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Archive for 2017

RECIPE: Hazelnut Crunch Cake

June 1st National Hazelnut Cake Day (see all of the food holidays). We used to make one every year with a delicious, but alas discontinued, white chocolate hazelnut cake mix from The King’s Cupboard (which still makes some of the best chocolate and caramel sauces, including organic and sugar-free varieties).

So we had to search for a recipe, and found this stunner by Ashlae of Oh, Lady Cakes, which is dairy free and vegan.

Ashlae also does a great job with cookies and other desserts. Take a look at her Facebook photos and decide what you want to bake.

We are not handy with frosting, so we shy away from cakes that require the skill.

But while this cake is a beauty, it requires only a “naked cake” frosting—a slick of frosting we applied with a spatula.

You don’t have to make the hazelnut truffles on top of the cake, either: A sprinkle of hazelnuts will do. (Or, if it’s a party, assign the truffles to someone else.)

For the truffle recipe, and more delicious photos, see the original recipe.

As they say on The Great British Baking Show: Ready, set, bake!

RECIPE: HAZELNUT CRUNCH CAKE

Ingredients

For The Hazelnut Cake

  • 3 cups (395g) unbleached cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (150g) roasted hazelnut oil
  • 1-1/2 cups (305g) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) hazelnut liqueur
  • 2 cups (420g) hazelnut creamer
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped (optional)
  •  
    Vanilla Bean Frosting Option 1

  • 3 cups (330g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
  • 3/4 cup (150g) refined coconut oil, melted but not hot
  •  
    Vanilla Bean Frosting Option 2

  • 1 cup (180g) non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1-2 tablespoons (14-28g) unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 cups (330g) powdered can sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
  •  
    Plus

  • 1/2 batch salted chocolate truffles (see notes above)
  • Toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of three round 6″ cake pans with parchment paper; then spray with oil and coat with sifted flour; set aside.

    2. SIFT together in a small mixing bowl the flour, baking powder and sea salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract.

     

    Hazelnut Layer Cake Recipe

    Hazelnut Layer Cake

    Hazelnuts In Bowl

    Shelled Hazelnuts

    [1] and [2] A beautiful layer cake topped with chocolate hazelnut truffles, from Ashlae of Oh, Lady Cakes. [3] Hazelnuts in the shell (photo courtesy Loacker USA). [4] Shelled and ready to toast or eat (photo courtesy Better Herbal Health).

     
    Alternate between adding the creamer and the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mixing after each addition; add one third of the creamer followed by half of the flour and repeat the process ending with the creamer. Whisk batter just until combined (don’t whisk too much or else you’ll overwork the gluten and your cake will be rubbery); then fold in the toasted hazelnuts.

    3. POUR the batter into the prepared cake pans, level with the back of a spoon, then tap the pans on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake at 350°F for 36-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. While the cake layers are cooling…

    4. PREPARE the vanilla bean frosting. Ashlae prefers the coconut oil recipe but cautions that it does dry out pretty quickly and is somewhat unstable: It melts if the room temperature is higher than 80°F. Option #2, with shortening, stays soft for a while.

  • For the coconut oil frosting (option 1): Sift the powdered sugar and the vanilla bean powder into a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the coconut oil until smooth.
  • For the shortening frosting (option 2), add the shortening and almond milk to a large mixing bowl and, using a hand mixer on high speed, beat just until combined. Sift the powdered sugar and vanilla bean powder over top then beat until smooth and creamy.
  •  
    Alternatively, you can use vanilla buttercream.

    5. ASSEMBLE the cake: Level the layers, then place one layer on a cake stand or plate. Add a generous portion of frosting with a wide spatula. Repeat with remaining layers and frosting. Using an offset spatula, smooth the frosting around the cake. Garnish with the chopped hazelnuts and truffles. Serve, adding one of the remaining truffles to slices that didn’t get one of the garnish truffles..

    The cake will keep in an airtight container for up to three days. Ashlae cleverly uses a large pot topped off with a silicone lid.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Martini

    Mashed Potato Bar

    [1] Who can resist a mashed potato bar (photo courtesy Betty Crocker)? [2] Use whatever dishes you have for the toppings. They don’t have to match (photo courtesy Hormel Foods).[3] If your guests can cope with glass, use your Margarita and Martini glasses (photo courtesy Hormel Foods). [4] Keep the potatoes warm in a slow cooker (photo courtesy Tip Hero).

     

    Whether you like to grill for Father’s Day or prepare everything in the kitchen, a fun, interactive addition to the festivities is a mashed potato bar.

    Our dad loved our cold green bean salad. With a bowl of that, and a cucumber salad or a special slaw, the only other side you need is the mashed potato bar.

    It’s a treat for guests to customize their toppings. For you, everything can be prepared ahead of time, including the potatoes, which are kept warm in a slow cooker or other device.

    Don’t want potatoes? Substitute mashed cauliflower.

    PREPPING THE MASHED POTATOES

    Make the mashed potatoes with or without skin, using your choice of red, white or golden potatoes.

  • Use a tried-and-true recipe.
  • If you like to load up the groaning board, offer mashed sweet potatoes as well.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker to keep the potatoes warm, use aluminum foil pans with steam warmers underneath. For a fancier event, use chafing dishes. If you don’t have any of these, see what you can borrow.
     
    MASHED POTATO BAR TOPPINGS

    DAIRY

  • Butter
  • Cheeses: blue, cheddar goat, parmesan; crumbled, grated or shredded
  • Sour cream, plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    PROTEINS*

  • Bacon
  • BBQ pulled pork
  • Chili
  • Sausage, sliced mini pepperoni or crumbled whole sausage
  • Anything else you like
  •  
    SEASONINGS

  • Prepared seasonings
  • Salt and flavored salts
  • Heat: dried chipotle, hot sauce, red chili flakes, peppermill
  •  
    VEGETABLES

  • Onions: caramelized, onion rings, sliced scallions
  • Mushrooms, sautéed
  • Steamed medley: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, etc.
  • Tomatoes: diced fresh tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped sundried tomatoes
  •  
    TOPPINGS

  • Cheese sauce (if you can keep it warm)
  • Corn chips
  • Fresh herbs: chives, dill, shredded basil, parsley
  • Gravy
  • Olives
  • Sliced jalapeños
  •  
    PARTY ON!
     
     
    MORE DIY FOOD BARS

  • DIY Bacon Bar
  • DIY Bloody Mary Bar
  • DIY Breakfast & Brunch Bar
  • DIY Dessert Bar
  • DIY Jambalaya Bar
  • DIY Stuffed Avocado Bar
  • DIY Taco & Wing Bar
  • DIY Wedge Salad Bar
  • 20 More Food Bars
    ________________

    *Assumes beef and chicken are main courses from the grill.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

    May 31st is National Macaroon Day. Here, David Lebovitz, renowned pastry chef, blogger and author of cookbooks, shares his recipes for chewy, chocolaty macaroons.

    First, some macaroon history:

  • MAC-A-ROON is the English name for the Italian almond meringue cookies (maccarone, mah-cah-ROW-nay) first made by monks, possibly in the 13th century. They most resemble today’s amaretti cookies, with a crisp crust and a soft interior, developed at the court of Savoy in the mid-17th century. Since almond flour made them kosher for Passover, Italian Jews embraced the recipe.
  • COCONUT MACAROONS were developed in the Jewish community as a variation to the original recipe. They became a popular year-round cookie outside of the Jewish community as well.
  • MAC-A-RONS are the French version, delicate meringue cookie sandwiches filled with buttercream, ganache or jam. They were created at the beginning of the 20th century by Parisian baker Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, had the idea to join two meringues and fill them with ganache.
  •  
    All three versions are gluten-free.

    Who first thought to dip coconut macaroons in chocolate? It isn’t known, but we thank them.

    Here’s a detailed history of macaroons and macarons.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE-DIPPED COCONUT MACAROONS

  • Be sure to use unsweetened coconut (medium shredded coconut or coconut flakes), which is available at most natural-food shops and online.
  • You can prep the dough up to a week in advance, or freeze it for future use.
  • Prep time is 30 minutes, cook time is 25 minutes.
  •  
    Ingredients For About 30 Cookies

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar (10 oz./315 g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2-1/2 cups (9 oz./280 g) unsweetened shredded dried coconut
  • 1/4 cup (1-1/2 oz./45 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces (60 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STIR together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour in a large fry pan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, scraping the bottom as you stir. When the mixture just begins to scorch at the bottom…

    2. REMOVE from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. At this point the mixture can be chilled for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 2 months. When ready to bake,

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Using a spoon and your fingers, form the dough into 1-1/2 inch (4 cm) mounds and arrange them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

    4. LINE a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Dip the bottom of each macaroon in the chocolate and set the cookies on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, 5 to 10 minutes.

     

    Coconut Macaroons Chocolate Dipped

    Macaroons On A Silpat

    Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

    Coconut Macaroons Chocolate Dipped

    [1] Dipping in chocolate. Who gets to lick the bowl? (photo courtesy David Liebovitz). [2] A Silpat baking sheet protects the macaroons from over-browning (photo courtesy Silpat). [3] Bet you can’t eat just one (photo courtesy Burdick Chocolate). [4] Dipping the tops in chocolate may cause drips, but there are no sticky fingers from holding a chocolate bottom (photo courtesy The Fosters Market Cookbook).

     
    Recipe originally posted on Williams-Sonoma.com.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Teas For Sushi & Sashimi

    Japanese Green Tea & Pot

    Cups of Green Tea

    Sushi Plate

    Sashimi

    Genmaicha Tea

    [1] Green tea and a conventional iron pot, called a tetsubin (photo courtesy Japanese Green Tea Online). [2] Green tea isn’t necessarily green. It depends on where the tea was grown and production factors (photo courtesy Coffemania | NYC). [3] A conventional sushi plate of nigiri and maki (photo courtesy Takibun). [4] Sashimi (photo Direct Photo). [5] Genmaicha, with toast rice: our favorite (photo courtesy Sugarbird Sweets).

     

    Sushi and sashimi are among our favorite foods, and we down cups of green tea with each plate.

    Most of the complimentary green tea served at Japanese restaurants is, not surprisingly, average quality. Even if it’s good tea to start with, it can grow pretty weak due to infusing the same leaves one time to many.

    In Japan as well as the U.S., the tea used is often sencha, a basic green tea (approximately 80% of the tea produced in Japan is sencha). It may also be bancha, the second-most-widely-produced tea, more robust and astringent than sencha.

    If you want to train your palate to the differences, ask your server to tell you which type it is.

    In Japan, the lower down the line the sushi bar is (such as a takeout place), the more likely it is that the tea is agari, a low-quality, powdery tea—which should never be confused with to the pricey powdered matcha, to which it has zero relation.

    The variety, known as konacha or kona-cha, is a mix of the residual dust, fannings, leaf particles, and bits of stem broken off during the processing of quality teas, like gyokuro or sencha (paradoxically, it’s low-quality tea from high-quality leaves). Konacha has a bitter taste, said to complement the flavor components of of sushi very well.
     
    ENJOYING GREEN TEA WITH YOUR SUSHI OR SASHIMI

    If you don’t like the green tea that is served with your raw fish, consider that it may be the particular green tea, and not an indictment of the entire green tea category. As with any product, those at the top end can be glorious. They just may not be available where you eat your sushi.

    In New York City, where we enjoy thrice-weekly sushi meals, it’s very rare that we get anything resembling a satisfactory (much less a good) cup of tea unless we’re at a very high-end restaurant. While our everyday sushi is excellent quality, the tea quality never measures up to the fish. We wish we could pay for better tea, but it’s not the Japanese way.

    That being said, any green tea served, no matter how bland, goes well with the raw fish.
     
    Trending At Asian Fusion Restaurants

    Some Asian-fusion restaurants we patronize don’t give any tea away, but will sell you pots of tea.

    We respect that: Profit margins in restaurants are notoriously low, and since we’d rather have tea with our sushi than [higher profit] beer, we have no problem paying for it. You’ll get higher quality than with freebie tea, abut it still may not be sublime, depending on available varieties and your palate.

    Only once in a blue moon do we find our favorite green tea to pair with sushi and sashimi, genmaicha (photo #5), at a restaurant. This lively green tea, a base of sencha, bancha or a combination of both, is blended with earthy roasted rice or popcorn. You either love it or not; but for us, it’s green tea happiness.
     
    Should You Pay For Tea?

    Our tip of the day is: If your restaurant offers a cup of better tea at a price, don’t hesitate to try it. It’s a modest sum compared to the price of the sushi (or a beer). It could be good and worth it; or you don’t have to order it again.

    We’ve been to chic restaurants (Asian and Western) that have a tea menu. Ideally, this should be top-quality loose tea. Some even bring out a fancy wood box that holds different bags* from which you choose.

    It’s a step in the right direction, but we often find that these teas—which are from specialty American purveyors—are not assertive (flavorful enough). While some people may like that milder style, we want full-flavor tea.

    Don’t let the box, or silky tea bags, convince you that this is top green tea; or think that the tetsubin, the traditional small, cast iron tea pot, makes the tea any better (more aesthetic, yes; better-tasting, no).

    Again, you don’t know until you try.

    If you’re a tea fan as well as a sushi fan, what can you do to ensure that the tea is at the level as the sushi?

    In foodie desperation (and not wanting to insult the restaurant), we thought to sneak good green tea into our local restaurant, to augment the tea we purchased. Then, fearing that we would, in fact, insult them if discovered, we asked if they would mind if we added some of our own tea to theirs—or if they wished, take our tea, add hot water, and charge us the same as their tea.

    This was not a difficult ask, as we brought genmaicha, green tea blended with toasted rice or popcorn (photo #5). It’s an easy excuse to claim one’s love of genmaicha with sushi.

    The other option was ordering in (i.e. delivery)—a less aesthetic experience, but one which guaranteed our choice of tea.
     
    AN OFT-ASKED QUESTION ABOUT RESTAURANT GREEN TEA

    Why is the tea served in sushi restaurants so hot?

    It’s often so hot that we can’t pick up the cup without using a napkin to protect our fingers. We laud the servers who bring it to us with no such protection.

    The answer:

    The very hot water and green tea both work to cleanse the palate and remove the natural oil reside that can be left behind by the fish. You may not notice them in your sushi or sashimi, but they’re there.

    Green tea, which is the norm in Japan, has more astringency than other tea types (black, oolong, white). This makes it even more effective to cleanse the palate.

     
    Here’s more on palate cleansing:

    As one navigates through an assorted plate of sushi or sashimi, the subtle flavors of each type deserve appreciation.

  • Each type of raw fish has a very distinct but delicate taste. It is also desirable to cleanse the palate to fully appreciate the flavor of each piece.
  • Marinated slices of ginger, called gari, also serve to refresh the taste buds between pieces.
  •  
    IF YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR TEA, WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

    The tea should not be overpowering or have a flavor/aroma that could dominate the fish: never a flavored tea! Much as we like jasmine tea, the floral aroma and flavor detract from the delicate raw fish.

    We would pair what the restaurants serve, but the best quality we can get:

  • Bancha: A widely used restaurant and household tea; “the peoples’ tea”; a refreshing, lightly sweet flavor.
  • Sencha: Juicy sweet flavor, deep umami, and crisp, refreshing finish.
  • Genmaicha: This can be sencha, bancha or a blend, combined with roasted rice. The rice acts as a starchy sponge, aiding in the absorption of oils and flavors in the mouth. It’s one of our favorite green teas for any tea-drinking occasion.
  •  
    For more robust, richer, cooked foods in Japanese restaurants, such as teriyaki, shabu shabu, negimaki and yakisoba, go for a more robust tea.

    A popular pick is houjicha, bancha leaves and stems that have been roasted. It’s smooth, with hints of coffee and roasted barley.

    Tea and sushi lovers: Go forth and conquer.
     
     
    DISCOVER LOTS MORE IN OUR:

    SUSHI GLOSSARY

    TEA GLOSSARY

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bunless Burgers

    Most store-bought burger rolls are pretty blah: a form of white bread used to hold the burger.

    Earlier, we suggested 25+ alternatives to the burger bun, from baguette to brioche to pretzel roll.

    Even when the roll is special, it begs the question: Does the bread serve any purpose other than enabling utensil-free eating?

    We love good bread: At a top restaurant, we’d rather have the bread than the meat. But over the years we’ve found that it doesn’t add to the burger experience. Even the best bread gets soggy with all the condiments and burger juice.

    Drumroll: Today, we suggest burgers without the bun—at least, without a bread bun.

    The original hamburger steak served in the U.S., essentially the Hamburg steak from Hamburg, Germany, was served on a plate with a fork and knife: no bun (here’s the hamburger history).

    So how about going bunless—or rather, breadless?
     
     
    NON-BREAD BUN ALTERNATIVES

    Whether gluten-free, low-carb or paleo, we’ve seen every burger bun substitute imaginable, from homemade cauliflower buns to potato pancakes.

    Alternatives To The Burger Bun

    Look to different vegetables:

  • Lettuce leaves (photos #1 and #2), along with tomato and onion
  • Grilled pineapple (photo #3)
  • Grilled portabella mushrooms (photo #4)
  • Other grilled vegetables (photo #5)
  •  
    For the “other grilled vegetables,” look for the widest eggplant, potato or zucchini. You may be able to find one that can be sliced to hold an average burger.

    Otherwise, you may end up with sliders.

    TIP: While bread buns keep your fingers clean, the lettuce leaves do the same (at best a bit of water residue). If you don’t want to touch the oil-brushed grilled veggies, the solution is simple: an open-face burger with a knife and fork.
     
     
    TASTY TOPPINGS

    We enjoy trying new burger toppings. These work whether you serve conventional buns or the “vegetable buns” above.

    You can start with your favorite condiments (ours are curried ketchup*, sriracha mayo* and sweet and savory pickles).

  • Caramelized onions
  • Cheese
  • Chili
  • Grilled fruit (pineapple, peaches)
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Salsa
  • Slaw
  •  
    SLAW ALTERNATIVES

    If you call yourself a foodie, bypass the commercial cabbage slaw with a few flecks of carrot, dripping with diluted mayonnaise. Instead, go for a homemade slaw. If you don’t have time to make it, assign one or two recipes to someone else.

  • Apple Ginger Cole Slaw
  • Blue Cheese Slaw (add crumbled blue cheese to any classic cole slaw recipe)
  • BLT Slaw
  • Broccoli Slaw (substitute store-bought shredded broccoli for the cabbage in any cole slaw recipe)
  • Crunchy Asian Slaw
  • Lime-Cumin Cabbage Slaw
  • Pepper Jelly Slaw
  • Vanilla Slaw
  • Vietnamese Cabbage Slaw
  • Two-Color “Mexican” Cabbage Slaw
  •  

     

    Burger In A Lettuce Bun

    Bunless Burger

    Pineapple Burger

    Burger On Portobello Bun

    Burger On Grilled Eggplant

    [1] Trade the bread for lettuce leaves (photo courtesy Burger Fi). [2] For onion lovers, a double-onion burger with raw and caramelized onions. [3] A tropical burger. Use two slices of grilled pineapple instead of the bread. Here’s the recipe from Fit Views. [4] Spell it portabella or portobello, it’s a delicious bread substitute. Here’s the recipe from Sew Lets Cook. [5] Grilled eggplant as a bun (photo courtesy Our Four Forks).

     
    BUNS, ROLLS AND BISCUITS: THE DIFFERENCE

    Are the halved breads that surround hot dogs and hamburgers properly called rolls or buns?

    There is no official difference, meaning that there are no specific USDA standards. Both rolls and buns are single-serve breads, and the USDA only stipulates that buns and rolls weigh less than one-half pound. (Loaves of bread, on the other hand, must weigh one pound or more).

    Manufacturers and retailers use whichever term they want. However, the American Institute of Baking uses this distinction

  • Rolls is the term generally used for individual breads that hold a filling—either pre-filled like cinnamon rolls or sandwich bread like Kaiser rolls. The notable exception is hot cross buns, which are filled with currants or raisins and thus should be hot cross rolls. However, the first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733, when there was no distinction.
  • Buns typically do not contain a filling, but can be eaten plain, with a spread (butter, jam), or used as a sop, i.e., to wipe up a liquid food: gravy, sauce, soup, stews.
  • Bunne was the word used in Middle English. The use of roll to describe a small bread came much later. The oldest reference we could find is to Parker House rolls, in 1873.
  • Biscuits use a different leavening. Biscuits use baking powder to rise; buns and rolls use yeast.
  • Texture: Rolls can be hard (crusty) or soft, buns are soft, and biscuits are pillowy soft (from the baking powder).
  •  
    It is true that “burger bun” rolls off the tongue more easily than “burger roll.” But the more accurate term is roll.

    Just for the record.

    ________________

    *Just mix the seasoning into regular ketchup or mayonnaise to your desired intensity.

      

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