Friday, January 28, 2011

Chocolate Pâté with Crème Chaud-Froid


Pâté sometimes gets a bum rap.  It can be time consuming to make and is usually made of ground meats; most often liver,  fat, sometimes offal and et cetera - and is shaped in a mold or loaf pan then chilled.  To some it sounds absolutely repellent, but there are reasons why people consider it a delicacy and serve it at swanky parties.  It is arguably a textural thing.  I get it.

Chocolate pâté intrigued me.  In all honesty, I wondered how weird it would be.  After reading the recipe in its entirety I found that it was little more than a chocolate mousse you can slice - and a double plus, it's easy to make!  I practically leapt to the kitchen for my stash of Green and Black's and a pint of cold cream. 

Biscuit being well behaved - a rare occasion and most likely because I'm holding a piece of cheese.

It all came together so easily.  I left it in the fridge to set overnight and the next morning as I unmolded it, I said that oft spoken kitchen prayer: "please don't stick".  And you know what?  It didn't.  It came out beautifully!  I was in absolute awe of how it sliced so perfectly and still retained a light creamy mousse texture.  Believe me when I say it's all about the texture!

My hunny and I made short work of the 9 x 5" chocolate brick, eating it after lunches and dinner (...okay, sometimes breakfast, too).  I considered making cookie "crackers" to pair with the pâté, but it needs nothing else.  It is perfect as it is.  It feels special enough to serve to your Valentine or as playful party fare for a crowd.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Panera Bread and Salted Caramel Bread Puddings


A few weeks ago the kind folks from Panera Bread emailed me and asked if I'd like to be part of their blog program.  My reply?  Yes!  Then I further read they'd give me free baked goods, and pay me.

Seriously?!  Sign. Me.Up.

Mr. Baird and I love Panera Bread, and we have spent many a rainy Sunday morning there sipping coffee, eating bagels and reading the paper.  Mornings are my favorite time to go there because it's usually busy but peaceful.  People are quietly chatting or on their laptops taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi.  It's obviously no secret that good coffee and a pastry is the best way to start the day!


Two days ago I found myself standing in front of Panera Bread's fully loaded bakery case- wide-eyed, hungry and indecisive.  I saw some old favorites like the cream cheese danish and chocolate filled pasty.  A big plate of fluffy croissants and an even bigger plate of giant cinnamon rolls were calling my name.  Alas,  it was the artisan breads that got me hook, line and sinker.  I bought four loaves, throwing carb-caution to the wind. 


The cinnamon raisin bread was destined for a bread pudding the moment I laid eyes on it.  See that crust?  That's baked-on cinnamon-sugary goodness running down the middle!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Flaming Strawberries


Call me easily amused, but these little torch-topped cupcakes delight me.  Besides being a cute novelty item for a party, I think they would add a little drama to the end of a romantic meal.  I've been looking for something different to serve for Valentine's dessert, and this is definitely different.  The strawberries are hollowed out and filled with a bit of liquor, then ignited with a match.


For the cake portion, I chose a One Bowl Chocolate Cupcake recipe because 1. it's quick 2. it is easy, and 3. it fits my prerequisite for a light ending on date night.

I should say, a light ending provided you don't eat too many.  Which is really, really easy to do.

The cakes are just sweet enough, and have a light, fluffy crumb - the perfect vehicle for rich chocolate buttercream.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

White Ricotta Tart wth Sugared Fruit



Oh, January.  You are a chilly month.

Yesterday we had the kind of snow that makes mighty tree limbs bow in submission.  On days like this I'm perfectly content to spend long hours in an oven-warmed kitchen, and that's just what I did.  Many treats were made; some for the book and some for the blog.  I'm still determining where some should reside.  After much hemming and hawing about what to make for this entry, I decided to revisit an old recipe. 


I made this tart for Thanksgiving 2 years ago, and at the time decided it was a little too heavy (or maybe I was just miserably full after turkey and dressing... I digress).  This time, I used part skim ricotta for the filling and replaced the whole eggs with egg whites. What resulted is a light and fluffy filling that is beautifully pale and bespeckled with vanilla seeds.


I feel compelled to tell you that my husband asked for seconds.  This man will emphatically ask "what is that?" as he peers over my shoulder at my latest confection.  Let's just say, he's not a Matcha tea cheesecake kind of guy.  But this, he loved.

(NOTE:  For those interested, here's my latest Pixiq article 5 ways to improve your food photography, for beginners.)

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