Thursday, April 28, 2011

what is caramel chocolate matzo crunch? ( addictive, can't-stop-eating, treat)

long story short...i was asked this year to prepare a Jewish Seder Meal.  i am not Jewish, nor had i ever attended a Seder, so i did a ton of research to ensure everything was authentic and proper in addition to tasting delicious.  i knew that dairy and meat were forbidden and that leavened grains were also not allowed, so extra virgin olive oil and almond milk were used in the garlic mashed potatoes, potato starch was used to thicken the gravy, matzo stood in for bread during dinner...and i followed instructions from for preparing the seder plate.

dessert was a bit more of a challenge.  no flour or dairy?  what to make?   i did some more research and came up with a number of options.  then, a few days before the meal, my twitter/facebook friend davina cucina commented on a post from the blogger/writer david lebovitz about a recipe for matzo covered with caramel and topped with chocolate.  oh man!  this delicious sounding treat promised easy prep, quick and effortless execution, crowd pleasing results....i was sold.  i checked google and saw a number of recipes...all pretty similar....all promising the same results.  eureka!  i found my dessert. when i say this was a hit, i am under emphasizing the reaction.  the dinner guests loved it.  i mean seconds, thirds, fourths loved it.  i mean, "can i take some home?" loved it.  a couple of people actually gathered up all the crumbs to " use as a topping over ice cream".  trust must make it....  soon.  you will make it often.  since matzo is available year round, this may become your secret weapon for easy-but-impressive desserts.

are you sold yet?  the recipe is as easy as this....cover the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet with a single layer of matzos.  pour some hot caramel sauce (melted butter/margarine and brown sugar with a bit of salt and vanilla) over the matzos.  bake for 15 minutes.  remove from oven and top with chocolate chips (i used dark chocolate to avoid dairy, but semi-sweet works well too)  let the chips sit for a few minutes to begin melting and then use an off-set spatula to spread the chocolate over the caramel. add toasted nuts if you wish... let harden, break into pieces...serve.   i made half plain chocolate, half topped with toasted almonds.  both were loved...but the almond topped ones were the fav for my group.

as i said, there are a ton of variations of this recipe on web searches...all very similar...but i liked david lebovitz's the best, so that is the one i used.  he suggests topping the plain ones with flaked sea salt...that is how i will make it next time.  he also notes that any type of cracker would work if you don't want matzos...even gluten free.  i will post his recipe here...but i suggest you check out his site to read his descriptions.  if i have not sold you...he will.  plus, you should read his blog often anyway...he is brilliant! 

the recipe below makes about 30 pieces of toffee.  i was cooking for 100, so i made 8 batches.  (actually, i made one big batch and just multiplied everything by eight. worked beautifully, so increase this to whatever quantity you need.)  enjoy...

Chocolate Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch
from David Lebovitz
(red font, my notes)

4 to 6 sheets unsalted matzohs (look for boxes marked "for passover" during that time...otherwise regular matzos will do)1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks (or vegan margarine during passover, i use earth balance)1 cup (215g) firmly-packed light brown sugar
big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (160g) semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)

1 cup (80g) toasted sliced almonds (optional)

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11 x 17″, 28 x 42cm) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
2. Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.
3. In a 3-4 quart (3-4l) heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.
4. Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350F (175C) degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325F (160C), then replace the pan.
5. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.
6. If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely-chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs.

Let cool completely, the break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week.

do you have a favorite, fast, easy go-to dessert recipe?  please share in the comments section of this post.


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

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Friday, April 15, 2011

who wants our "farmhouse french toast" recipe?

i am such a sunday morning breakfast fan.  the rest of the week i usually start my day with a smoothie...or oatmeal...or whole wheat toast and fruit.  but sundays just do not seem complete without something a bit more BREAKFAST like.  pancakes or waffles.  biscuits and eggs.  omelets.  probably because i grew up in southern california, mexican food breakfasts like huevos rancheros, or scrambled eggs with onions, cheese and peppers (and loads of salsa) served with beans and tortillas are favorites of mine.  i just love waking up to the sunday paper, the sport of the season on, basketball or baseball...and a wonderful breakfast.  when it is sunny and warm enough to eat outside...even better.

french toast is one of those sunday breakfast foods that fit the bill perfectly.  quick and easy, delicious, made from ingredients i usually have on hand.  the key for me is thick, dense bread.  i want my toast crunchy...and, because i don't like it overly sweet, i love the flavor of sourdough.  i buy a loaf of unsliced bread on saturdays....use some saturday night with dinner...and then have the rest for sunday breakfast.  the day old bread has just the texture needed for the french toast...and i can slice it as thick as i want.

the key, as always, is to use the freshest, best-quality-possible ingredients.  i use fresh, organic, free-range eggs from hudson ranch,  bread from model bakery here in napa, organic seasonings & fruit and, because i want it to not only taste delicious but be healthy, i use almond milk and just a tiny bit of agave nectar in the egg refined sugar.  as far as the maple syrup goes?  i only use a little bit, but you are on your own for this one! is friday as i write this...plenty of time to get your food shopping in for the weekend.  maybe french toast on sunday morning?  let me know what you plan to eat for breakfast... 
farmhouse french toast
(serves 4)
1 loaf dense sourdough bread, unsliced
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened (or regular milk if you prefer)
1 tsp agave nectar
1 pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
extra virgin olive oil
maple syrup
strawberries, blueberries, peaches or whatever fruit you like

using a serrated knife, cut 4 slices, 1 inch thick each, from the loaf of bread. (reserve the rest for another use). cut each piece in half diagonally. set aside.
in a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, agave, salt and spices. (i use a baking dish).

add enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat oil until hot...but not smoking.
dip each slice in egg mixture using a fork to turn ensuring both sides are coated.  add to skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides.  serve immediately with maple syrup and fruit.

happy weekend,

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

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Monday, April 4, 2011

want the recipe for martha's meyer lemon pastry?

photo by mara alderman
ok...if you subscribe to martha stewart living you already have this recipe...but if not, keep reading.  (actually, please keep reading either way!).  i rarely follow recipes exactly...always feel the need to tweak a bit.  but in this case, no tweaks.  not needed.  perfect as is.  so i thought i would tell you about it and post the recipe. trust me, the meyer lemon pastry is easy, effortless and delicious.  plus it looks impressive so it is a perfect choice for entertaining and/or a potluck.

speaking of potlucks.  my friend caitlin moved back to canada last summer because her green card expired.  cait was a founding member of our book club and is a very good friend.  when i heard she was coming to napa last month to celebrate her birthday, i was thrilled.  her birthday party was held in the ever-so-cool design studio of another good friend, richard.  he decided the party would be potluck and let everyone pick whatever they wanted to bring.  our meyer lemon harvest was huge this year and i know caitlin loves lemon desserts so the category was an easy decision.  i assumed there would be some sort of birthday cake so pie or tart seemed like a good addition to the assortment.  in the "perfect timing" department, i was paging through the april 2011 martha stewart living magazine and discovered the beautiful and yummy tart on page 127.  potluck item solved!

making the tart is as simple as poaching some meyer lemon slices in a sugar syrup, arranging them on puff pastry and then baking. honestly, the most time consuming part is slicing the lemons.

the recommended store bought puff pastry is from a company called dufour pastry kitchens and their product is delicious, 100% natural and full of real butter.  homemade puff pastry is wonderful...but really, really, really time consuming.  dufour is a time saving solution because the product is of such high quality. (as always, the ingredients really make the difference). their website states they will ship in 24 hours...but i buy mine at whole foods.

“Like Many Chefs I use Dufour, an all butter brand of Puff Pastry sold in specialty markets” – Wylie Dufresne – The New York Times

“We buy Pastry Shells from Dufour Pastry Kitchens – They’re phenomenal and we couldn't’t possibly be bothered to bake our own.” Serena Bass – Food & Wine

of course it was pouring rain the night of cait's party.  my only concern was getting the tart there in one piece.  so i forgot to take pictures.  happily, cait sent me some she took with her not perfect but you will get the idea.  to see a beautiful photo, check out the one in the magazine martha stewart living or click here . (the photo in the magazine is stunning).  make this tart now while meyer lemons are in really must. 

Martha Stewart Living, April 2011

Meyer Lemon Pastry
Makes one 11-by-14-inch tart; serves 9 .Add to Shopping List

2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
6 Meyer lemons, thinly sliced
1 package frozen puff pastry (14 oz), preferably Dufour, thawed
All-purpose flour, for surface
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use

1.Bring water and granulated sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.
2.Cut out a circle of parchment the size of the saucepan. Add lemons, and cover with parchment. Simmer gently until lemons are soft and translucent, about 1 1/2 hours.
3.Remove lemons from syrup, and transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet to drain. (MY NOTE...reserve the syrup)
4.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to an 11-by-14-inch rectangle. Lightly score a 1-inch border around edges using a sharp paring knife. Brush entire surface of dough with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
5.Bake pastry until golden, 22 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely.
6.Meanwhile, whisk heavy cream and vanilla seeds with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.
7.Top pastry with lemon slices. Serve with vanilla cream.

Cook's Note
Lemons can be refrigerated in syrup for up to 1 week.

(i served the tart with a bowl of whipped cream on the side.  i also decided to not waste the lovely meyer lemon syrup reserved from the lemon slices.  i cooked it down until it gelled and then served it in a bowl alongside the cream.  i recommended people put a dollop of cream on each tart slice and then top with a bit of the lemon gelée...amazingly good)


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

Follow napafarmhouse on Twitter
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