November 25, 2009

Baked Brie

Looking for the perfect appetizer? Look no further! And be ready, because this may be the tastiest thing you will ever eat!

A wheel of Brie, topped with a sweet caramelized onion jam, baked in a crisp puff pastry until wonderfully soft and gooey!

Simple? Yes! Calorific? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely!

Make it...

Bake it....

Eat it...

Love it!

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Serves about 8-10

450g thawed puff pastry, about two sheets
1 large wheel of Brie, about 1 lb in size (do not remove the rind)
Good quality caramelized onion jam (I recommend Stonewall Kitchen)
1 egg, beaten
Fruit and crackers to serve

Preheat oven to 375F
Unroll the pastry sheets and place the brie in the center of one piece. Cut a circle approximately 1 inch larger than the round of brie. Make another circle with the second piece of pastry, this time measuring 1 inch or so bigger than the last. Top the brie with about 4 tbls of caramelized onion jam and place the second circle on top, joining the edges of both pastry rounds together.
Decorate as you please with the remaining pastry and brush with the beaten egg. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Serve with apples, grapes and crackers.

November 21, 2009

Assorted Chocolate Truffles

Chocoholics beware! These little balls of decadence are dangerously addictive!

Featured today are two of my favorite chocolate truffles, coated with a variety of ingredients.

A rich white chocolate truffle with crumbled shortbread, dried cranberries and a hint of orange zest, finished with a light dusting of powdered sugar. And a smooth dark chocolate truffle with a touch of amaretto, alternately rolled in cocoa powder, hazelnuts or pistachios.

Each are delicious and can easily be adjusted to your liking. For example: You could always substitute the amaretto for some cream liqueur, rum or even espresso? Throw in some raisins or dried cherries? Or keep it simple by adding just a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.

This is the perfect time of year to make up an assorted batch of truffles as they make delightful holiday gifts or party favours.

They are also great for dinner parties. A selection of each chocolate served with freshly made coffee is the perfect end to any meal.

Truffles can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to one month.

Recipes adapted from Bbc Good Food.

Makes approximately 50-60 truffles.

For the Dark Chocolate Truffles:
14 oz/400g good quality chocolate (60% cacao), chopped
150 ml double cream (heavy cream)
2 tbls amaretto liqueur (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract (if you aren't using amaretto)
50g pistachios, shelled and chopped
50g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Cocoa powder as needed

Melt chocolate and cream together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Once the chocolate has almost melted, remove from the heat and stir in the amaretto or vanilla extract. Cool and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. If you chill the mixture overnight, be sure to remove it from the fridge 40 minutes or so before molding. Using a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out the chocolate and roll into balls.

Have three trays ready, each filled with the pistachios, hazelnuts and cocoa powder. Divide several truffles between each tray and shake to coat. Repeat with the remaining truffles. Chill until needed and bring to room temperature before serving.

For the White Chocolate Truffles:
14 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped
150 ml double cream (heavy cream)
2 tsp grated orange zest
3 walkers shortbread fingers, roughly crushed
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
Powdered sugar as needed

Melt chocolate and cream together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has almost melted, remove from the heat and stir. Once cooled slightly, stir in the orange zest, shortbread and cranberries.
Once mixture has cooled, refrigerate until firm. Unlike the dark chocolate mixture, this one can be rolled into balls straight from the fridge after overnight refrigeration. Roll into balls using a teaspoon or melon baller and coat in powdered sugar. Chill until needed.

November 12, 2009

Caramel Apple Dumplings

Have you ever tasted Autumn? I have, and for me it is apples stuffed with cinnamon, pecans and caramel; baked until tender, in a light and buttery puff pastry!

This old fashioned dessert is simple, filling and tasty. The tart apples paired with the sweet caramel, offer just the right amount of sweetness, creating the perfect balance.

I know some people like to add some kind of sugar based sauce to their dumplings, but here, there simply is no need. The apples are stuffed with a rich caramel that produces a wonderfully creamy and slightly runny center, eliminating the need for any sauce. The only thing needed at this point is vanilla ice cream and an extra hour at the gym :)

The most time consuming part of this recipe is making the caramel (Dulce de leche). The rest is as simple as it gets. If you are short on time, you could always use a good quality store bought Dulce de leche. Stonewall Kitchen makes a good one.

For convenience and ease I have used ready made puff pastry. But if you prefer the painstaking process of making your own, I applaud you!

Makes 4 dumplings.

4 small granny smith apples
1/2 cup caramel
1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
2 sheets puff pastry
1 tsp cinnamon
A few tbls of brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
Vanilla ice cream to serve

Preheat oven to 375F.

Thin pastry out a little and cut into 4 squares. Reserve scraps for decoration.

Starting from the bottom, carefully core the apples to within 3/4 inch of the top. The aim here is to leave the stem intact for some rustic charm. Next, peel the apples.

Mix together the caramel, pecans and cinnamon. Spoon mixture into the apple cavities. Sprinkle the pastry squares with a little brown sugar. Carefully place each apple (stem side up) onto the center of each square. Moisten the pastry edges with a bit of water. Bring the edges of the pastry together pinching to seal around the stem. Decorate with leaves using leftover pastry.

Place dumplings on a baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until pastry is golden and the apples are just tender. Insert a toothpick to be sure. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

November 4, 2009

Bloody Mary Shots with Avocado Toasts

The holiday season is creeping up on us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, it's all just around the corner and I am ready! Well, ready in spirit at least.

For obvious reasons, I love this time of year. There is always so much going on and so much of it involves entertaining with good food. Dinner parties, work parties, family get togethers etc...

These Bloody Mary shots and accompanying toasts are perfect for the party season! They deliver the "wow" factor along with maximum taste, all with minimal effort. The avocado toasts are fabulous on their own. The two combined; however, compliment each other beautifully. The tangy tomato juice, with it's spicy zing, is cleverly balanced out by the rich and creamy avocado toasts.

Having said that; it is surprisingly easy to make a bad Bloody Mary, especially for beginners. So, until you're comfortable with your bartending abilities, here are a few tips:
Always use 100% Tomato juice. Do not use V-8.
Good quality vodka is a must!
Seasonings such as celery salt and black pepper are essential.
Experiment with other key ingredients such as Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce to get an idea of your preferred ratio (see below). And finally, try to chill the mixture for as long as possible (preferably overnight) to allow all the flavours to mingle.

There is no rule as to how much Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice you should use, it all comes down to personal taste. I never skimp on the Tabasco though, as I like my Bloody Mary's with a kick! You could always make up a batch with all the ingredients minus the Tabasco. This way your guests can add as much or as little as they please? For this recipe I have stated the quantities that suit my taste. Feel free to adjust.

You can always make your Bloody Mary a Virgin Bloody Mary if you want to skip the alcohol. I'm sure it will taste just as good!

Adapted from BBC Good Food

Serves approximately 4-6 (depending on the size of your glasses)

Bloody Mary Mix:
500 ml 100% Tomato Juice
1 tsp horseradish
4 tbls vodka
1 tbls Tabasco ( This is more like a punch and a kick, so less if you're not up for it )
1 tbls Worcestershire sauce
1 tbls lemon juice
1/4 tsp celery salt
Finely ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Avocado Toasts:
1 large avocado
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 small English cucumber, finely diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 lemon
Olive oil
8-12 Slices of a long, skinny baguette

Mix all Bloody Mary ingredients together and chill until needed.
Half the avocado, carefully scoop out the flesh with a spoon and finely dice. Mix the cucumber, tomato, red onion and avocado together with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt. Rub each toasted bread slice with a little olive oil. Spoon avocado mixture evenly onto the bread slices. Serve two toasts with each shot of Bloody Mary. Garnish with cucumber spears and enjoy!