Lots of cooking and baking has been taking place in my kitchen lately. I'm working on a second cookbook (you can grab the 1st book here), so lots of recipes are being tested and retested. I can't yet post those recipes, you'll have to take my word that they're delicious, but I can post everything else that's happening in my kitchen!
Recently, I got a graving for homemade pudding. It's not a frequent craving, but when it hits, it must be satisfied! I had all the ingredients on hand, so I whipped up a batch of my favorite kind, the dark chocolate kind, with added espresso powder. This pudding is pure decadence. It's super dark, rich and not at all sweet. You could say that this is an adult pudding, and likely not too appealing to kids. But it's the perfect ending to any dinner. The ingredients are your basic pudding ingredients, cocoa, corn starch and milk, likely all of which you have on hand right now, even during this time when we're all limiting food shopping.
All the dry ingredients are added to a medium stock pot. Using a whisk or fork, blend everything together.
The milk is then added. Whole milk works best. I have tried it with lower fat milk and the pudding just doesn't thicken up as much. Sure it's lighter, but if you're going to have pudding, have pudding!
Bring everything to a low boil and cook until the back of a spoon or spatula is coated with the pudding, see image above. Look at how dark this pudding is!
After the pudding has thickened, remove it from the heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Scoop pudding in 6 bowls and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
DARK CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO PUDDING
Makes 6 servings
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
Pinch of salt
4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whipped cream - optional
1. In a medium sauce pan, add the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, espresso powder and a pinch of salt. Mix everything with a whisk or fork, breaking down any lumps.
2. Add the cold milk and whisk everything together.
3. Bring the pot to the stove and allow mixture to boil for one minute, while mixing constantly. Do not over boil.
4. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla, mix well until the butter is melted.
5. Place in serving bowls, cover with plastic wrap directly over the pudding so a skin does not form. Refrigerate completely before serving.
Enjoy topped with whipped cream. This, of course, is optional, but I find that this being so dark, the whipped cream is a perfect topping.
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I just received far too many pears on my recent food delivery, and this being Easter week, I figured it was as good time as any to make a delicious pear cake. I love simple recipes, in case you hadn't figured that out yet, and this is one that is simple, delicious, spongy and perfect for coffee and tea. Ideal for Easter breakfast, or any day breakfast, really!
As any cake, it starts off creaming sugar and butter, adding eggs, and adding the dry ingredients. It's easy peasy and takes minutes to prepare. The key is having perfect room temp butter, so make sure you leave it out on the counter for a few hours before getting ready to prepare the cake.
This is the delivery of pears received from this week's grocery delivery. We're getting our groceries delivered during this pandemic and sometimes we get more or less than expected. These are far too many to eat in one week, but perfect for baking! You could use any type of pears you have. They should be firm and not passed their prime.
Here they are peeled and diced. You can see the dices are pretty small. Anything larger, and they would just sink to the bottom of the cake, which we don't want. You want the dices evenly distributed in the cake and not at the bottom.
This is the sugar and orange zest combined. You don't have to mix them in like I have here, but I find that the citrus flavor is more pronounced if you do this. The natural oils are released and flavor is intensified, which is great!
Here, the butter has been left at room temp for about 3 hours. You can speed up the process by popping the stick in the microwave for a few seconds before using, but I find that leaving it out and letting it come to room temperature naturally gives better consistency. You could also microwave a tall empty microwave-proof drinking glass for several minutes, then place the stick of butter in the glass and let it sit. Either way you select, it's important that the butter is softened.
This is the butter, sugar and zest, look at that lovely orange color. We're not yet at the point of adding the eggs, a few more minutes or beating are needed.
Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides every minute or so.
Adding the dry ingredients until combined. They should be well incorporated, but do not over mix.
This is the perfect constancy of everything but the pears being combined. Remove from the stand and mix the last few times with a spatula.
The mix is ready for the pears, which should be added by hand and not the mixer. Again, at this point, just mix until combined, do not over mix.
Ready for the oven. I topped the cake with sugar crystals, which is completely optional, but I find it adds a nice touch and nice crunch.
Who's ready for a slice?? I know I am!
Italian Pear Cake
Non-stick Cooking Spray
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk (whole/2%/skim)
citrus zest (from 1 lemon or 1 orange)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour - sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 pears of your choice, peeled and diced
Optional - the below are optional toppings to the cake:
1 - 2 tablespoons sanding sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 1 - 2 tablespoons sanding sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch or 10-inch round pan by spraying it with nonstick cooking spray, or cover with a thin layer of butter and flour the pan. Set aside.
2. With the mixer on low-medium, start by beating the softened butter together with the granulated sugar and zest and mix until the mixture is well mixed and incorporated.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time and the milk. Mix well after each addition.
4. With the mixer on low, add the sifted flour and baking powder. Also add the salt.
5. Add the pears to the mixture and incorporate them using a rubber spatula, not the mixer.
6. Arrange the cake batter in the prepared pan. Spreading evenly. Add the sugar crystals or some cinnamon sugar, if using. Bake in a preheated oven for 38 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry.
8. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before removing from the pan. (If you serve the cake warm or hot, it will appear undercooked, so best to cool completely before serving.)
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We're currently living during a period which we never expected. Many of us all over the world are being asked to stay home due to COVID-19, and I'm doing just that, and hope many others are doing the same in an attempt to "flatten the curve," as the experts say. Our 2020 culinary tours are postponed for next year, and while we're extremely disappointed, we understand it's what's best for everyone.
I'm spending these weeks on cooking and baking, having all my groceries delivered. As a homebody, this isn't much of a sacrifice for me. I love spending time at home, especially the kitchen, and I am finding comfort on preparing dishes and baked goods. It takes the mind away from current reality, which we all need sometimes.
Tonight, we had roasted chicken for dinner, and like a match made in culinary heaven, roasted potatoes seem to always be served with roasted chicken. Tonight, rather than adding them to the same pot as the chicken, I baked them with seasonings and topped them with bread crumbs. This is a homey dish, humble at best, but it makes the perfect side dish to chicken, fish, turkey, or frankly, just bake a tray of these as snacks! They are tasty, cheap and use limited ingredients, which I'm sure you have on hand already.
The below doses are just recommendations, I never actually measure anything when preparing a dish such as this, it's not needed! Just toss everything, add it to a baking sheet, and go! But if you're a novice in the kitchen or one to measure stuff out, the below doses will give you something to work with. Enjoy these comforting potatoes tonight as the perfect contorno or side to whatever it is you're cooking!
Cube the potatoes to about 1 inch in size. Try to cut them all the same size for even cooking. In the bowl, I have about 6 peeled and washed potatoes, they were on the smallish size, so this is the perfect amount for 4 people or so.
I used some basics for seasonings, nothing fancy here. Rosemary, some origano that I actually picked up at the outdoor market in Venice, salt and olive oil. The origano brought back such wonderful memories of a culinary tour of Veneto that I led with TV personality and chef Joanne Weir. I bought several of these packets (they were 3 for 5 Euros) at the market during our day trip to Venice. We're going through such a difficult time right now that I teared up a little just thinking about the wonderful week we shared. I know we will be back in Italy soon, but right now, it just seems to far away.
To the bowl with the potatoes, add the dry herbs, salt and oil and mix with your hands or wooden spoons. I used my trusted salad spoons. I have had these for years and I love them so much for mixing things. I didn't add any black pepper or crushed red pepper since I was enjoying these with family members who don't like heat, but you could certainly add some spice and heat to this, I think it would go very nicely actually.
Add the potatoes to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and top with the breadcrumbs. Drizzle some additional olive oil on top. Make sure the potatoes are cut side down. My picture came out rather orangy, not sure why. I didn't bother taking a better one. I was trying to limit grabbing my phone while cooking. These days, it's all about the germs so limiting touching too many surfaces while cooking!
How great do these look right out of the oven? Those crunchy bits are delicious! The key is to not turn them or touch them at all while they are cooking in the oven. Just leave them there. No turning or anything else required. I placed them on the second to top rack, while the chicken was roasting on the lower rack, maximizing the oven space!
Plate and serve! These are going to go fast, so make sure you make plenty of them, more than you think you'll need, they are addictive!
Seasoned Roasted Potatoes with Breadcrumbs
5 - 7 medium sized potatoes, peeled, washed and cubed to 1 inch bubes
2 tablespoons dry origano
2 tablespoons dry rosemary
Salt to taste - about 1 teaspoon
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1/2 - 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, add the potatoes, dry herbs, salt and olive oil and using your hands or wooden spoons, mix well.
3. Add everything to the baking sheet and top with the breadcrumbs. Drizzle additional olive oil on top and bake for 30 - 35 minutes. During the last 2 or so minutes, turn the oven to broil and broil the potatoes to crunch up the top. Do not mix or turn the potatoes while cooking. Plate and serve!
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