Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Check out my interview!

I'm thrilled to be featured on a terrific blog called The Good Neighbor Cookbook.  The blog is the partner to the cookbook, which you can find out more about and order here

It's a superb concept:  delicious and creative recipes to make for a friend who's just had a baby, a new neighbor, or anybody else who could use a pick-me-up.

If you want to know more about Danish food and culture and whether or not Danes hold potlucks (and what do they serve?!), visit The Good Neighbor Cookbook blog!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three Cakes and a Party Part II

So the last time you heard from me I was preparing cakes for the birthday/anniversary party of my good friends, Liz and Ole (you can see their lovely faces near the bottom of this post).

Question: What happens when you drink one too many Cape Cods, dance like a crazy woman, and get caught up in all the merriment?  You forget to take pictures of your three cakes after they've been cut!  "Before" photos you will find, but any revealing the inner deliciousness are unfortunately absent.  Bummer.  I'm especially annoyed because the red velvet cake was just dramatic...and lovely.  It completely negated the fact that I nicknamed it Pisa because of a certain similarity it shared with the famous Italian landmark.

The Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Torte was the first of my three cakes to disappear.  I didn't even get to try it.  It's the one recipe that I used from a cookbook; the others were borrowed from food blogs.  Therefore, I will share it with you while directing you here for the Chocolate Sheet Cake and here for the Red Velvet Cake. Do yourself a favor and make this frosting for the chocolate sheet cake.  It is incredible!

If, like me, you would like to write a message on the top of your sheet cake, remember to practice.  Some of my letters are hideous.  Edible hideousness.

From How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

for the cake:
6 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
1/2c unsalted butter, soft
1 regular sized jar of Nutella (14 oz.)
1T Frangelico, rum, or water (I used rum)
scant 1/2c ground hazelnuts
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted ( I used 70%)

9" springform pan, greased and lined with parchment or wax paper (I used a 9" cake pan with great results.)

for the icing:
4 oz. hazelnuts, skins removed
1/2c heavy cream
1T Frangelico, rum, or water (again, rum)
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70%)


1.  Preheat the oven to 350F

2.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter and Nutella, and then add the rum, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts.

4.  Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg whites, which you can beat in as roughly as you want, before gently folding the rest of them in a third at a time.

5.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack.

6.  Toast the peeled hazelnuts in a dry frying pan.  Shake every other minute or so to get a nice even color.  Transfer to a plate and cool.

7.  In a saucepan, add the cream, rum, and chopped chocolate.  Once the chocolate is melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice the top of the cake.  (I let mine cool for 5 minutes before applying it to the cooled cake.)

8.  Unmold the cake carefully and set on a serving plate.  Ice the top with the ganache, and dot thickly with the whole, toasted hazelnuts.

If you read Part I of this post you will remember that it wasn't only me who contributed to the dessert buffet.  Below are pictures of a number of beautiful and delicious desserts, along with some highlights of the celebration.

And now for what you're really after:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Three Cakes and a Party

Cake, Cake, Cake.  Three cakes.  Delicious, mouth watering, gotta have it, Cake!  Sorry, that's a reference to the PBS kids' show Word World and a certain episode that my son loves.  If you click on it, fast forward to minute 5:00 and watch for approximately 25 seconds.

If you couldn't tell, cake is on my mind this week.  You see, I am contributing to the dessert table at the combined birthday and anniversary party of our good friends, Liz and Ole.  They're both turning 40 and, as is customary in Denmark, celebrating twelve-and-a half years of marriage, also known as a "copper wedding."  That's not to say that it is customary to have a birthday slash anniversary party, just that the Danes make a big deal out of the twelve-and-a-half year anniversary.

A pretty cool excuse for a big party if you ask me.

Here is the run down on my contribution:

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

Red Velvet Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream Icing

Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing

You will hear from me soon with pictures, recipes, and an explanation of how I pulled this off while juggling all my other life responsibilities.  It's called breaking each recipe down into steps and tackling a step or two at a time, a day at a time, leading inevitably to the end goal of a finished cake.  Or in this case, three cakes. 

And let's not underestimate the importance of deep breathing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Musings

My husband Alan was in Tokyo six days before the devastating earthquake struck.  It was his first time in Japan and he went to attend an energy conference. Apart from spending countless hours in meetings and touring the trade show, he tried his best to get a feel for the country. He had only seven days--technically seven working days--but he made daily use of the subway, experienced some extraordinary meals, and interacted with a number of locals.  He was surprised by how friendly and affordable the city is.

He stopped in a small cafe one morning for, what else?, a cup of tea. The Japanese woman running the shop guessed that he was French and encouraged him to try the homemade Madeleines.  A little later when Alan began to head out into the rain, she insisted that he take her umbrella.  And keep it.

Initially when he said he had the opportunity to visit Tokyo, I enthusiastically encouraged Alan to go.  I don't know very much about the Japanese culture, but I have always been enchanted by a sort of ethereal elegance that I associate with all things Japanese, including the food.  I said I would trade places with him in a second.

It feels slightly inappropriate to write about Japan in any other context than what has happened there and the enormous suffering millions of people are encountering.  And yet I write this as a minuscule and humble ode to Japan and its people.  One day I will make it to your remarkable country.

So...I ransacked Alan's photos from his trip for images of the amazing food he described.  Since his meals out were usually late at night and in restaurants with mood lighting, the few pictures he took were not a success.  But in with what seemed like hundreds of technical photos of items from the trade show were these:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Whole Grain Biscotti Crisps

I've found my new favorite snack.  I actually think it tops these homemade granola bars, and that's saying a lot.  I'm forever looking for snacks that are lightly sweet and salty--if they are healthy it's an extra bonus and something I'm bound to try.  These biscotti crisps totally fit the bill.  I love the fact that they are sliced thin--much thinner than typical biscotti--and toast up beautifully.  They're crunchy, a little sweet, a little salty, and teeming with delicious nuts and seeds.

In ordinary biscotti recipes, you use your hands to shape the dough into a log before baking.  This recipe is easier.  All you do is press the dough into a buttered parchment lined loaf pan, pack it down with damp fingers, and stick it in the oven.

Having said that, it's not exactly a fuss-free recipe.  It gets a tiny bit tedious when you have to toast the slices on both sides in two batches (depending on the size of your baking sheets and oven), as well as brush them with olive oil, but it goes quickly and the crisps are absolutely worth the effort.  I promise!

Whole Grain Biscotti Crisps
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks

1 1/3c white whole wheat flour
generous 1/3c sugar (I used all natural cane)
scant 1/3c olive oil (extra virgin or regular) plus more for brushing
2 eggs
1t sea salt
1c combination of seeds (I used sesame, flax, and pumpkin) and nuts (I used walnuts and almonds)
1/3c dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 300F

1.  Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.

2.  Mix sugar, eggs, and olive oil together in a separate, slightly larger bowl.

3.  Add wet ingredients to dry and toss in the cranberries.  Mix well.

4.  The mixture will be heavy and quite stiff.

5.  Scrape batter into a buttered, parchment lined, loaf pan and press it down with damp fingers.  Level the top with the tips of your damp fingers/palms.

6.  Bake for 45-55 minutes until golden brown.

7.  Remove from oven and immediately invert pan on a cutting board.  Your baked biscotti loaf is now upside down.

8.  Turn the oven up to 450F.

9.  Using a sharp serrated knife, slice thinly.  As thin as you can get without causing the slices to break.  I found mine were just slightly smaller than 1/4."

10.  Place as many slices as you can fit on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Lightly spread olive oil on the top of each slice and bake for 3-4 minutes.

11.  Flip slices to the other side, baste with more olive oil, and bake 3-4 minutes more.

12.  Repeat with remaining slices.  Cool crisps completely and store in airtight container.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Beatles song kept me sane

Big news:  the sun has returned to Denmark.  February and the first week of March were brutal.  To celebrate I sliced into an organic, fair trade pineapple from Ghana.  Get a load of that color.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Banoffee Pie

You know what sucks? Middle Eastern dictators.

What sucks in my own tiny corner of the universe are recipes for whole pies. Obviously this is not a problem even approaching the magnitude of what people in places such as Libya and Oman are experiencing...but then I write a food blog...and try to stay as far away from politics as possible.  Ahem, whole pies.  Unless I'm having a dinner party or it's Thanksgiving, I know good and well that it is love-handle suicide to make a whole pie. Self control, you say.  Sure, I have that.  Once a year. If I'm lucky.

So, I came up with what I think it a brilliant idea for all you like minded friends:  a mini version.  Okay, to be fair, it's not my idea.  Mini desserts abound.  But it is genius nonetheless.  You still get to enjoy an amazing treat without eating huge quantities of it nor, speaking from personal experience, increasing the size of aforementioned love handles.  And yes, it makes me feel better to say love handles instead of fat.  But forget that. On with the caramel, whipped cream, bananas, and chocolate!

I can't remember when I first heard of the English dessert, Banoffee Pie. There are as many varieties of this classic British pie as there are black tea.  I like it because the ingredients are basic and the taste is out of this world.  I almost made one version, which includes a great how-to video. Not having the energy to fight with hot-caramel-made-on-the-stove meets coldish-liquid though (the video calls for banana puree to be mixed into the caramel), I opted for my own adaptation. Have you seen what happens when you add anything to hot hot caramel?  You have to work lightning speed fast because it hardens instantaneously.  It's messy stuff.

The primary reason I wanted to make Banoffee Pie is because I needed an excuse to make my own dulce de Leche, or caramel.  All you do is take a 14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk, place it in a deep pot that you've lined with a wash cloth (to keep the can from rattling around), cover with lots of water (and a lid), and boil away...for hours.  Ample water is key because if the can at any point becomes unsubmerged, it will explode.  Boil on medium heat and set your timer to check on it every 20 or 30 minutes to make sure there is enough water.  I cooked mine for just over two hours, and you can see the beautiful color. However, cook an additional hour and you will get an even darker caramel.  Isn't it marvelous to have choices in life.

Banoffee Pie
Ingredients and instructions for one mini-tart  (it's really easy to increase the quantities and make additional tarts or one whole pie)

10 digestive biscuits (or graham cracker crumbs)
2T butter, melted
2T dark chocolate, melted
1/2 medium banana, sliced on the diagonal
2T dulce de Leche (made from sweetened condensed milk)
1/4c heavy whipping cream, whipped until soft peaks form
chocolate shavings for top of pie


Preheat oven to 350F/180C

1.  Crush biscuits until they form a fine powder.

2.  Combine melted butter and dark chocolate and stir biscuit crumbs into the wet mix.  Stir well.

3.  Place enough crumb mix into your small tart pan (you might have some extra left over) and shape into the pan.

4.  Bake tart crust for 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Using the back of a soup spoon, press the crust down into the pan (it will have risen during baking) so that you have a nice sunken bottom and high sides.  It might look sort of wet, but don't worry, that is the melted chocolate.

5.  Refrigerate crust for 10-15 minutes.

6.  Remove crust from refrigerator. Add the caramel to the bottom of the crust, smoothing it out.

7.  Place sliced bananas over the caramel layer.

8.  Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings/pieces.