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ebruary
08
Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle


This little love letter in a ramekin is the perfect way to say "I love you enough to learn what stiff peaks are" on Valentine's Day.

And in actuality, the ratio of difficulty to wow-factor is absolutely in your favor.  Have you had a chocolate souffle?  Have you made your own chocolate souffle?  Have you ever ended a blissfully romantic date by pulling (mostly prepped ahead) warm, airy, utterly decadent chocolate souffles out of the oven, whilst the room is filled with puffs of bittersweet chocolate love-air?

Or for that matter, have you ever taken a ten minute vacation, and sat alone on the couch eating your first warm chocolate souffle direct from the oven, without having to share one little bit of it. (highly recommended.)

This is absolutely a recipe that should be in your back pocket.  You can so do this, with just a few techniques to pay attention to.

(more…)


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ecember
08
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding
With homemade vanilla extract on my mind (and growing increasingly darker on my counter), I have found myself craving homespun desserts of yore.  It is certainly this time of year too; our new pine-y tree perfuming the house has me tearing through files of stained recipe cards trying to recreate tins of cookies of my foremothers'.

I have had a few amazing meals at an outstanding humble restaurant, The Moosse Cafe, in Mendocino, CA.  The menu is a wonderful array of comforting classics, but so carefully prepared with impeccable ingredients you feel you are meeting them for the first time.  This was certainly the case with their legendary dark chocolate pudding.  Dense and rich and not too sweet, it was perfect.  But also...it was pudding.  Not custard or mousse, nor crème nor bruléed.

With all of the frothy, eggy, well-tempered desserts my french culinary background has given me, I am in love with the honest simplicity of pudding right now.  I even love the brief snap of the skin on top of the bowl as my spoon first dives in.

I brought this pudding recently to a dinner party and it was a lick-the-plate-clean hit.  Easy to transport and serve, in small ramekins (keep the portions small, as it is a rich one), accompanied by a bowl of whipped cream, and a bowl of an irresistible crunchy toasted hazelnut, shaved chocolate and sea salt topping.  This would also be festive and easy to set up on a holiday soiree buffet.  (psst...and all made in advance.)

Fa-la-la-la-la.


DARK CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT PUDDING
by Catie Schwalb
serves 8

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces the best you can get dark chocolate, not chips, about 1 1/4 cups, roughly chopped (I used 72%)
1 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur, or extract, or vanilla extract

In a heavy bottomed pot, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Over medium heat, slowly add in the milk, whisking to incorporate fully.   Continue to cook, whisking frequently, and also stirring to prevent burning in the corners and sides, for 5-10 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble slightly and thicken.  When the pudding fully coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and add the chocolate all at once.   Whisk briskly for a few minutes to melt and incorporate the chocolate.  Add in the extract or liqueur.

Pour into a serving bowl, or ladle into individual cups or ramekins.  Cover with plastic wrap, pushing right down on the surface of the pudding if you want to avoid the pudding "skin".  Allow to cool and then chill in the refrigerator.  Will keep for up to 3 days.

TOASTED HAZELNUT, SHAVED CHOCOLATE AND SEA SALT TOPPING

1 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup shaved bittersweet chocolate
1/8 teaspoon fine salt

Heat oven to 350. Spread hazelnuts evenly a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they'll go quickly from done to burned in the final minutes. Bundle nuts in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Allow to cool and then roughly chop.

Shave chocolate by running a vegetable peeler along the edge of the bar. Combine with cooled, chopped nuts, and salt. Sprinkle over pudding and whipped cream, or ice cream or as a decoration for a frosted cake. Store in an airtight container.



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pril
09
Dark Chocolate Dipped Shortbread recipe


I was asked to bring dessert to a dinner with some of my favorite girls (you know who you are...), the day after Easter.  With this year's holiday resulting in a serious lack of bunny candy (believe me, for the better) I thought about trying to come up with a grown-up easter sweet.  These dark chocolate dipped shortbread cookies were the perfect fit, and paired very well with the individual creme caramels I made in addition.  They are both classic and elegant, and not too sweet, so could be great with afternoon tea or alone with dessert wine.

DARK CHOCOLATE DIPPED SHORTBREAD
By Catie
makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on shape

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (optional, but worth it), split and scraped
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups AP flour
3/4 tsp salt
8 oz dark chocolate, not chocolate chips (see note below)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

With either a hand mixer, or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together softened butter, sugar, and the split and scraped vanilla bean (seeds and bean pod), until combined and fluffy, and the oils from the vanilla bean have been beaten into the butter. Remove the vanilla bean.  Add vanilla extract and mix to combine.


In a separate bowl sift together flower and salt. Add to butter mixture, a bit at a time, until all mixed in.

Shape into two disks on a floured surface, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Gently roll out one of the disks of dough on a well floured surface to a 1/3" thick. Cut into desired shape, either with a knife or cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheet, sprinkle with a little extra sugar, and bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, until the bottom and edges are just turning golden. Cool on baking rack.

You can freeze any unused portion of dough.



For the chocolate:
Finely chop the dark chocolate with a large chef's knife. To temper the chocolate, so it stays glossy when it dries and doesn't develop that dull gray finish, place half of the chopped chocolate in a microwave-save bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir, and repeat at 30 second intervals until just melted. Then add a portion of the unmelted chocolate shavings to the bowl, stir in to melt by the heat of the chocolate (no more microwave). Repeat until all the unmelted chocolate has been incorporated.

When cookies are cool, gently spoon chocolate on one of the ends of the cookies, scraping off any excess. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment to cool.

Note: For the chocolate, try not to use chocolate chips. Most chips contain an emulsifier so that they don't melt completely and ooze everywhere when baked in cookies. Instead use your favorite good dark chocolate eating bar, or these Guittard chocolate wafers, which are of incredible quality, and my favorite (and also amazing antioxidant treat just as is.)



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arch
03
Sweet Potato Pecan Teacakes


Yesterday I received in the mail some adorable vintage aluminum baking molds that I purchased a little while back from the great upcycle shop AntiNu on Etsy.com.  I had sweet potatoes from the market, and got to work.

A handful of years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest did a study comparing the nutrients of vegetables.  Sweet potatoes were ranked the most beneficial of all.  They are super high in fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, and, unlike their regular white potato cousins, are a complex carbohydrate, so won't send your glucose soaring (as much).

The cakes came out beautifully.  Not terribly sweet, they were moist yet airy, and filled the kitchen with warmth and an earthy spice.  They would also be great with brunch, or as a dessert with cream cheese frosting.


SWEET POTATO PECAN TEACAKES

adapted from Deborah Madison.

Makes 12 teacakes or muffins

4 TBS melted butter or vegetable oil

1/3 cup molasses

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato

2 whole eggs

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

1 3/4 cups flour (can use a combination of AP flour and whole wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Oil baking tins.

Thoroughly mix the wet ingredients (melted butter, molasses, brown sugar, mashed sweet potato, eggs, creme fraiche) together in a bowl.  Mix all the dry ingredients, except for pecans, (four, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) in separate bowl.  Add the dry mixture to the wet, a little at a time, until evenly combined.  Fold in chopped pecans.  Fill baking tins 3/4 of the way with batter.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned on top.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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