BKs Marquis Revisited: Marquis aux Deux Chocolates Sous le Dôme d’or

Last year I developed a special double chocolate marquis for my friend BKs milestone birthday (see BKs Choco-Tectural Marquis.)  Over the past year I have made it numerous times and while it is always well received I couldn’t help but think that it just needed some tweaking, so I set about playing around with it and I think I finally have it to where I want it.  Since the two under flavors were orange and hazelnut, I decided that it was these flavors that needed punching up. They just seemed to be overwhelmed by the chocolate flavor.  This time I used 5 ounces of the orange flavored Maya Gold chocolate and 5 1/2 ounces of the 60% dark chocolate.  I also added the grated zest of an orange.  To augment the hazelnut flavor, I increased the amount of hazelnuts to 1/4 cup and added 3 tablesoons of Frangelico to punch the nut flavor up.  This was for the brownie cake layer base.  The mouse layer was milk chocolate since BK had professed a liking for milk chocolate and I decided to leave the mousse layer untouched because I didn’t think the suble milk chocolate interfered with the rich brownie base. I also liked the marked contrast in the two layers. I think I acheived what I set out to do.  Just to give it that extra nudge over the top, I put the whole thing under a caramel dome.  I think the nutty flavor of the caramel enhances the hazelnut flavor in the cake base.  The cake is very rich so the cage can certainly be omitted without taking away from the overall flavors of the finished cake.  The cake is very rich so serve it in small portions with a glass of Frangelico or Nocello.  Enjoy!

Don’t be discouraged, the dome is not hard.  A few tricks are to make sure that the mold is very well buttered.  Once your caramel is to the color of your choice, remove it from the heat and keep testing it with a spoon.  You are looking for a heavy thread falling off the end of hte spoon.  This is the indication that it is ready to go on the mold.  If it is too hot it will burn the butter and it will stick to the mold.  ALlow the mold to cool for a minute or so.  The caramel should still be warm to the touch but firm enough to hold its shape.  Begin at the edge and gently push the caramel toward the top to get it to loosen.  Once it begins to loosen, turn the mold right side up and gently push from the egde to release the dome from the mold.  It is very fragile so be extremely careful once you get it released from the mold. 

Just so you know I was listening BK

Miniature Tourtieres

I am always on the lookout for hors d’oeuvres recipes. It always seems like that is the last thing you think about and then finding one that is tasty, easy to manage while holding a cocktail and trying to carry on a conversation without getting it all over yourself is alway a challenge.  And for me, given my dislike of fussy little recipes that seem to take hours to put together, it is even more of a challenge.  I was invited to a cocktail event this past weekend and was asked to bring an hors d’oeuvres to pass.  While I was digging through my recipes for something that would be easy and good to eat I came across this recipe.  I had made these several times many years ago and had completely forgotten about them.  It had been so long in fact that I can’t even remember where I found the recipe or I would give credit here.  I am sure it came from one of the magazines I subscribe to.  At any rate, they are great.  I remember them as being really good and quick to put together.  Even better for me, all the components can be made the day before and then they just need to be popped in the oven for a few minutes before you leave and by the time you arrive at the event they are the perfect serving temperature.  So, out came the recipe and I whipped up a batch of them in no time.  They are even better than I remember and the Tangy Tomato Cranberry Preserve is a perfect complement for them.  It makes a large portion so you can have it on hand for topping grilled chicken or for dipping vegetables.  The recipe calls for ground pork but I have done them with hot Italian sausage and they were equally good.  I imagine they can even be done with ground beef and just adjust the seasonings to compliment the beef.   They are easy to handle as finger food and the pastry case makes them a neat little one bite tidbit for serving with drinks.


Miniature Tourtieres

Printable Recipe

For the filling

1 pound ground pork
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried savory, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup whole milk

Make the filling

Cook pork with onion, garlic, savory, salt, allspice, and pepper in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently and breaking up lumps with a fork, until pork is no longer pink (5 to 7 minutes). Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, until thickened.

Make pastry while the filling cools:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Blend in shortening and butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and stir with a fork just until dough forms.  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead 10 to 12 times.
Roll out dough into a rough 18 inch round (1/8 inch thick), dusting with flour just to keep dough from sticking. Cut out 24 rounds with a 3 inch cutter.
Fit each round into a miniature muffin cup and fill with a rounded tablespoon of filling.
Bake until crust is golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Lift pies out of muffin cups and transfer to a rack. Cool to warm, about 15 minutes, and top with Tomato Cranberry preserves.

Spicy Tomato Cranberry Preserves

Printable Recipe

1 small red onion, chopped
1 can whole tomatoes, in juice, including juice, 14 – 16 ounces
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 strips orange zest
1 strip lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dried red hot pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up tomatoes. 
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thick, 20 to 25 minutes. 
Cool preserves, then chill, covered at least 8 hours for flavors to develop.

Gutsy Cooks Club: Chicken with Herb Sauce and Potato Gratin

After some of the ethnic and exotic menus we have been doing over the past few weeks, it was nice to come back to some down to earth comfort home cooking.  Both of these dishes were simple to prepare and more importantly could be assembled in advance and refrigerated until your ready to cook.  That is always helpful during the busy work week when the last thing you feel like doing after work is cooking a meal.  Too many times we just pick at left overs or order take out when it is entirely possible to have this ready to go into the oven and a nice hot weekday meal is just a few minutes away.

On first glance I thought this chicken was going to be a slow simmered stew when it reality it is nothing more than oven poached chicken.  While the mirepoix added to the pan does add some flavor I have to admit that I found the chicken to be very moist but a bit bland.  The entire dish relys on the zesty pesto sauce for its flavor kick.  While I didn’t dislike the dish and it did go over well at my house.  I really work prefer the chicken to be baked or even grilled for a bit more flavor and texture.  The pesto sauce was nice but other than the addition of anchovies and the omission of parmesan cheese, it really is no different from my usual pesto which I always keep on hand anyway.  With a few tweaks I am sure I could turn this dish around to be more to my taste, but still, it was a nice weeknight offering.

The potatoes on the other hand were glorious as I knew they would be.  I absolutely love potatoes in just about any form and I have to admit that these potatoes weren’t much of a stretch from my moms scalloped potato recipe of my Julia Child standby recipe where cream and half and half are used along with garlic and bay leaf and the entire dish is simmered on the stove until the potatoes are tender, then it is transferred to a casserole and into the oven for its final browning with cheese.  I did take the liberty of adding a combination of Emmental and Gruyère to this dish just because I like it and felt that the potatoes were calling out for that last flourish of cheesiness.  At any rate, you can put this dish together in the morning or even the night before, cover it and keep it in the refrigerator for dinner when you get home.  A bit of time in the oven and heaven awaits on the dinner table.  Do give it a try and I encourage you to experiment with the basic dish and add some of your favorite flavors.  It is well worth it and so very very easy.

Gutsy Cooks Club: Pad Thai and Mango Papaya Salad

I have been away for a few weeks and it is good to be back in the kitchen.  I have to admit I was a bit hesitant to do this recipe.  Anyone who has read before will know that I hate shrimp and am not a big fan of eggs either so I had to think twice before I decided to go ahead with this recipe. I am of course familiar with Pad Thai but it is not something I have ever made before.  I decided to make it for lunch on Saturday and asked a few neighbors over to try it out.  The results were unanimous, everyone loved it.  I was very pleased.  I thought it was a delicious although it is not something I would eat often because of the shrimp thing but I figured I could use chicken or pork instead and although it wouldn’t be authentic, I could still get the flavor without having to deal with the shrimp.  I will try it sometime and keep you posted.

This fruit salad is simply marvelous.  It is so simple to make, can be done ahead, it light and refreshing and the lime/ginger dressing packs a nice punch without going over the top.  It is wonderful for a summer luncheon.  I actually have eaten it twice now.  I had to sneak back into the kitchen last night for another taste.  I really, really loved it that much.  I couldn’t find any pomegranate, seems to be out of season of something but I substituted dried cranberries in my salad and I think they really added a nice tart bite to the smooth, mild fruits. You all need to try this one.

Lady Baltimore Cake

Recently I have become fascinated with Southern cakes.  I kept coming across different recipes for southern cakes while I was thumbing through my various cookbooks and just sort of fell into the subject and it took over.  One of the recipes that I most wanted to try was Lady Baltimore cake.  I recently got a copy of Nancie McDermott’s wonder book “Southern Cakes” and low and behold there was another recipe for Lady Baltimore Cake and I just knew that it had to be the first cake I tried out in my foray into southern cakes. 

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the origin of this cake.  Historians agree that the first mention of the cake seems to be in 1906 when recipes for it began showing up in newspapers.  Another author sites that novelist Owen Wister mentioned the cake in one of his romance novels set in Charleston, North Carolina, which led to many believing that the cake originated there.  Still another source claims that the cake was invented by the proprietors of the Lady Baltimore Tea Room in Charleston.  Janet Clarkson of The Old Foodie blog states that the first recipe for it appeared in the Daily Gazette And Bulletin newspaper form Williamsport, PA on December 24th 1906.  And in a completely different direction, James Beard states in his book, American Cookery that the cake originated in Maryland.  So as you can see, there are many different opinions as to when and where this cake actually originated, but no matter which story you choose to believe, you will agree that it is totally delicious.

It is a white, egg foam cake which is filled with dried fruits and nuts and completely covered in swirls of billowy white boiled icing ( or what my mom used to call Sea Foam frosting, also known as Seven Minute frosting).  It makes a 3 layer cake and is perfect for a dinner party or fancy tea party.  It has also been popular as a wedding cake in many areas.  No matter how you choose to use it, you will be rewarded.  The traditional fruits for the filling are raisins, figs and dates and pecans.  I have also chosen to add apricots, dried cherries and dried cranberries.

In a medium bowl combine fruits and nuts and toss with about 2 -3 tablespoons of brandy and allow to sit for one hour.  Whip egg whites until they are stiff and glossy and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine.  Mix mild and vanilla and set aside.  Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy and then with the mixer on low slowly add the milk mixture until just combined.  Add all of the flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Add one-third of the whipped egg whites and stir in to lighten the mixture, then add the rest of the whites and gently fold until combined.  Divide the batter amongst three cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done.  Cool on a rake for 5 minutes, then unmold and reinvert on racks so the tops are up and cool completely.

To make the frosting, in a heatproof bowl, combine sugar, corn syrup, egg whites, salt and cream of tartar.  Place the bowl over a pan of gently boiling water and with a hand-held electric mixer whip on high-speed for 7 minutes until the  frosting is tripled in volume and fluffy and holds soft peaks.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes more.  Add about 1 1 /2 cups of the frosting to the fruits and combine.  Fill the cake layers with the fruit/nut filling and frost the entire cake with the remaining frosting.