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Tuesday
Apr102012

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake for John's Birthday

It's John's birthday again! Well, it's John's birthday on Thursday, the 12th. But I'm posting early. I like to stay ahead of him, keep him on his toes. 

Some of you may wonder what we do to celebrate John's birthday. Well....that gets dicey. John hates his birthday!

Whaaaaaat? Yes, yes - it's true! I just don't understand this hatred. So, I like to go around him and plan things for him that he would ordinarily, left to his own devices, ignore, avoid and fear. I'm a good sister, yes?

Yes.

For his 29th birthday I planned a beer pong surprise party. Remember that part about being a good sister? I am one, clearly.

Last year, I respected his wishes and didn't throw a party, but I embarrassed him publicly on the blog, stating the various things that made him a great brother. You can read last year's testimonial here.

This year, I am taking him out to dinner. He hasn't decided where he wants to dine yet. But I would like to invite you all to post your birthday wishes on this blog. I'm going to pick a few random commenters and give out a prize.

While you're waiting for winners to be announced, you might want to make this cake. You can make it for someone's birthday, or you can invent a birthday, as the cake is that good, you might not want to wait for a special occasion. Marmo made this for Easter Sunday, and we all had to restrain ourselves from diving face-first into it.

This recipe is from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz.

What You Need:

Serves 12

12 oz of almonds finely ground

6 eggs, separated

6 tablespoons sugar

8 oz of bittersweet chocolate

2 sticks of butter

10 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup sugar

What To Do: 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter and flour a 10 inch springform pan.  Line the bottom with wax paper or parchment paper.  Butter and flour the lining.

In a food processor grind the almonds in 3 batches pulsing each with 2 T sugar for a total of 6 T of sugar.  Set aside.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and butter together.

In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks until lemon colored and then gradually beat in the 10 T sugar.

Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg yolks.  Stir to mix and fold in the ground almonds and stir will.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with the ¼ c of sugar until they are stiff.  The fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake on a cookie sheet for 90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes and remove the sides  from the springform pan.

When the cake has cooked turn it upside down onto a serving plate and dust with confectioners sugar.

Wednesday
Dec212011

Simple Gingerbread Cookies

And now a word from my toaster...

In all seriousness, as readers of this blog you may know that my oven is currently broken. There were wild rumors flying around that it was fixed. These rumors are untrue, and you should disregard them.

What do you do when you have a hefty hunk of gingerbread and your oven refuses (strike? persnickety-ness? spite?) to light?

You push on as normal and throw them in the toaster.

Last year, we featured a host of traditional Iaciofano Family Christmas Cookies, including the Pizzelle, the Russian Tea Cake and the all-popular Butter Cookie. This year I thought I would give you a cookie recipe that's good for Christmas, Hanukkah, Ground Hog Day....and generally all winter long. Just change the cookie cutter shape!

The added bonus to this particular recipe is that it is the easiest gingerbread recipe that I've found. The easiest and I'm going to throw this out there – the best. You don't have to refrigerate the dough at all, and yet the dough is very easy to manage and manipulate.

I don't like my gingerbread cookies too crispy, so I cook them for a touch less time so they have a little "give" to them.

The recipe I used is from Epicurious, and I didn't modify it at all, as it's truthfully perfect. Here's how it goes:

For the cookies:

What You Need:
2/3 cup molasses (not robust)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Special equipment: assorted 2 to 3 inch cookie cutters; a metal offset spatula; a pastry bag fitted with 1/8- to 1/4-inch plain tip (optional).

What To Do:

Bring molasses, brown sugar, and spices to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat. Stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up), then stir in butter 3 pieces at a time, letting each addition melt before adding next, until all butter is melted. Add egg and stir until combined, then stir in 3 3/4 cups flour and salt.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed to prevent sticking, until soft and easy to handle, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Halve dough, then wrap 1 half in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.

Roll out remaining dough into a 14-inch round (1/8 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface. Cut out as many cookies as possible with cutters and carefully transfer with offset spatula to 2 buttered large baking sheets, arranging them about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are slightly darker, 10 to 12 minutes total (watch carefully toward end of baking; cookies can burn easily). Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll once).

Put icing in pastry bag (if using) and pipe or spread decoratively onto cookies.

For the icing:

What You Need:

Makes about 2 cups
3 1/4 cups (or more)
powdered sugar, sifted
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon strained
fresh lemon juice

What You Do:

Using electric mixer, beat 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar and egg whites until thick and shiny, adding more powdered sugar by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too thin to spread, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Divide icing into portions, if desired, and add different food coloring to each. Cover until ready to use.

I iced these little ones very basically, using the dots and lines technique I learned from The Tough Cookie. I thought I should keep it simple, as I'm a novice icer. I was especially thrilled with myself when I figured out how to make a bowtie out of icing dots (drag with a toothpick from the center outward).

I also used teeny-tiny cookie cutters (better for fitting a bunch in the toaster oven at one time). They are great gifts, wrapped up all Martha Stewart-style with a bow and cellophane bag. Or just keep them in a jar on the top of your fridge and eat them at random moments during the day...

Don't be surprised if you're making these all winter long.

Wednesday
Nov232011

Make Pizza with Thanksgiving Leftovers!

I have come to the conclusion that there are an infinite number of pleasing pizza toppings and combinations. I'm not saying that everything you throw on a pizza is going to taste good, but I will say that your Thanksgiving leftovers will. Taste good on a pizza. And how.

Seriously, I've tried it. Now, I know you like diving into the fridge in the dead of night when you think no one is watching, quietly rolling back the foil on that picked over bird and pulling just a few more cold, roasted chucks from the turkey carcass.

I'm guilty, I do it too. And I may use leftover cranberry sauce for dipping.

But what if, just WHAT IF, you saved some of that turkey and put it on a pizza? For the pizza pictured above, I used pan fried mini potatoes, turkey sausage (but you can use your leftover bird), a slightly firm and nutty goat's milk cheese, lemon olive oil, cranberries and fresh herbs.

I also used a whole wheat crust, because let's face it, you just gorged yourself on a smorgasbord of tasty treats drenched in various amounts of butter. Some dietary fiber might be a good idea at this juncture. Just saying.

OK, so let's see how it all goes down. First the whole wheat pizza recipe:

What You Need
1 envelope dried yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cup all purpose flour or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

What You Do:
In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water…stir in ½ cup of the flour.  Cover and let stand for about 30 minutes

Then add the other ½ cup of warm water salt and olive oil.  Slowly begin to add the remaining flour.  When all of the flour is incorporated knead the dough until it is smooth.  It may take about 10 minutes….

Then dust the dough lightly all over with flour and place in a bowl – covered with a cloth  to rise for about 1 hour.

When it has doubled in size, punch down the dough and divide into 4 parts.  Form each fourth into a smooth ball and let rise covered on a floured board for 30 minutes.  In the meantime heat the oven to 500 degrees for 30 minutes

Now for the assembly and toppings.

What You Need:
Makes 4 personal sized pizzas
1/4 lb goats milk cheese. I used "Midnight Moon" from Cypress Grove
Lemon olive oil (you can use this recipe)
4 turkey sausage links OR strips of leftover Thanksgiving turkey, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock
1 small bag of mini roasting potatoes cut into very thin slices
Fresh thyme and rosemary
1/2 cup of fresh cranberries
salt and pepper
olive oil

What You Do:
Place a pizza stone in your oven and heat it up to 500 degrees. You will want to make sure that pizza stone has been heating for at least a half an hour before you cook your pizza.

If using turkey sausage: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan. Add your turkey sausage, removed from the casings. As it cooks, break it up into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Add the 1/2 cup of chicken or turkey stock and let the sausage simmer until cooked, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

In another small pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the lemon oil (from this recipe). Add your sliced potatoes and some fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Fry 'em up until they are tender and also a little crispy and brown on the edges. Set aside.

Sprinkle some semolina flour on a pizza peel and stretch out your dough.

Drizzle some of the lemon oil on top of the stretched out dough and smooth it over the top.

Distribute the roasted potatoes over the surface of the dough.

Add small slices of the goats milk cheese on top of the potatoes.

Sprinkle the turkey sausage or the leftover turkey on top of the potatoes and cheese.

Drizzle a bit more lemon oil over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Now would be an excellent time to add some more thyme and rosemary.

Place the 1/2 cup of cranberries in a microwave safe bowl. Add water to the bowl - enough to cover the berries. Place the cup of water and berries in the microwave and heat on high for about 45 seconds, just enough to pop the cranberries (you will actually hear them pop). Remove the cup from the microwave and drain the water out of the cup.

Place the popped cranberries along the top of the pizza. They will add a nice tang to the the smooth, lemony and salty pizza.

Slide your pizza onto the stone and into the oven. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven (using the pizza peel). You can add more fresh herbs or oil if you like.

Now, I know I'm slightly obsessed with pizza. I swear it's healthy... Regardless of the mental effects of this pizza preoccupation, I have started to compile quite a library of pizza recipes. The first of which are in our first cookbook, Top Your Pizza. You can see a preview of the book below. This book is available for purchase (click here), and in tune with the holiday season, most of the proceeds from the book sales go to the non-profit Just Food (which you can check out here). It's a win-win situation. Pizza for you, profits for a non-profit. Happiness all around.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

We wish you a healthy, festive, belt-loosening, gin-infused (ok, that might just be me) holiday.

Eat some turkey, watch some football, get into an immature name-calling argument with your siblings, and make sure to wear those safety goggles! We'll see you on Monday. With something .... um... cleansing.