberries, and a little sifted confectioners sugar to top it all off.

1 c. ground almonds
1 ½ c. confectioner's sugar, sifted
6 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus a little for dusting the pan
12 tbsp unsalted butter, plus a little for the pan
6 large egg whites * reserve the yolks for pastry crème
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter and flour your choice of pan.
2. Mix the almonds, sugar, and salt together. Heat the butter over low heat, just until melted. Whisk the egg whites until they are frothy but barely thickened. Add the butter, egg whites, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and fold together.
3. Divide the batter among the molds, filling halfway. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until they spring back when pressed lightly. Cool briefly, remove from the molds onto a wire rack, and cool completely.

Makes 24 small cakes or one full size cake
Special Equipment:12 financier or barquette molds, or a 14 inch shallow Maryann pan
You can freeze the finished cake for up to 3 months

Lemon Infused Créme Pâtissiére
This sweet pastry cream is the perfect rich and creamy filling for any type of desert but is really scrumptious on fruit tarts or in cream puffs.
*You could really do this with orange as well, with a little orange liquor to give it an extra pop.

1¼ c. whole milk * I actually used vanilla soy milk
¾ c. sugar * I use light brown because it gives a little more depth and a beautiful color
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch *more if you want a thicker crème
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract *or use the inside of one vanilla bean
4 large egg yolks
Zest of one large lemon

1. Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. If using a vanilla bean scrape into the milk now.
2. Whisk the yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk.
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan, add the lemon zest. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a full boil and is smooth.
* I like the little pieces of zest in the crème but if you want perfectly smooth crème add the zest in the fist step and then strain it out after 5 min. before adding it to the other ingredients.
4. Let cool slightly, add lemon juice and if using vanilla extract add it now and give it a good whisk. If not using immediately, cover with a piece of buttered wax paper pressed directly onto the surface of the pastry cream.

Makes about 1 ½ c.

The crème can be refrigerated, with wax paper pressed on its surface, for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Citrus Spiked Salmon

I made this last night after a long day at work and it is such a simple, beautiful, presentation for salmon that I though I would share it with all of you. Nothing much to it, which is exactly what I needed after a miserable failure with some phylo pastry earlier in the evening.

1.5 lb Wild salmon fillet
1 Lemon
3 tbsp Honey
3 tbsp Rice wine vinegar
1/3 c. Natural Shoyu
* You could also through a little miso into the sauce

Season to taste with
Grey sea salt
Ground black pepper
Ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350°

Rub salmon with ginger, pepper and salt. Thinly slice the lemon to create almost transparent round slices cover and set aside. Combine honey, vinegar and shoyu in large sauce pan and simmer until fragrant and thickened pour off into bowl. Place salmon on baking sheet or in glass baking dish glaze with honey mixture and cover with the lemon slices. Bake on the middle rack for 25 min, then turn on broiler and watch carefully, remove salmon when lemons are golden brown about another 6 min.*

Serve hot out of the oven with fragrant sticky rice and a garlic spiked stir fry of veggies.

* Ovens and broilers vary and cook time will vary with the size and thickness of the salmon. If you are worried about undercooking use a meat thermometer or pull it out and cut it open. I often do both especially when working with a new recipe, make sure to take good notes and then next time you will be spot on with your cook time!

Savory Bread Pudding

This past Friday I took Chris out for his 25th birthday. We went to a wine concept restaurant, Vinology. Chris ordered the braised short ribs for his main course, which was served with a delicious savory bread pudding. However, we both felt that the parsley pistou over the top was a bit overpowering for the light creamy texture of the bread pudding. I did a little research and stitched together a couple of different recipes to come up with my own version. I had never tried my hand at a savory bread pudding but I quickly realized it is almost foolproof. This is a great alternative to other more starchy sides or can be a vegetarian main dish loaded up with veggies. I am a big fan of making it your own and encourage you to experiment with all kinds of things thrown in.

Loaf of Challah (I had some left over from a great Jewish bakery)
6-8 Large Eggs
¼ c. Milk
½ c. Stock (chicken, beef, or veggie)
½ c. Cheese (parmesan or other firm salty cheese)
1 Red onion diced
3 Cloves of garlic minced
Olive oil

Season to taste with:
Fresh thyme
Fresh basil
Fresh parsley
Cracked black pepper
Coarse sea salt

1 bunch of greens (kale, spinach or swiss chard)

Turn on broiler

1. Roughly cut the bread into cubes for toasting, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper toss and spread on baking sheet. Broil until toasted and golden brown.
2. Beat eggs, milk, and savory spices together to make the custard, (about 1 min.) until it is light and fluffy.
3. Sauté onions and garlic in couple of tablespoons of the olive oil until just golden brown.
Preheat oven to 400
4. Lightly oil baking dish (I used a medium caserol dish, make sure dish is deep enough to accomodate all of the bread with room for a bit of puff from the egg mixture) with olive oil and toss toast, spinach, and cheese together. Mix custard and cooled savory sauté, pour over other ingredients in baking dish. Bake for 30 min. or until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve with hearty meats with gravy as an alternative to mashed potatoes, or smothered with bacon and sautéed green onions for a light savory breakfast the next day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A to Zingerman's, an intro....

Zingerman's Deli
Ann Arbor Michigan
Zingerman's is a treasure to be sure. The founders Ari and Paul along with their incredible partners and staff live and share many of my own beliefs about food. They are heavy hitters when it comes to sources or simply producing the highest quality foods possible. They do everything the old fashioned way, the way it was done 100 years ago when everything was natural and slow and full flavored. Ari was explaining the secret of their success and it went something like this, "it's not really a secret we just do things the traditional way, we didn't have to invent it we just had to rediscover it. We do what everyone knows they should but no one else takes the time or energy." They have been recognized time and again for their incredible efforts in the both the food and business world for bringing unsurpassed quality to their customers.

I must admit every time I walk through those doors I instantly feel a little better about everything and when it is time to leave I always think about giving my two weeks notice to my desk job and applying for anything at Zingerman's (even dishwasher if they would have me). Chris and I frequent a Zing property (there are several) at least once a month for a full blown fix and I stop in whenever I need some truly amazing ingredients. Recently I purchased a fantastic black truffle oil, some Humboldt Fog cheese, and some amazing cocoa powder just to name a few. You will be seeing a lot of these guys on my blog.

I am excited to become more involved with the traditions surrounding this incredible group of people. They offer regular tastings and classes covering a wide variety of foods and topics. They can be a little pricy but well worth every dollar. Right now I am in a total crisis trying to plan out which events to attend. There is just no way to communicate through words the magic of the Zingerman's experience.

If you live in the area, or within 100 miles, take a trip and go indulge!

With love,

More From Ann Arbor

Grizzly Peak
Ann Arbor Michigan
Grizzly Peak is a small Local MicroBrewing Company in Ann Arbor. It features a classically casual atmosphere along side its' traditional gastro pub food and delicious beers. Their signature pale ale is my personal favorite. The food is hearty with bold flavors and the wait staff is attentive. It's a great place to meet up with friends and have a cold one no matter the day or time.

This is where Chris and I had our first date!
Find time to enjoy!


Ann Arbor, Michigan
Vinology is a great restaurant in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor and it is the place to find a glass of wine perfectly paired with the beautiful food from a well balanced menu. The menu is printed on a regular basis to ensure the use of the freshest seasonal ingredients and thus the experience is ever changing. They serve over 50 wines by the glass and their menu is complete with a suggested pairing for every item. The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the wine selection and is happy to make suggestions for alternative pairings. The food was delicate in nature with layers of subtle flavor.

Chris and I went here on Friday for a beautiful meal and to celebrate life a little bit. We each indulged in a different appetizer and main along with some fantastic wines. We then shared a little desert, which was the perfect ending. I will give you all the food details later, suffice to say I will be recreating their cous cous and bread pudding at home in the near future.

Best wishes,

SLC Places to be

Salt Lake City, Utah

Eggs in the City
The most amazing secret tucked into the neighborhoods above 13th East. It is actually an old auto garage that has been renovated to serve as a small breakfast and lunch café. The food is fresh and the kitchen is open for visitors at the bar to watch the cooks. The staff is amazing and the owner is often there working on the weekends. They welcome special orders and want you to have everything your way.

Desert Edge Brewery " At The Pub"
Desert Edge is home to Happy Valley Hefiweisen the beer that defined my college days. It is also home to some amazing French onion soup, the best black bean veggie burger, and other fresh takes on traditional pub food. Everything is made from scratch including the beer (brewed downstairs under the pub). The service is great and they have a student discount on beer just show your university ID to your sever when you sit down. This is where I had my going away dinner if that says anything. It is hands down the best place to get a seat on the deck and just enjoy food and sun with friends. I can honestly say I have been disappointed there and it is one of the simple places I miss most in SLC. There are many memories with friends that fill that place and there are days my heart aches to pick up the phone and say meet me "At The Pub."

I will always grab a bite when I am in town and if you are in the SLC area Desert Edge is one of the best kept secrets right in Trolley Square. It far surpasses many of the more expensive eateries in the downtown area.
Be sure to have a pint for me!

The Porcupine Bar & Grille
Amazing little chalet at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. They have 24 beers on tap most of which are locally brewed and amazing gastro pub food. My favorite is their grilled flat bread with roasted red pepper sauce and goat cheese along side the Wasatch brewery's raspberry wheat beer.

The Bayou akaBeervana
As the name suggests this is a Creole restaurant and bar that has amazing food and a beer list that is unsurpassed in my experience. Beers imported from all over the country and the world, lots of microbrews and familiar offshore names. The Bayou Burger is must along with their sweetpotato french fries served with an amazing aioli. It only gets better
when a local jazz band or great solo artist start to play on a weekend night.

I will keep adding to the list as time goes on, until then, take a night off of cooking and the dirty dishes it creates and go eat some amazing food from the great chefs of Salt Lake City .

Hope you Enjoy!

Restless Feet

As many of you know I am nomadic by nature. In the past six months I have spent a significant amount of time in four very different parts of the world. In May of last year I graduated from the University of Utah with of all things a degree in Finance. My parents had been living abroad in Jakarta, Indonesia and were planning on moving home to the states for the first time in nearly ten years, more on all of that later. My best friend Carson and I decided to visit them in Asia as a graduation trip before they moved back stateside. It was amazing as always but even more so because I had my family and Carson with me. After a few months back home I made the long flight back to the states and spent some time in northern California. A little town called Arcata in Humboldt County. It is surrounded by the Redwood forests and is inhabited by lots of organic, all natural, food producers and consumers. My friend Collin has been a chef out there for several years now, and it is home of some of my favorite specialty food products (I now have friends sending me shipments of things I can't seem to live without.) After a few months in California it was time to take myself home to Salt Lake City for a last hurrah. Again in the great company of Carson, Ryan, Sarah, and the rest of the good old gang we savored the beautiful weather and colors of a Salt Lake Fall. As a last stop before my journey north to the great lakes I stopped by my Family's new house in Katy, Texas. It was the perfect ending to a crazy year; surrounded by my family and that feeling of the home and warmth you remember from childhood. Then as the New Year arrived I finally made my way to Michigan.

Needless to say after this whirlwind year I get a little home sick. The interesting thing is at any point in time I can get home sick for all of the places I mentioned. Home for me often falls outside the traditional concept for me because of my family's world travels and constant moving and my own restless feet. Home is where my heat is, with family and friends, with memories, and dreams. I miss little things about all the places I have been. When asked where my favorite place was is or where I would go back given the chance my answer is always the same. I am happy and I treasure what I have had and where I have been but I am not sad that I have left it. It's never the same place when you go back because places and people are organic and ever changing. I am always excited for the new places I go and what the future holds. This blog is still young and it was inspired by my move to Michigan in many ways, however I am going to share with you a few of my favorite places "back home" in case you ever have a chance to visit!