Category Archives: Dessert

Sweet Thursday – Chocolate/Pistachio Torte

Music: Would I lie to you – The Eurythmics

This was made with love for my dear friend Brian on his birthday.  He made a similar torte for James many years ago and I thought I would return the favor.  It’s a Martha Stewart recipe (and one I could actually follow!). I’m not a baker, we know this – but this came out soooo well! (and it was really pretty, although you’d never know that from the pictures).

What you’ll need for the Torte:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
3/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
What you’ll need for the Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • Make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan; line bottom with parchment or waxed paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  • In a large heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, melt butter and chocolate, stirring frequently, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Remove bowl from pan. Whisk in sugar and vanilla, then eggs, buttermilk, and pistachios. Fold in flour mixture just until combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 60 to 70 minutes.
  • Let cool in pan 5 minutes; run a knife around edge, and invert onto a wire rack.
  • Remove paper, and let cool completely, about 3 hours. (To store, wrap in plastic, and keep at room temperature, up to 3 days).
  • Make ganache: In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer; remove from heat.
  • Add chocolate, and let stand 5 minutes; whisk until smooth. Let cool until mixture falls back in ribbons when lifted with a spoon, 2 to 6 minutes.
  • Set cake on a serving platter; tuck strips of parchment paper under edge of cake to prevent ganache from dripping on platter.
  • Pour ganache onto center of cake; using a table knife, spread evenly over the top and down the sides. Let set, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove paper from under cake; sprinkle top with pistachios.
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    Happy Christmas!

    We made some Christmas treats yesterday…our salted caramels but with Espresso Salt from The Filling Station (that Alex so kindly brought us from Chelsea Market for Christmas – Danke!).  Here is a little picture to show what a sweet gift they will make! Happy Christmas!

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    Madeleines – Sweet Thursday

    Music: Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

    I’ve always wanted to try Madelieines.  I always thought they were something too difficult to perfect in the home.  But thank goodness for my trusty guide through Parisian pastry, The Sweet Life of Paris (and a thank you to David Lebovitz for moving to France).  We recently purchased a Madeleine pan having always wanted one (does food that requires special tools intimidate you? – It intimidates me…).

    There is a longstanding debate on whether or not to include baking powder in ones Madeleines (I did).  It has nothing to do with affecting the taste, just the appearance.  That signature “bump” is not necessarily historically accurate and when you speak with Frenchies, they might disagree about the bulbous shape an American Madeleine has taken on (I sense a social commentary brewing).  It is entirely up to you if you want a pregnant Madeleine.

    We made these little treats for our Massachusetts road trip. I was shocked by how good they were straight out of the oven – so spongy and sweet.  Admittedly, they didn’t really taste the same a day later, but they were still good dipped in rich hot chocolate while sitting in a cozy 17th century home in New England (jealous?). Here are the sweet results!

    What you’ll need:

    3 large eggs, at room temperature
    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1 1/4 cup  flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
    zest of 1/2 a lemon
    9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds

    • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
    • Melt butter in a small pot.

    • Brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with sifted flour, tap off any excess, and place in the freezer.

    • Let the rest of the butter cool to room temperature.
    • Using an electric or hand held mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 6 minutes until frothy and thickened (seriously, that long)

    • Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sifter or mesh strainer and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter.
    • Add the lemon zest to the room temperature butter, then teaspoon the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time.  Continue folding to incorporate the all butter.

    • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)
    • This is kinda the tough part.  Remove Madeleine pan from freezer and add enough batter in the center of each indentation to fill it 3/4 of the way. Do not spread it.

    • Bake for 9-10 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown around the edges nearest the pan.
    • Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack.

    • Eat immediately.

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    James Beard House

    Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene
    The James Beard House
    New York City
    May 5th, 2010

    Last week Brooklyn Plated took a wonderful field trip to the James Beard House for a six course, tasting menu with wine pairing by guest chef Linton Hopkins.  The cuisine paired a southern flare with traditional American cuisine.  In short the night was amazing and I felt honored to be apart of a real and very rare New York culinary experience.

    The Beard House is a beautiful town house on west 12th street between 6th and 7th avenue.  After Beard’s death in 1985, a group of his friends answered a call from Julia Child to do something extraordinary with his home.  What became of the townhouse is now the Beard House and they serve up amazing events and dinners with special guest chefs showcasing their signature dishes.  As you enter the house you are greeted by the vast kitchen, which takes up almost the entire first floor.  Passing through the kitchen I was tempted to pluck an hors d’oeuvre off the tray being plated by the wait staff.  We exist the kitchen into the solarium (yes there is a solarium) that looks out onto a beautiful backyard.

    We started the night in the backyard with a signature cocktail called The Harrier: gin, grapefruit juice and lavender essence.  This was the equivalent of drinking a spring morning.  Passed hors d’oeuvres included (in the order of mouth watering amazingness) a mini cornmeal blini with Crème Fraîche and Altamha River sturgeon roe, Pimiento cheese and B&B pickle fritter with pepper jelly, Levain crusted mountain trout with smoked trout roe and dill pollen, Sorghum glazed veal sweetbreads with crushed peanuts, and Border Springs spring lamb terrine with house made beer mustard.  Phew…it was a lot, and we successfully planted ourselves right near the door so we would get first dibs.  It also didn’t hurt that I was the only man in our party surrounded by beautiful women, (sorry Chris, you should have come) which I won’t rate like the hors d’oeuvres.

    The main dining area is what used to be Beard’s living space and bedroom.  Our table was actually in what was once his bed nook, which oddly enough, had fully mirrored ceilings!  Flirty.

    I will be forced to simply list the courses since there were so many.  It is safe to say it was one of the better meals I have ever had and the wine parings were really special.  My only real critique was the last main course of red meat was sort of eh.  I am not a huge meat eater and after our trip to Argentina, it takes a lot to wow me with steak.

    Amuse: Asparagus agnolotti (essentially, a perfect little ravioli shaped like a football)

    Paired with 2008 Simpson Vineyard Viognier.

    First Course: Georgia wild shrimp, island clams, crab toast fennel and Cherokee leek broth. Yum.

    Second Course: Skillet roast tilefish, creamed English peas, roasted Vidalia onions, crisp bacon and lettuces.  This was a personal favorite.  I had never heard of tilefish but it was very good and the crispy bacon with the fish was a wonderfully surprising flavor.  Paired with a 2006 Wile Yeast Chardonnay, which I LOVED, others at the table not so much, but it really opened up with the food.

    Third Course: Roast South Carolina pigeon with Riverview farms cornbread and Cruze buttermilk, wild watercress and natural jus. Paired with 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. And the winner is?…this dish.  I have had game bird in a few places and never have I had pigeon as perfectly cooked and tasty as this dish.  That buttermilk cornbread was like pancake batter and corn pudding puree.

    Fourth Course: White oak Pasture beef to ways, pepper crusted and hickory smoked ribeye with short ribs and Appalachian ramps, morel fondue, pickled fiddleheads and marrow.  Sadly the best part of this grand finale was the fiddleheads.  Nothing really spectacular about this entrée except maybe the short ribs. The pairing of 2006 La Diligence Syrah was an excellent wine.

    Fifth Course: Southern Cheese course with The Oracle 2005 a Bordeaux blend was by far my favorite wine of the night and the cheese was very good.  We had:

    • Sweetgrass Dairy Green Hill
    • Blackberry Farm Blue – excellent!
    • Spinning Spider Creamery Stackhouse – a triple cream that one of our friends thought tasted like cream cheese, but I loved it for the mildness.

    It was also served with smoked blood orange and pecan levain.

    Sixth Course: Woodland Gardens’ strawberry shortcake with strawberry sorbet ad mint cream.  This was served with an Old Hickory, a rather perfuming but refreshing cocktail of dry and sweet vermouth with orange bitters.  The shortcake was some of the best I have ever had, and I love strawberry shortcake.

    This was a remarkable night and the chef coming out to answer questions topped it.  He was quite approachable and as I left shaking his hand it was as if I had stopped in for dinner at a friends house.

    – JV

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    Chocolate Cupcakes Revisited – Sweet Thursday

    Music: Hole – Rock Star

    This is my mothers recipe for the cupcakes I posted a few weeks ago. It comes from McCall’s Cooking School published in 1973.  They were legit the tastiest cupcakes I’ve had in a long time.   We don’t have any of the “process” pictures but you’ll get the idea. Those little sugar flowers are only decorative and about 25 years old…kinda awesome? Kinda gross?  My Grandmother made them for her cakes and used to put them in mason jars.  She’d line them all up in her pantry and it was really pretty.

    Regular Version

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    Chocolate Cupcakes – Sweet Thursday

    Two weekends ago my mother made this scrumptious chocolate cupcakes! I was so excited to share them with you but I didn’t write down the recipe…wah wah.  So, I have some pictures and I will make her send me the recipe as soon as humanly possible (that will probably be tonight since she’s at work right now).  The frosting was kind of a fluke, but really yummy.  Here are some pictures.

    Hipstamatic Camera version

    Regular Version

    Great Cafe au Lait on oilcloth table cloth - has nothing to do with cupcakes.

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    Grandma’s Wedding Cakes – Sweet Thursday

    Music: Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen

    My grandmother, Rose, is a domestic goddess of mythic proportion in my mind.  She could do everything.  She made dresses for my mother that I am still able to wear.  She hosted dinners for over 50 people on a weekly basis. Everything she created in the kitchen was extraordinary and the best I’ve eaten  – even just spaghetti with meatballs (which was really the only thing I ate as a kid, earning me the nickname “the spaghetti wrangler”).  She hosted pea parties where only dishes with peas were served (and it wasn’t gross!).  She left her Christmas tree up all year long.  She could knit an afghan, read a book and watch “Days of Our Lives” all at the same time. She had a built-in brick oven in her kitchen.  She used to buy me gold lamé bathing suits and took me to the diner with her friends.  Maybe it was her special Grandma touch, but she could do no wrong.

    She also used to make the most remarkable wedding cakes.  I was sorting through some old photographs with my mother this weekend and we found these pictures of cakes she made in the late 60’s to the early 80’s.  They aren’t in the greatest condition but you’ll get the picture.  These are the wedding cakes of yore – you’ll be hard pressed to find a baker who still makes them like this (except for maybe in the Bronx?) and, although, it’s not necessarily an aesthetic that’s stood the test of time – you can certainly appreciate the artistry that goes into them.  They have electric fountains and angels and sugar roses for crying out loud!  I don’t know who they belonged to.  I wish I did.  Even though they were promptly eaten on someone’s wedding day I am happy that I can share them with you here.

    My Parents' Wedding Cake

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