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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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    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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    Baked Long Island Clams

    Music: Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis

    Growing up on the Great South Bay of Long Island, nothing defined my childhood more than the beach, the boat and the waterways of my home.  In the summers when I was young one of my favorite culinary adventures was to go clamming with my cousin off Squaw Island.  For anyone who does not know what Squaw Island is, well it is essentially a little mound of earth that is only visible during low tide about a ten-minute ride southwest from the Amityville Cut just past Snake Channel.  For anyone who doesn’t know where Snake Channel is, well it’s just west of the Tobay Beach marina.  Hang a right at The Four Corners and…OK, none of you know where any of this is but I can attest that is some of the most beautiful stretches of local beaches, marshes and bay I have ever seen.

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    Homemade Beer – Guest Blogger Bill Kiernan

    Music: The Yardbirds – I’m Not Talking (if you only understood the irony here!)

    Oh boy do we have a special treat today! Good pal and guest blogger, Bill Kiernan, has decided to share some of his secrets for homemade brewing.  He’s been doing this for a few years now out of his home in LI and recently, he made a batch to celebrate James’ birthday (We called it Jamesonian IPA).  Please enjoy his musings on home brewing and feel free to comment!

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    On Long Island, the spring fumbles in this year and I find myself brewing an IPA for James’ birthday. Any excuse to brew is welcomed, and when it’s for a friend, well, insert mush. There are varieties to home brewing, from stove top with a big pot to developing a veritable nano brewery in your garage, I find myself safely wedged into a bracket of the “want to make a good beer” but do not wear my “beeriodic table of Alements” shirt while doing so.  I would prefer to allow you to establish a meaning of the previous analysis.

    Here, take a drink: an IPA is a pleasurable beer, especially during the spring and summer. India Pale Ale has unique histories, and one would say histories dependent on whom you speak with: read online and you will learn history of IPA rife with luck of shipwrecks and landlubbers loving the barrels of beer which washed upon shore (I guess I could liken this historical anomaly of human behavior to that first hit from a hypodermic needle that washed ashore on Rockaway); ask your local know it all craft beer distributor “so they made the IPA to survive the voyage from Britain to India?” and he’ll look at your forehead as though a piece of your brain were waving off the comment as an act of the ass rather than his constituents. Regardless, it’s a good beer, which is generally more bitter than a Pale Ale.  The degree of bitterness is measured in IBU’s which is a cute enough acronym for International Bittering Units, which is such a bold and forbooding measurement, it’s best left at IBU.

    The bitterness comes from hops, which are  beautiful cone like vine plants, which, forsooth, New York used to be a Mecca of. There are extensive varieties of hops and even more variety to what they can do to your beer. Depending on which hops you use and when you add them to your boil or your beer as you ferment it your beer could be more bitter than flavorful. Add a variety of hops closer to when you end your boil you get more aroma, typically. Let’s just say it can get pretty complicated. Throw in some toasted oats, orange peels, a sprig of lavender from the garden or some st. johns wort, who knows what could happen.  If you are going to do an all grain brew, as opposed to an “extract” set aside a good part of your day, prepare to smell like some hopped up feign, and double check your equipment.  All grain brewing is not as insane as studying neutrinos in Antarctica but it does require a bit of close analysis and attention.

    Start with the grain.

    For this IPA, we are using 9lbs of Pale 2 Row malt and 1lb of Carafoam malt.

    We are using 3.5 oz of Cascade variety hops and 1 oz of Amarillo variety hops.

    All your grains are milled together in such a way that the grain gets cracked but not pulverized.

    Heat up about five gallons of water to about 175 degrees. In what is called the mash tun, in this case a large cooler, slowly add your grain and scalding hot water from a difficult to manage gigantic six gallon pot of water. Ideally, your water will loose about 10 – 15 degrees in the transfer to the grain. You want your mixture to be apprx 150- 155 degrees.  You really are creating a mash, and at this temperature saccharization, which is a process that converts the starches in grain to fermentable sugars, occurs. Let it rest for an hour to 75 minutes.  The longer the time, the more sugars extracted. Meanwhile heat up another four gallons of water for the sparge. Yes, the sparge.

    Welcome back. When you open the cooler you will smell a rather sweet, malty goodness. You want to quckily raise the temperature to about 165 to wash more of the sugars out of the grain. So to do this, you will add that water, which is hopefully around 190 degrees. Check the temp and do your best to get around the strike temp of 165.  Now allow a couple of minutes to pass to allow the grain bed to settle again.

    Now take a small Pyrex or other such glass container and drain some of the beer out then pour is slowly and lightly bAck to the cooler. You are trying to create a flow that is free of grains.

    Then begin to drain the cooler into a pot which can hold approximately six gallons. You may get as much as 7 -8 gallons from your sparging, depending on how much water you needed to get the temp.

    The boil.

    If you have considerable amount you might boil it down some before you start your official boil time. But you should  essentially start with about five or so gallons and boil for approximately an hour.  So with this beer our hop schedule (the time we add hops) looks like this;.

    60 min add 1 oz of Cascade

    30 min add 1 oz of Cascade

    15 min add 1.5 oz of Cascade

    At burn out 1 oz of Amarillo

    You want to adhere to a schedule for the addition of hops because doing so will create the beer that you are aimming for. You can use a calculator to help you determine the all impressive IBU. For an IPA around the mid 70’s of IBUs  good. The hops added earliest are for bittering, whereas the later additions are for flavor and aroma.

    After you have boiled for an hour with the addition of your hops at scheduled times, it’s time to cool down. Most home brewers have a chiller which is really a copper coil that cool water runs through. You want to be sure that anything you put in your beer after you stop boiling has been sanitized.

    After your beer ha cooled down you want to aerate your beer, usually by pouring it back forth several times using the tub you will ferment in. Now simply add your yeast, sprinkling it on top, close up your fermenter (in this case a five gallon restaurant grade plastic tub with an air lock.  After several weeks the yeasts have eaten all the sugars and pooped out alcohol.

    Look, go to these websites for some more specific instructions. You can do this. http://www.homebrewinginstructions.com/

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    Lobster Rolls!

    Music: Driftwood – Travis

    This past weekend we threw a lovely soiree for my dear friends Trina and Ji Young.  We spent the weekend at Molly’s family beach house on Long Beach Island and celebrated the passing of 3 decades. And Brooklyn Plated catered it!  We served some old standby’s like crab cakes and polenta fries (pictures at bottom).  I also made a variation of a good old fashion New England lobster roll recipe and combined it with something from Thomas Keller.  What we got was magic. We served the lobster rolls along side some corn on the cob and cole slaw.

    I grew up in CT.  In CT they serve lobster rolls hot and with butter (Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale in Madison is where we usually go for this – also if someone can find and send me a picture of one of their old school tee-shirts, I’ll make it worth you’re while…not quite sure how but I will).  Everywhere else in New England they serve lobster rolls cold and with mayo! Imagine the horror on my first trip to Maine way back in the summer of 1992 when I was served a cold, wet lobster roll…to be honest, I never grew to like it, not even after many trips north in the passing years.  It wasn’t until a recent trip to The Brooklyn Flea where I ate a Maine-style lobster roll from the Red Hook Lobster Pound that I was converted.

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    How to make Duck Confit

    Music : Florence and the Machine – My Boy Builds Coffins

    Hello and hope you had a happy weekend.  I didn’t post on Friday because I have been making duck confit for about a week – but we finally got to eat it last night and it was unbelievable.  Rosa, Matt and Scott partook in the Sunday Dinner event.  We paired it with a lovely sweet and tart blueberry sauce that matched perfectly. Seasonality, be damned!

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    Best Sandwich Eva with Polenta Fries

    Music: Broadcast – I Found the F

    I’ve talked about this sandwich before but I was craving it and couldn’t get to New Haven…so we made it at home. We paired it with polenta fries which were delicious and an easy alternative to french fries (although no more healthy).

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    Filed under Breads, Cheese, How to..., Meats, Polenta, Recipes