Thursday, February 18, 2010

No Ma'am, we don't serve those here...

There are times in life when your best only option is to turn and walk away. I can't hear the word crepe without being reminded of one such time in my life. In another life, many moons ago, I owned a small cafe. I worked out in the front, doing most anything that needed to be done. A large part of my job, and possibly the most important, was talking with the customers. I spent the better part of the day, making sure that everyone had what they needed and was enjoying their meals. This was the best and the worst part of owning a restaurant. Most people were very nice, some were a lot of fun, a few were very opinionated, and a small minority were just jerks.
Then there were those customers with odd suggestions on how we could make our restaurant better. Put toothpicks in the ladies bathroom, for instance...really? Keep them in the bathroom? Umm,yuck... Can't you pick one up out front and take it with you? Apparently, "a lady doesn't want to be seen getting a toothpick". Really???... I just smiled and thanked her for the idea.
The most common question/suggestion I got was: "Why don't you serve...?" It was one of these type of questions that makes me chuckle every time I hear the word crepe. I often waited on tables when we were really busy and had stopped by to take the order from a older couple. The wife was studying the menu when she looked up and asked if we served "craps". I was totally caught off guard. In my mind I'm thinking, "Craps?? Is she implying the menu is crap? What the $%# are craps??"  "Ummm...excuse me?", was all I could think to say. To which she replied, "you know craps, like they serve at ..." and she named another local restaurant known for it's crepes. Then it dawns on me, she calling a crepe, a crap. So as I struggle to maintain my composure and a straight face, I mumbled "No Ma'am, we don't serve those here." She replied "well you really should, I just love craps." I turned and fled.

Easy Crepes (printable recipe)
Source: Bon App├ętit  | June 1998 Epicurous

1 1/3 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Mix first 6 ingredients in blender just until smooth. Cover batter and chill at least 15 minutes and up to 1 day. Strain the batter through a sieve. This will remove any lumps and your crepes will cook better if there are no lumps in the batter.
Spray 7-inch-diameter nonstick skillet with vegetable oil spray and heat over medium heat. Pour 2 tablespoons batter into pan and swirl to coat bottom. Cook until edge of crepe is light brown, about 1 minute. Loosen edges gently with spatula. Carefully turn crepe over. Cook until bottom begins to brown in spots, about 30 seconds. Transfer to plate. Cover with paper towel. Repeat with remaining batter, spraying pan with oil spray as needed and covering each crepe with paper towel. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Note: I find using a measuring cup with a lip for easy pouring works well for the batter.Also don't be discourage if your first crepe doesn't turn out perfectly. I find that it takes 2 or 3 to get a perfect crepe.

My first one from this batch was an ugly duckling but the rest were lovely.

One of the great things about crepes is you can fill them with almost anything you want, jam, marmalade etc... This recipe is for a sweet crepe but if you wanted to go with a savory filling just omit the sugar. I decided to go classic with my crepes and make Crepes Suzette. Crepes Suzette are a sweet crepe in an orange butter sauce. You flambe (ignite) the sauce at the end for a dramatic presentation. It's quite simple but looks impressive.

 Orange Butter Sauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
 zest from one orange 
1/2cup orange juice
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp orange liqueur
1 tbsp brandy

Place ingredients in a large skillet, over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring sugar to melt. Boil for 2-3 minutes until slightly thick. Stir in orange liqueur and brandy boil for 30 seconds more. Using tongs add crepes one at a time to the skillet, dipping in the sauce then quickly folding over twice to form a triangle. Lay folded crepes to one side of pan while you prepare the rest. When all are folded arrange crepes on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle about 1/4 cup of orange liqueur over the crepes. Cook for about 15 seconds spooning the sauce over the crepes. Then, stand back and carefully ignite with a long match or lighter. If you have a gas cook top, you can simple tip the skillet to one side allowing the flame to ignite the sauce. Serve immediately!

These are definitely not craps!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Most Excellent Chocolate Sugar Cookie

Sugar cookies are hard to improve upon, unless of course chocolate is involved! I love the dense chocolate flavor of these cookies. The secret ingredient to these cookies is granulated instant espresso in the cookie dough. There's some kind of magic that happens when you mix a little instant espresso with chocolate. It's a match made in heaven.(insert sappy Valentine talk here)  Perfect for Valentine's day, or any other day you want a delicious chocolate cookie. No special occasion necessary. I won't even tell if you decide not share and just eat them all yourself. 
So how do you make an excellent cookie even more excellenter... Yes, I realize that excellenter is not actually a word but  it should be to convey the excellency of this cookie. Okay? How, you ask?? Well you sandwich said excellent cookies together with a chocolate khalua filling...see, I told you, definitely excellenter! All right to keep the grammar police happy, I'll go with most excellent chocolate sugar cookies...Schwing!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
 (Printable Recipe)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp instant espresso 
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Course sugar for decorating (optional)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, instant espresso, and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. divide dough in half, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
Roll out cookie dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t worry if they have flour on them when they go into the oven. ( I used a smaller cutter to cut out the center of some of my cookies.) Sprinkle with course colored or white sugar, if using. Bake on a silicon mat or parchment-lined baking sheet for about 8 minutes until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed. Do not over cook!
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Using an off-set spatula, spread chocolate khalua filling between the cookies to make sandwiches.

Chocolate Khalua Filling

4 squares Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter  softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1Tbs Khalua
1/3 cup milk

Microwave chocolate in large microwaveable bowl on high 1-1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool 5 minutes or to room temperature.
Add sugar, butter, vanilla, and Khalua.
Gradually add milk, beating with electric mixer on low speed until well blended. If frosting becomes too thick, beat in additional milk by teaspoonfuls until frosting is of spreading consistency.

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who needs dinner when you can eat rugelach?

I was scrounging around in my freezer today, looking for something for dinner. I didn't find anything I wanted for dinner, but I did find a batch of rugelach dough. Score! I made the dough for Dorie Greenspan's rugelach around Christmas. We had so many other cookies and dessert at Christmas that I never finished the rugelach.  Today was cold, gray, and dreary. The thought of freshly baked rugelach filled with nuts and fruit was just the thing to put a smile on my face!
You can fill you rugelach dough with almost anything you like. I used several different fillings for mine. I filled some of mine with apricot jam, pecans, currants, and chopped chocolate. I filled some with apricot jam, chopped dried apricots, and pecans. Then, in honor of World Nutella Day, I filled a some with Nutella. There's no wrong way to eat Nutella!!!

 Just look at those chocolate chunks!

(From Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
(Printable Recipe)
For the dough
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling
2/3 cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the glaze
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably coarse sugar


For the dough 

Let the cream cheese and butter rest on counter for 10 minutes. It should be slightly softened but cool.
Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine for 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds. Do not work the dough too long that it forms a ball on the blade. Remove the dough from the food processor, divide into half, shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to a day. (Wrap airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)

To make the filling 

Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or microwave until it liquefies. Mix sugar and cinnamon together.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

To shape the cookies 

 Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar.  Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the chopped chocolate and half of the currants. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles.The easiest way to do this is to cut into quarters, then cut each quarters into 4 pieces. Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each triangle becomes a little crescent. 
Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (The cookies can be refrigerate overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don't defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)
 Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

To glaze 

Stir the egg and water together. Brush a bit of the glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with sugar. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

In case you didn't know today is World Nutella Day! Yes Nutella is so wonderful it deserves it's own day!!
Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso solemnly declare Friday, February 5th “World Nutella Day 2010″ – a day to celebrate, to get creative with, and most importantly, to EAT Nutella. So here is my submission to the cause! Long live Nutella!! (yes I love it!)

Nutella filled rugelach