Michy’s Bread Pudding

MIchy's Bread Pudding photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)

I am not a huge fan of bread pudding.  I like it, I don’t LUUUURRRVE it.  So, why did I make bread pudding?  Well, two reasons.  1) My daughter begged me to make cheese fondue last week, and I seriously miscalculated the quantities of how much bread we could eat.  2) My good friend Michelle Bernstein (of Michy’s Restaurant in Miami) makes the best bread pudding, hands down.

I tried Michy’s bread pudding 3 years ago when she invited me to eat at her restaurant.  It’s the only dessert she has in her cookbook, “Cuisine a Latina” too.  It’s that good.  What I love about it, is that even though it is quite a rich and decadent dessert, it really doesn’t feel like it, and I think it has to be the addition of brandy, chocolate and the fact that it soaks up the custard for up to 48 hours.  Booze and Chocolate.  Two of my favorite things!  Mixed together, even more yum factor. So, as I generally do, I tweaked her recipe a bit, (But I will give you the original and you can do as you choose!) by using cranberries instead of raisins, and using all of the brandy used to soak the cranberries instead of just a tbsp!  I love the taste of a slightly boozy dessert, but if you prefer yours with a little less ripple, keep to the original recipe!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1/2 cup raisins (or any dried fruit you like)

Grated zest of 1 orange (I used lemon and it was equally scrumptious)

1 cup brandy or sherry (but go to town, I think rum would even be amazing in this)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half and half

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 cups diced (1 inch) soft crustless challah, brioche, or white bread (I used crustful baguette)

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Vanilla Ice Cream for serving

Put raisins and orange zest in a small bowl, add the brandy, and let the raisins and zest soak, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours or up to 1 week.

Put the cream and half and half in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Whisk one-third of the warm cream into the egg mixture, a little at a time, to prevent scrambling the eggs, then whisk in the rest of the cream mixture.

Add the bread to the bowl and stir to soak it with the custard.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or up to 48 hours.

Put a rack in the center of the oven to 325F (170C).  Butter six 4 to 6 ounce ramekins or baking dishes.  Drain the raisins, reserving the brandy.  Add the raisins and a tablespoon of the brandy to the bread mixture and mix well.  Spoon into the prepared ramekins or baking dish.  Sprinkle chocolate over the top of the bread puddings.  Put the ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with enough warm water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake, uncovered, until the pudding is just set, about 25 minutes; when you shake the pan, the custard should wobble for just a moment.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the ramekins on small serving dishes.  Serve the bread pudding hot, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

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Pane Siciliano – Sicilian Bread

Rustic Bread

There is something utterly rewarding about making bread at home.  Whenever I pass by a bread bakery, I swoon at the smells wafting from inside, just wanting to dive into the dough, and lie in a puddle of happiness.

Unfortunately, making good bread isn’t easy.  It is alchemy, turning base ingredients into something worth raving about.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like bread, but I completely understand that it isn’t something you want to tackle unless you have plenty of time and patience.  This recipe isn’t easy, but if you are up to the challenge, you will not be disappointed.

It is three days work, you can cheat a little bit by omitting one of the steps, yet you would be cheating yourself out of an opportunity to taste something utterly delicious.  I think the most important step is preparation, considering you have to bake the bread emulating a steam hearth.  So, I suggest you read through the recipe once or twice, and make sure you have all the tools necessary.  Don’t worry, they are not some confounding instruments you’ve never heard of, but it does make a difference to have everything on hand once you begin to cook.

bread

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Courtesy of “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

Makes 3 loaves

3 cups pâté fermentee (recipe follows)

1 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour

1 3/4 cups semolina flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp instant yeast

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp honey

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups water, lukewarm

Natural brown or black sesame seeds for topping (optional)

1. Remove the pâté fermentee from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill.  Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.

2. Stir together the bread flour, semolina flour, salt, and yeast in a 4 qt bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the pâté fermentee pieces, the oil, the honey, and 1 1/4 cups water.  Stir with a large spoon until the dough forms a ball (or mix on medium-low speed with the paddle attachment).  If the dough seems too stiff, dribble in water 1 tsp at a time until all the flour is gathered and the dough feels soft and pliable.  If the dough seems sticky, don’t worry; you can adjust the flour while kneading or mixing.

3.  Sprinkle bread flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead (or mix on medium – low speed with the dough hook).  Add flour as needed, sprinkling in a small amount at a time to make a smooth dough that is tacky but not sticky and has the same pliability and suppleness as French bread dough.  Knead for about 10 minutes ( or for 6 to 8 minutes by machine).  The dough should pass the windowpane test.  (Grabbing a piece of the dough, stretch it out, and if it forms a “pane” and doesn’t break, that is slightly translucent, then it is done) It should register 77 – 81 degrees F.  Form the dough into a ball, lightly oil a large bowl, and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

4.  Ferment at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

5.  Gently divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Shape as for baguette into long cylinders, extending each piece to about 24 inches in length and taking care to degas the dough as little as possible.  Then, working from each end simultaneously, coil the dough toward the center, forming an S shape.  Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and sprinkle some semolina flour on the parchment.  Place each loaf on the pan, mist the loaves with water and sprinkle sesame seeds on the top of each loaf.  Then mist the tops with vegetable spray oil and place the pan in a food-grade plastic bag or loosely cover with plastic wrap.

6.  Place the pan in the refrigerator overnight. (This is a step you can omit, but don’t, it is totally worth it.  If you do, let rise for at least 2 hours before baking.)

7.  The next day, remove the pan from the refrigerator and determine whether the loaves have risen enough to bake or if they need additional proofing time.  Gently poke the dough.  If it springs back quickly, leave the pans out, still covered, for a couple of hours, or until it wakes up and rises more.  The dough should stay dimpled when poked, and the loaves should be nearly twice as large as when first baked.

8.  Prepare the oven for hearth baking, making sure to place an empty steam pan in place.  You do not need a baking stone.  Preheat the oven to 500F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

9.  Uncover the bread dough and place the pan in the oven.  Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the door.  After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls using a plant mister with water and close the door.  Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals.  After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450F and bake for about 15 minutes.  Rotate the pans 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 10-15 minutes more, or until the loaves are a rich golden brown all over.  If there are still light or white segments of the dough extend the baking time for a few extra minutes to maximize color and flavor.  The internal temperature of the bread should register 200-205 F.

10.  Remove the pan from the oven and transfer loaves to a baking rack.  Cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.

Pate Fermentee Recipe

(enough for one batch of this bread)

1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/8 cups bread flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp instant yeast

3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature

1.  Stir together the flours, salt, and yeast in a 4 qt. bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add 3/4 cups water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low-speed for 1 minute with the paddle attachment).  Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.

2.  Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.  Knead for 4 to 6 minutes ( or mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.

3.  Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it swells to about 1.5 times its size.

4.  Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.  You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Peanut butter, Almond, and Pine Nut Slab Cookies

Peanut butter, almond and pine nut slab cookies

It’s cause I was sick.  I needed cookies.  I had the cookie monster on my shoulder saying, COOKIE…COOKIE….YOU WANT COOKIE!  COOKIE IS GOOD FOR YOU  WHEN YOU SICK.

So I listened.  And I made these three nut cookies.  Just cause I love peanut butter.  And almonds.  And pine nuts.  So why not all three in one?

Also, slab or log cookies are perfect.  You don’t have to make 36 of them and then you either eat them all in one go….or they go bad.  Slab cookies you can chill, cut the amount you want to bake, and then freeze the rest of the dough.  How great is that?

So I hope you give in to your inner cookie monster and make these COOKIES NOW!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from “bigfatcookies” by Elinor Klivans

1 cup unbleached flour

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup peanut butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup coarsely chopped and whole pine nuts

Sift the flour, almonds and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth and blended together.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until blended, about 30 seconds.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.  On low-speed, add the flour mixture and blend until just incorporated.

Form the dough into a rough rectangular slab.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes, to firm the dough up a bit.

Check the dough and reshape into a “nicer” rectangle.  Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Or you can freeze it for a month; thaw in the fridge before using.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F (175 C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Unwrap the dough and slice into 1/3 inch slices.  (Slice as many or as few as you need).  Press the pine nuts into the cookies.  Bake for 14 minutes.  Cool them for 5 minutes on the same sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Blueberry Glaze

Having read Things my Belly likes blog post on Blueberry Coffee Bundt Cake , and Bowl of Recipes post on Blueberry muffins, I thought, let me take my blueberries out of my morning yogurt and put them in a dessert.  I am a huge fan of cheesecake, but it’s something I rarely make.  And honestly, I have no idea why, because it is really simple, and always, always delicious.  I love that it is so versatile, and you can really make it your own.

So, I went to my fridge and decided to put my gorgeous berries to good use.  I thought pairing them with white chocolate would be awesome, and I also added a little lemon zest to the filling, to make it fresher and taste less rich.  See I love cheesecakes, but I find that most of them that you get in the states, specifically in Cheesecake Factory, turn out to be a bomb in your stomach.  They are tasty, but jeez….you have one bite and you’re full!  I didn’t want that with my cheesecake.

For the crust, I used amarettini cookies, since you simply cannot find graham crackers here.  And because I am slightly obsessed with amarettini cookies. 

The final result:  Crazy good.  The tartness of the blueberries was perfect with the mellow white chocolate, and then you get that fabulous citrusy taste in every bite.  Then, your crunchy amarettini cookies.  Perfect!  I had some for breakfast.  Just now. While typing this.  Couldn’t help myself.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

For the crust-

2 cups crushed amarettini cookies (but if you don’t have use whatever tickles your fancy!)

7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the filling-

750 g cream cheese, softened

250 g white chocolate, melted

2 tbsp flour

pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 eggs, room temperature

For the glaze-

1/2 cup blueberry jam

1 tbsp water

2 cups blueberries

Pre heat your oven to 200 C.  Crush the cookie crumbs, and add the melted sugar.  Press into a spring form pan, and up the sides.  Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they are golden and darkened a bit, and remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.  Lower the oven to 180 C.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  In a stand up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, melted chocolate, salt and flour beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes, making sure it is really smooth.  Add the sugar and continue beating until well mixed.  Then add the vanilla, blend, and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low-speed until just incorporated.  Pour the filling into the crumbs and bake for 45-55 minutes.  It should be ready when it is hard to the touch, but just a little jiggly in the center.  Take out of the oven, and let cool completely.

Make the glaze.  In a small saucepan, add the jam and water, and cook until melted and liquidy.  Take off heat and add the blueberries.  Mix well, and smooth over the top of the cheesecake.  Refrigerate overnight before serving.  You can have ONE slice if you really need too.  Like I did.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toasted Coconut

Pinterest.  I find it to be one of the most addictive things, when I am on it that is.  I actually don’t spend so much time on it, but if I did….oh dear.  I would be as big as a heffalump.  There are all these cake recipes!  I am a sucker for cake.  And I love love love baking them.  But there are so many cakes, and brownie’s and goodies….I am literally pinning and pinning and who knows when I will actually get to them.  But, I managed to make one.  I came across one for this recipe, and I thought the idea was delicious.  I love banana bread, but I’ve never had a cake.  The original recipe from http://www.allrecipes.com calls for nuts instead of chocolate chips, but the pinner added chocolate chips.  And who doesn’t love the combination of bananas and chocolate?

I added the toasted coconut, and also some shaved dark chocolate on top.  To the batter I also added some vanilla extract and lemon rind.

It is divine.  Pure indulgence.  Super moist, light and fluffy.  Try it.  And give some away because it is addictive!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

2.5 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 pinch of salt

115 g butter

1 tbsp corn syrup

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp grated lemon rind

3 extra ripe bananas, mashed

2/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sweetened coconut, toasted

1/4 cup dark chocolate, shaved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 2 nine-inch round cake pans, set aside.  Sift flour, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (Trust me on this, makes the cake super airy and light).  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract and lemon rind.

Set the speed to low, and alternatively add the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Fold in the mashed bananas and chocolate chips.

Bake for 30 minutes, approximately, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack before frosting.

While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.  Cream the butter and cream cheese until creamy.  Add the vanilla and powdered sugar.  Beat until fluffy.  Refrigerate until using.

Cut the cakes in half, so you have four thin layers.  Frost the layers and dust with a little coconut.  Then frost the top and outside of the cake.  Dust the middle with chocolate, and the outer ring with coconut.  If you want, also the sides.

Enjoy with a really tall cold glass of milk!  Yumm yumm.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Summer Cherry Tart

It’s cherry season!! Cherries. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?  Ok, ok…..I won’t.  But boy are they amazing.  Little tiny morsels bursting with sweet, tart juice.  I could eat them all day.  But strangely enough, I hardly ever cook with them.  Well, not strangely enough, they don’t last enough in my fridge to make it into any dessert.  I eat them like popcorn.  They’re addictive, and healthy.

But, I wanted to make a sort of pie with them, no, a more fancy version.  A tart.  Oui oui, I wanted to go all fancy on them, give them the sophistication they deserve.  Hence I came up with this, it’s not a clafouti, and it isn’t a pie….it’s a tart with a baked custard.  But the custard isn’t overpowering so that it won’t let the full flavors of the cherries shine through.  I wanted them to be the starring role, not the side-show.  I love this dessert because it isn’t overly sweet.  And the crust has just the right amount of saltiness, and it melts and crumbles in your mouth.

It’s great for tea time, (if you still do that) or for a light dessert.  You can add a little crème anglaise, or some vanilla ice cream, but I love it just the way it is.  (Cue Billy Joel).

I have to say, the crust is the most confounding thing.  In french it’s a Sable, which basically means it’s a b*tch to work with.  It’s kind of like a short crust, so when you’re rolling it, you have to be extremely patient and careful…..cause this sucker is like a petulant child, tearing and breaking at a whim.  But the final result is well worth it.  Just make sure to keep your work surface dusted with plenty of flour, your hands and rolling-pin too.   And the amount of liquid, it’s better to add a small amount first, then continue adding tsp by tsp…because if you add too much, then you’ve reached a point of no return with this dough.

Ok, so if that last paragraph didn’t scare you and you still want to give this a whirl, here’s what you’re going to need”

Short crust dough (recipe follows)

1 egg

40 g flour

40 g butter, melted and cooled

1 tbsp Kirsch (or cherry liqueur)

30 g sugar

75 ml of cold milk

1 Vanilla pod, cut lengthwise

450 g pitted cherries

Powdered sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, crack your egg and add your flour, mix but not too much.  Add the melted butter and Kirsch, then add your sugar and milk.  Scrape the vanilla seeds into your mixture.

Roll out your dough into a 1/4 of an inch disk, and make sure it is an inch larger than the tart pan you’re going to use.  Put it in the fridge and let cool for about 20 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg celsius, and with a fork poke the bottom of your dough, cover with parchment, fill with pie weights or beans, and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove your weights, and bake another 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and raise the temperature to 200 celsius.  Arrange the cherries on the crust, and cover with your milk mixture.  Bake for about 25-35 minutes, the top should be a golden brown and when you insert a knife it should come out clean.  Place over a rack to cool, then remove the sides of the tart pan and let it cool to room temperature.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Short crust dough recipe:

250 g flour

150 g butter, chilled and cut into squares

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tbsp cold milk (more if needed, but tsp by tsp)

In a large bowl place the flour, salt and butter.  With a pastry cutter, or your fingers crumble until you get a wet sand texture. Add the egg and milk and form dough into a tight ball.  If it is too crumbly, add a little more milk.

Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla