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Cover: Founding Flavors

December, 2012

30Dec 12

Happy Holidays and For Heaven’s Sake Buy an Oven Thermometer!

This Christmas, I learned the importance of ensuring that your oven temperature is accurate when I attempted to make Black Forest Cake.  I was so excited as I navigated through the grocery aisles looking for sour cherries, powdered sugar, and chocolate.  I had found the perfect recipe so my fear of a disaster or having to endure several trails and errors was completely eliminated.  I could already hear the oohs and awes of family and friends as I walked in with my Black Forest Cake.  And, once I started beating the eggs with sugar and folding in the sifted flour, I took care to listen to the sound of the batter as it thickened to ensure it was just right.

I felt très Julia Child, waltzing around in my festive apron and opening the oven to bake the chocolate sponge cake layers at 325°F.  After exactly 15 minutes, I pulled out the cake because I was following the recipe to a T.  As I let it cool, I noticed it was about an inch flatter than what it should have been.   “No worries,” I told myself. “Who needs a three layer cake, when you can have a two layer cake!”  Well, that was the moment that my Christmas Day baking took a turn because not only was it an inch flatter, it also happened to be undercooked at the top, which by undercooked I mean that the batter started oozing out when I cut into it with a knife.  And, the bottom… was overcooked.  Just lovely.

Now, I was not only running late to Christmas dinner but I had no Black Forest Cake!  I frantically ran around town looking for a bakery to be open to salvage the day.  The pain of picking out another cake was too much to bare, so instead I selected an apple tart to ease the baking dagger going through my heart.  I had done everything right…the ingredients, the timing, and the mixing.  What had gone wrong?

While certain ovens may not distribute heat evenly or factors such as the weather might impact the final result of baked goods, like a sponge cake, people all around the world are still able to successfully create these desserts in their kitchen.  While you might not be able to prevent certain factors from occurring, there are some that can be remedied such as ensuring that the temperature displayed on your oven is the actual temperature inside your oven.  For me, this was the issue with the Black Forest Crisis of 2012.  Consequently, I have purchased an oven thermometer, especially after learning that ovens set to the same temperature can vary up to as much as 90 degrees!  So, do yourself a favor, and invest in an oven thermometer so that your culinary self-esteem doesn’t take a hit by your oven’s temperature being off!

Cheers!
Sonia
www.foundingflavors.com

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16Dec 12

A Delicious Stroll Through the Marienplatz Christmas Market in Munich

This year, I embarked on a holiday journey to Germany to experience the tradition of European Christmas markets.  My only expectation was that I’d encounter a healthy overdose of everything related to Christmas, trying all sorts of goodies along the way.  While I made various stops in markets throughout Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich, my favorite was a Christmas market in Munich.  Situated in the heart of Munich, the Christmas market in Marienplatz provided a magical experience with the gothic New Town Hall building serving as the backdrop for an illuminated Christmas tree towering over the market.  Walking through the various booths filled with Christmas trinkets and food stands selling mulled wine known as Glühwein, bratwurst, and a gloriously overwhelming selection of sweets, one easily comes to understand why so many people flock to Germany each year to partake in the holiday celebrations.

While most of my behavior was rather civilized, I had occasional moments when I was unsuccessful at resisting the urge to shove innocent bystanders, as I followed the scent of sugar and spices towards booths filled with sweets.  There were gingerbread cookies decorated with frosting dangling from colorful ribbons.  Then there were pastries filled with apples, plums, marzipan, and poppy seed, as well as Berliners – donuts filled with jelly.   Hidden behind the crowds, there were crepes and hot chocolate.  And, not to be forgotten were the rows of almonds covered in sugar, and Chocolate Kiss’ consisting of chocolate-covered domes filled with a soft, creamy meringue offered in flavors like amaretto and rum raisin.

Regardless of what time of year you visit Germany—and Munich in particular—you are quickly impressed and intimidated by this country’s appreciation for the art of scrumptious and elegantly presented pastries.  But, as you stroll through the streets and markets, looking into various booths and pastry shop window displays, you are left with the sense that the holidays are recognized as the perfect time to showcase all these sweet treasures.

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09Dec 12

Kick-off Your Holiday Party with Eggnog!

If you want a quick and simple way to add a personal touch to your holiday party this year, try making eggnog from scratch.  This recipe makes roughly 6-8 servings.

Enjoy!
Sonia
www.foundingflavors.com

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:
Sugar: ½ cup
Egg yolks: 4
Milk, skim: 1 cup
Milk, whole: 2 cups
Heavy cream: ½ cup
Nutmeg, ground: ¾ teaspoon
Anise star: 1
Cinnamon: ½ teaspoon
Ground cloves: 1/8 teaspoon
Vanilla extract: 1 tablespoon
Rum: ¼ to ½ cup

Instructions:

1.Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl and then set aside.

2. Place skim milk, whole milk, heavy cream, anise, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ½ teaspoon of the nutmeg in a medium saucepan and turn the stove on to a medium range.  Stir occasionally, as you let the mixture start to simmer.

3. Now, pour a little bit of the heated mixture into the egg and sugar mix and stir for 10-20 seconds.  Then pour this mixture back into the medium saucepan and let the entire mixture simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and lifting the saucepan from the heat if the mixture starts to froth.

4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and continue to stir for two minutes.

5. Strain the mixture and allow it to cool for 30 minutes.

6. Add the vanilla and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg to the mixture, stir, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

7. Now add in the rum, stir, and refrigerate overnight.

8. Taste the eggnog before serving to determine if you’d like to stir in a little more alcohol or ground nutmeg.

9. Enjoy.

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02Dec 12

Canela-Apple Cookies

The holidays are my favorite time of year.  Not just because everyone seems to be a little friendlier or because of the endless decorations and music, but because it brings me back home.  Sometimes physically and other times mentally.  This past week it was the latter that brought back memories of my grandmother’s holiday baking.  Growing up, my grandparent’s house was always well stocked with all sorts of goodies but the most coveted treats were her perfectly pressed cinnamon and sugar cookies.  The second she’d place them out, one-by-one we’d suddenly appear in the kitchen, as if by coincidence.  As I started thinking about these cookies, I also remembered several of her other desserts, including apple filled empanadas.  And, that’s how I got inspired to combine a bit of the two and create the Canela-Apple Cookie.   It has an outer cookie layer that resembles the flavors in her cinnamon and sugar cookies, is lined with a touch of homemade caramel, and then filled with spiced baked apples.

Enjoy!
Sonia
www.foundingflavors.com

Ingredients:
Cinnamon and sugar cookies
All-purpose flour: 2 cups
Baking soda: ¼ teaspoon
Butter, unsalted: 6 ounces or 12 tablespoons
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Egg, whisked: 1
Vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon

Homemade caramel
Alcohol of your choice: 1 teaspoon (I used Curacao triple sec but other excellent options include brandy and bourbon.)
Butter, unsalted: 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons
Cream of tartar: 1/8 teaspoon
Heavy cream: 2 tablespoons
Sugar: 1 cup

Spiced apple filling
Alcohol of your choice: 2 tablespoons (I used Curacao triple sec but other excellent options include brandy and bourbon.)
Apples, gala: 2
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg: ½ teaspoon
Sugar: ¼ cup

Instructions:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine all of the cookie ingredients in a bowl and mix.

3. Flour your baking surface and roll out the dough into a thin layer.  If the dough starts to stick to the rolling pin, simply place a bit of flour on the surface of the dough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Create your desired shape using a cookie cutter.  Since it is the holidays, I opted for a snowman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Gently lift the cutout using an icing spatula or knife.

6. Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

7. Once out of the oven, let the cookies cool.

8. Then, mix sugar and cinnamon on a plate and gently dip the front side of the snowman in the mixture until it is fully coated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Line up the snowmen in pairs because each Canela-Apple Cookie will require two cutouts.

10. Now, you’ll prepare the caramel by placing one cup of sugar in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir occasionally as you allow the sugar to melt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Once the sugar has melted and has a light amber color, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  The caramel mixture will bubble up a bit so keep stirring until your left with a caramel that has a smooth consistency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.  The caramel will start to harden so you’ll need to work cautiously and quickly as you use a spoon to drizzle caramel onto one snowman for each pair of cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Now, it’s time for the apple filling.  Chop two gala apples into small squares and then combine the spiced apple filling ingredients into a saucepan and cook over medium heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Once apples are tender, use a potato masher to gently break the cooked apples apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

16.  Use a spoon to place the apple filling over each caramel lined snowman and then gently press the remaining snowmen on top to create a cookie sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17. At this point, the caramel has hardened, which is why you’ll need to let the cookies sit for at least three hours so that the caramel melts into the apple filling mixture.  If you don’t have time to wait this long, you can skip the homemade caramel altogether and purchase a pre-made caramel spread.

18. Use a decorative platter to serve your cookies and enjoy!

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02Dec 12

Heavenly Dark Chocolate Gelato

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on a quest to make a flavorful homemade gelato that maintains the creamy texture of store-bought brands.  I tried endless recipes, which called for various combinations of skim milk, whole milk, heavy cream, and half-and-half.  The results ranged from flavorless to icy to a soft custard and then finally to a heavenly dark chocolate gelato that made the frustrations of the past two weeks well worth it.

Enjoy!
Sonia
www.foundingflavors.com

 

Equipment:
Ice cream machine

Ingredients:
Chocolate shavings, preferably with 65% cacao content: ½ cup
Cocoa powder, unsweetened: ¾ cup
Cognac: 2 tablespoons
Egg yolks: 4
Half-and-half: 2 cups (2 cups of whole milk can be substituted but it will not be as creamy.)
Heavy cream: 1 cup
Powdered milk, skim: ¼ cup
Sugar: 1 cup

Instructions:
1. Place sugar and one cup of half-and-half in a medium saucepan and let it simmer on low heat for one minute, stirring occasionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Whisk the four egg yolks in a bowl.  Then add a little bit of the heated sugar and half-and-half mixture to the eggs and stir for ten seconds.  Now, pour this mixture into the saucepan containing the sugar and half-and-half mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Add the cocoa powder to the mixture and allow the mixture to simmer on low to medium heat.  You can use a jam and sugar thermometer to wait for the temperature to rise to roughly 170-180°F.  If you don’t have a thermometer you can let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The mixture might start to splatter so lift the saucepan from the heat, as necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Now, stir in the remaining cup of half-and-half, the heavy cream, and powdered milk. Stir mixture for 2 additional minutes on low heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Strain the mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Once the strained liquid gelato mix has been collected in a bowl, add the cognac and stir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least six hours.

8. Now, add the chilled mixture into your ice cream machine and let it run for 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. During this time, use a chocolate shaver or a vegetable peeler to collect ½ cup of chocolate shavings from the best quality dark chocolate bar you can find.  I used Felchlin’s Grand Cru Maracaibo 65%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. 15 minutes into the mixing of the ice cream, pour in the chocolate shavings and let machine run for the remaining 15 minutes.

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