The lucky winner of La Maison du Chocolat’s box of truffles is…Samantha Hanley. Samantha, come on down and claim your prize.
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The lucky winner of La Maison du Chocolat’s box of truffles is…Samantha Hanley. Samantha, come on down and claim your prize.
The Menu for Hope campaign has been extended till Dec. 31! So far, we’ve raised $41,000 for the school lunch program in Lesotho. This is great, considering the state of the economy, but we still have a ways to go before matching last year’s $90,000. I know it’s difficult to give this year, but this is the time when people need help the most. You have the opportunity to make your donation go that much further!
Ladies and gentlemen, start your bids. You can win some awesome prizes through the fifth annual Menu for Hope charity campaign. The premise is simple: for each $10 you donate, you’ll get one virtual raffle ticket toward the food-related prize of your choice. Last year, food bloggers from across the world raised more than $90,000 towards the UN World Food Programme‘s school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa.
This year, La Maison du Chocolat has graciously donated a shimmering snowflake coffret, filled with more than half a pound of chestnut, orange confit stick, dark ganache with banana, milk ganache with rosé Champagne, milk praliné feuilleté with hazelnuts and almonds, almond paste with citrus zest, and dark plain ganache confections. New York is the only place in the U.S. where you can buy these chocolates in person, but if you bid on prize UE11, you can get them at your door (provided you live in the U.S.). These are among the best chocolates in the world, and trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of other brands.
If you don’t win, you can always make La Maison du Chocolat’s truffles at home, although it’ll never be as divine as the original. The company’s founder, Robert Linxe, sources his cream from an exclusive farm in France, and he married into the Valrhona family, so he works with a custom chocolate blend.
Also, my co-workers at Gourmet are giving away a copy of each month’s Cookbook Club selection for 2009. Every month, the magazine selects an extraordinary cookbook and features recipes, videos, and exclusive menus online. Past selections include The Art and Soul of Baking, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Sure, you can follow along online, but it’s even better if you get all the books sent to you for an entire year. Bid on prize UE16 if interested.
Here’s how to “play:”
Happy Thanksgiving! After a three-month absense, I have returned. I must warn you, updates will be infrequent (if at all) until 2009 at least. I’m in an awkward housing situation with an even more awkward kitchen. Actually, I haven’t baked anything since my many moves, and I’m riding on recipes that I did long ago.
Any person who cooks with Nutella (spreadable chocolate) is a genius, and judging from Pierre Hermé’s Nutella tart, the man is a kitchen god. He is such a master of contrasting flavors and textures that his leckerli recipe called out to me, even though it contains no chocolate. The combination of citrus, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg is haunting—and novel. Unfortunately, the texture is what you’d expect from a no-fat-added cookie: chewy and borderline stale.
So I kept the flavors but contrasted them with creamy white chocolate in my chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe. If you’re craving warm, tingly spices this time of year but don’t want to resort to gingerbread, these cookies will turn heads.
Winter Spice Cookies
For an extra hit of flavor, these cookies are dusted with more spices when they’re hot out of the oven (a trick from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich). I made these so long ago that I can’t quite remember the proportion of spices/honey. Apologies if something goes wrong. If you run into trouble, please leave a comment here, and I’ll see if I can backtrack.
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch freshly ground white pepper
3/4 c sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 cup finely diced candied lemon and orange rind
1/4 c chopped toasted almonds, preferably blanched
1 c white chocolate chips (with real cocoa butter)
Preheat oven to 375° F.
In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, white and black peppers, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the sugar, honey, butter, egg, and vanilla.
In a separate medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and spice mixture, reserving a couple pinches for later. Add the flour mixture, lemon zest, candied citrus rind, almonds, and white chocolate to the wet ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 8-9 min, or JUST until the edges begin to brown.
While the cookies are still hot, sprinkle them with the reserved spice mixture.
In case you were wondering, I’m still between housing (and a kitchen and a personal computer). Sorry I haven’t been able to bake anything good!
It’s been a crazy couple weeks. Long story short, I’m searching for a new home. I’m bouncing around temporary housing and don’t have a personal computer or a well-stocked pantry. Until I find a place of my own, I’m taking a break. See you soon (I hope).
Photo: Clay Irving
The things people bake these days: cake with pork and beans and tomato soup! Scary ingredients, yes (why would you use canned soup when fresh tomatoes are falling off the vine?), but scary concept, no.
If you like carrot cake, fudgy brownies (with a secret ingredient), or zucchini bread, Carole Walter’s tomato cake isn’t far off. For the best results, use heirloom tomatoes. The uglier the better. You won’t taste the tomato, but instead you’ll get a moist “spice cake.” It is one of my favorite cakes, and it has relatively little butter. Sorry, no pictures. I made this a couple years ago.
Sugarsweet Tomato Nut Torte
(Serves 8 to 10)
3/4 pound very ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons freshly grated navel orange rind (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Cut an X in the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Remove the cores, place the tomatoes in a bowl and add boiling water to cover. Allow to stand for 1 minute, then rinse in cold water and peel off the skins. Cut each tomato in half across the core and squeeze gently to remove seeds and juice. Puree the pulp in a food processor. You should have about 1 cup of puree. Stir in the vinegar and set aside.
2. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. Put walnuts and 1/2 cup unsifted flour in the container of the processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 8 to 10 times, until nuts are chopped to medium size. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
4. In a small pan, melt the butter over low heat. Set aside to cool to tepid. Sift together the 1 cup sifted flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a triple sifter. Set aside.
5. Place the eggs in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with beaters or whip attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until thickened and light in color, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the brown sugar over 2 to 3 minutes and beat for 3 minutes longer. The mixture will be very thick.
6. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low. Blend in the orange rind and vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the tomato puree, dividing the dry ingredients into 3 parts and the puree into 2 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Scrape sides of bowl as needed. The batter will be very loose.
7. Quickly pour in the butter, then add the nuts, beating just until blended.
8. IMMEDIATELY pour the batter into the prepared pan. Center the pan on the rack and bake in the preheated oven 55 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden brown, springy to the touch, and the sides, begin to come away from the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out dry.
9. Remove from oven and set the pan on a cake rack to cool completely. Release the outer rim of pan, invert the cake onto the rack, and peel off the parchment paper. Place top side up on a serving platter. Just before serving, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. If you like, split the cake into two layers with a long thin knife, then fill and frost with whipped cream made with 1 1/2 cups heavy sweet cream. Garnish with chopped walnuts.
In the frozen dessert department, frozen yogurt and Van Leeuwen ice cream (which seriously sucks) have over-saturated my taste buds. But there’s a small shop in Brooklyn that I’ll never grow tired of. Everything about Blue Marble, from the countertop to the ice cream, is sustainable. During a time when “organic,” “farm fresh,” and “fair trade” are often just marketing terms, Blue Marble lives up to its image.
The fresh strawberry ice cream is amazing. No icy shards, just sweet and tangy fruit. Not like those giant, bland Driscoll’s berries. These strawberries taste like the kind from the farmers market. The fair trade chocolate ice cream is very good, but even a chocoholic like me would rather have the strawberry. It’s that good.
Blue Marble Ice Cream
Boerum Hill-420 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
Prospect Heights-186 Underhill, Brooklyn
While it’s good to cut down on animal products for the environment (think of how many people you could feed with 14 trillion gallons of water, instead of giving it the cows), it’s also hard to refuse a buttery chocolate chip cookie. Vegan dessert options aren’t good; most taste and look like Birkenstocks. Ironically, some are junkier than their regular counterparts. I’ll take butter over Crisco any day.
Liz Lovely is an exception. They only use fair trade, organic, and natural products: flour, sugar, Spectrum sustainable palm oil, baking soda, and your typical flavorings (chocolate, peanut butter, ginger). They make some of my favorite cookies, vegan or not. They practice what they preach too; they ship the cookies with biodegradable corn “peanuts.” These aren’t the corn forks that actually fill up landfills; they dissolve in water.
The nice folks at Liz Lovely sent me a three-pack sample, and the Chocolate Moose Dragons are my favorite. Unless you make flourless chocolate cookies, you can’t get much richer than this. The chocolate chunks are top notch. I didn’t care for the spiciness of the Ginger Snapdragons, and it was heavy on the baking powder taste. Although I fantasize about raw cookie dough, the Cowgirl Cookies showed me that too much of a good thing is just too much (but I bet the dough would go well with vanilla ice cream).
Just be careful with these cookies. Each bag comes with two cookies the size of your hand. While the package brags that you can share it with a friend, you won’t want to. But you should, because each cookie contains two servings. Liz Lovely’s mission is to do good, but I hereby declare their cookies evil because they ruined my dinner…and breakfast.
They might ruin your appetite too, if you win a sampler containing two each of the Chocolate Moose Dragons, Snicker Dudes, Goats a’ Grazin’, and Macaroonies Sock-It-To-Me! To enter, please promise to do a good deed and give me your best vegan dessert recipe (either write it in or provide a link) in the comments below. No recipes with trans fatty shortening please. The entry with most delicious sounding recipe will win. Contest ends Sun., July 13 at 5:00 PM EST.
Although there’s thousands of free samples for the taking, it’s tough covering the New York Fancy Food Show each year. The corporate giants are always there, and finding a new product with an interesting story and a distinctive taste is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Plus, I’m saving the really good products for work, so I can’t share everything here. But I bet Gourmet‘s not interested in these foods. (No offense to these guys, but they just have a niche audience.)
I Swear it Tastes Better Than it Sounds
Raw Revolution is similar to Larabar, except with more interesting flavors and textures. Both brands pack their energy bars with ground nuts and puréed dates, but Raw Revolution leaves some nuts whole, so you’re not left with uniform, nubby bits. Raw Revolution also has a spirulina flavor, but I swear it doesn’t taste “green.” As a bonus, there’s flax seeds, which are high in omega-3s.
It’s a shame that Raw Revolution hasn’t caught on like Larabar. I suspect it’s the packaging, which has an anarchist-type feel. If you’ve ever opened a Nutrigrain bar and felt cheated by the tiny bar inside the big wrapper, you’re in for the same effect here. As an organic company, you’d think they’d cut down on wasteful packaging.
Another warning: That bar has as many calories as a small meal, but it’s nutrient-dense too. ($1.99 for a 2.2-oz bar)
BranTreats and Flaxmax sound more like bird food than desserts, but these are delicious. A hybrid between biscotti and crackers, these cookies’ only source of fat is the almonds. Delicate and crisp, you don’t need to soften them in a cup of coffee, although they certainly go together. If you still don’t believe me, Almondina, the parent brand, swept four awards at past Fancy Food Shows. ($4.49 for a 4-oz bag)
But it’s Just…
Photo: Fox & Obel
Granola-Kingslake & Crane has chunky clusters with an astoundingly light texture. Normally, nuts are an afterthought in granola, but these ones are perfectly toasted and fresh-tasting. There’s also tart cherries to complement the brown sugar-covered oats. This was so tasty that I assumed it was soaked in oil. Surprise, it was dry toasted. Although oats are dirt cheap, I don’t think you can replicate this recipe at home.
I make my own granola, and I’ve never been able to get those coveted clusters, toasted flavor, and light texture without adding oil. The best taste comes from Alton Brown’s recipe, but it has 1/4 cup oil. Deborah Madison‘s no-fat-added, apple juice granola is tough and bland, and The Traveler’s Lunchbox’s granola is light, but I’m not fond of the flavor. Maybe if I combine all three recipes, I’ll come close to Kingslake & Crane. ($9.95 for a 1-lb bag)
Peanut butter-Sunland/Peanut Better makes all their peanut butters from Valencias, which are naturally sweet. The sweetness is disconcerting for the plain butters, but they’re perfect for their chocolate and praline butters. Too bad they don’t make hazelnut butter, because they could outdo Nutella. ($5 for 10 oz)
Where Have You Been All my Life?
Bonnat is not new, nor does it have a flashy backstory, but their Chuao bar is amazing. Normally, Venezuelan chocolate has notes of soil and raisin, but this chocolate is different. Sadly, I don’t remember what it actually tastes like, because it was one of the last things I ate at the show, and my taste buds were spent. ($8.25 for a 3.5 oz bar)