Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Vanilla Extract

There is not a detailed recipe for making vanilla extract at home. All that you need is one vanilla bean, alcohol and patience. I like to use Vodka for this preparation because it has a neutral flavor but you can use other liquors with a high percentage of alcohol (like rum). All the alcohol does is absorb the flavor of the vanilla bean. The longer you leave the preparation alone to extract the flavor, the more potent it becomes
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • about 1 cup vodka
  • 1 small jar with tight lid
Split the vanilla bean. You don't need to scrape it.

Place the vanilla bean in a jar and cover with vodka.

The vanilla will get quite dark after a while (3 months), but I usually leave it for 6 months before using it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pumpkin Biscotti

Most biscotti are crispy and hard because they are supposed to be soaked in milk/coffee/liquor, or any liquid of your preference to soften them up. But the pumpkin puree in this recipe gives to the cookie a soft texture that stay that way for several days. That doesn't mean that you can't soak them in your morning drink.

Pumpkin Biscotti
- 4 oz butter
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup almonds slightly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl cream the butter with the two sugars until white and fluffy. In another bowl mix the flour with baking soda and spices. Add the dry  ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Add the pumpkin puree and mix together. Fold in the almonds.

Form the dough into 2 logs in a baking pan fitted with parchment paper.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

With a serrated knife cut the logs diagonally 1/2 inch thick. Reduce temperature to 325F. Bake again for 8 to 10 min.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

This is one of my favorite summer desserts. With lots of zucchini and the addition of extra virgin olive oil this cake makes a very nutritious snack to take to the beach, parks or any other summer destination. My kids love can't have enough.
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large whole eggs 
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated zucchini (grated using a box grater)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Brush the inside of 4 small loaf pans with olive oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Strain the zucchini.

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add sugars, oil, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Beat about 1-2 minutes. 

In another bowl, sift dry ingredients. Slowly add half of sifted dry ingredients to wet mixture.  Let batter come together before adding remaining sifted dry ingredients.

Add the zucchini and mix until everything is combined.

Portion batter evenly into 4 prepared pans.

Place pans onto a baking sheet and into preheated oven, on center rack. Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and continue cooling on rack. Cool completely prior to icing.

Honey Icing 
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • warm water

In a mixing bowl whisk together the sugar, vanilla, and honey. Add a little bit of warm water if it needs to be thinner. Place cooled loaves on a cooling rack over a sheet pan.  Pour the icing over top of each loaf. Let icing set slightly, approximately 15-20 minutes. (Cakes may be stored up to 3 days in an airtight container.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Focaccia al Limone, Pecorino Romano e Rosmarino (Lemon and Rosemary Focaccia)

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for the pan
  • 2 tablespoon rosemary 
  • 2 lemons thinly sliced (with a mandolin)
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano thinly sliced
Yield: 1/4 sheet pan ( (9.5 x 13 x 1 inches)

Warm 1/3 cup of water to 110 F. Dissolve the dry yeast into the water and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Add the rest of the water (cold) and the flour, and mix until the dough comes together.
Add salt and 1/4 cup olive oil and continue kneading until the dough becomes elastic (approximately 15 minutes in a Kitchen Aid with hook attachment and 30 minutes kneading by hand). Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest until it doubles it size (approximately 2 hours). Oil the baking sheet pan generously with olive oil. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and place it on the sheet pan. Pat and press the dough into the baking sheet. If the dough resists, wait a few minutes and continue. With a fingertip, make impressions in the dough at 2-inch intervals. Cover the dough with Pecorino Romano and lemon slices. Sprinkle all over the top with rosemary. Add extra salt and olive oil to taste.
Allow the dough to rise again until doubled in bulk, about 30 - 45 minutes. 
Bake at 450 F for 30 minutes.
Transfer the bread to a cooling rack before serving.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

An easier way to make lemon curd

Lemon curd is a luscious English cream that is usually spread on scones, but there are so many other ways to use it in the pastry kitchen: as a filling for tarts, cakes, and cookies; as a base for mousses or semifreddo or simply on buttered toast. One can appreciate the vibrant flavor of fresh lemon and the satiny texture of the curd.
It is made by cooking lemon juice and zests with eggs and sugar until you get a thick cream. Although it seems very easy to prepare, you may end with bits of cooked and curdled egg if you are not careful while cooking the cream.

For years I made my lemon curd by tempering the eggs very carefully with the hot liquid and then cooking the sauce in a double boiler to avoid overcooking the eggs. I also strained the mixture to make sure no curdled eggs ended in my cream. I was very surprise when I saw a David Lebovitz (formerChez Panisse chef) method for making the curd by heating everything together over direct heat. I loved the idea of cutting some steps, so I tried it immediately. The result was outstanding! It was very creamy and smooth and it had a wonderful flavor. I wanted to share this new method (at least for me) with you and an old recipe I had written while working at restaurants in the bay area. Feel free to try David’s recipe here:

Lemon Curd
makes about a pint
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 eggs yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • zest of 3 lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about six lemons)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, cut up into small pieces

 Whisk the eggs, the sugar, the lemon zest, the lemon juice and the salt into a saucepan. 
Add the butter cut in cubes. Turn the heat to low and continue mixing until the butter is melted. 
 Turn the heat to medium low and stir with a wooden spoon or whisk until thickened. 
Strain, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.