Saturday, December 02, 2006

Happy Holidays with Sweets

It has been a while since my last newsletter! I have been so busy teaching classes, traveling and writing my book that I didn’t have the chance to sit in front of my computer and write about sweets. Anyway, I didn’t want to end the year without wishing you Happy Holidays and sending you one of my favorite cookie recipes as a holiday gift: Chocolate Snow Cookies.

These are the best chocolate cookies I ever made, not only in flavor but also in presentation! With their contrasting black and white color from the chocolate and the powdered sugar, they will enhance any cookie tray. They require a little bit more work than other cookies, but I guarantee that it is totally wort it.
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 ½ tablespoon brewed coffee
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar, plus more for coating the cookies
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans toasted
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • powdered sugar for coating the cookies

    Ground the nuts in a food processor

    Whisk the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is white and form a ribbon.

Melt the chocolate, the butter, the zests and the coffee in a bowl set over simmering water. Let it cool a little bit. Mix in the egg mixture.

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The mixture will become thick as you stir it. Stir it just until combined.
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Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and ground nuts.
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Stir this mixture into the chocolate batter.
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Refrigerate the chocolate mixture until firm (around 1-2 hours). Preheat the oven to 350F.

Set two bowls, one with granulated sugar and the other one with powdered sugar. Roll the dough in 1-inch balls.
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Roll them in the sugar to coat them, then roll them in the powdered sugar.
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Place the cookies 1 inch apart on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
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Bake them for 15 minutes. They should still soft near the center but firm at the edges.

Let them cool before taking them from the pan.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Summer Grilling Desserts

Summer means different things to different people. For some, it is the time of the year to enjoy any kind of outdoor activities; for others it is the only chance to travel and take a family vacation; but for Edgard, my husband, it is all about grilling. Not matter if it is raining, too cool or too hot outside; he takes advantage of every opportunity he has to relax and cook over coals.

I don’t blame him, there is something about grilling that brings out the best flavor and aromas in food and even the simplest meal turns into a casual celebration. But grilling is not just for meats, poultry or fish. Almost any kind of fruit, from berries to banana, can be turn into tempting desserts using this cooking technique. The hot grill caramelizes the sugar in the fruit bringing out its natural sweetness while intensifies its flavor.

Firmer fruits, like bananas, pineapples, apples, and pears are easier to grill because they can stand hot heat without falling apart. I generally, cut them in half, pit, core and grill them on medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes. Oranges and other juicy fruits do best cut into thick slices and with the skin on. Softer fruits like nectarine, plums, apricots and other stoned fruits are more delicate and can turn easily to a mush if overcooked. I usually, cut them in half, pit, core and just heat them for about 3-5 minutes. Berries and small fruits can be heated on skewers or wrapped in foil for 5-8 minutes.

Whichever fruit you choose, pick the ones that are in season and feel firm to the touch. Wash and dry them with paper towel and brush them lightly with oil or melted butter to help prevent sticking. You can also marinate the fruit with balsamic vinegar, lemon, wine or a liquor of your preference and a little amount of sugar.

In order to get a flavorful crust and seal the juices inside the fruit, it is very important to preheat your grill to medium-low heat. If you are using a charcoal grill, you have to light up for 30-40 minutes before grilling. For gas grill, you will need 10-15 minutes to reach the desired temperature.

One of my favorite grilling recipes is Strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. The acidity of the balsamic vinegar with the sweetness of the brown sugar gives another dimension of flavor to the strawberries creating a delicate dessert that takes only few minutes to assemble. I like to serve it with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or yoghurt.

Grill Balsamic Vinegar Strawberries

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar

Toss strawberries with balsamic vinegar, lemon zest and brown sugar.

Divide strawberries among foil squares. Bring the edges of foil together and scrunch to seal.

Grill over medium-low heat until warm (5-10 minutes)

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.