roasted white chocolate parfait

Today, fancyfoodfancy turns one. I can’t believe how fast a year goes by! When I started this blog, I was looking for a place for my food photography to reside. I don’t think I really understood what I had signed up for. I’ve never really been one to commit to long term engagements and I have a tendency to leave projects unfinished. But here we are, 365 days and 30 posts later. Thanks to all of you for stopping by and for all of your kind words and support and for putting up with my silly stories about my life and my trials in this crazy kitchen of mine. It has been the most gratifying project I have ever taken on.

Since I’m always looking for an excuse to celebrate, I thought we should have a little party. So on the eve of our birthday, I spent the evening with a few close friends at St. George Spirits, sampling cocktails and snacks and toasting to the blog (and watching my sister hula-hoop in the corner). The distillery looks like a scene out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but a grown up version that produces alcohol. I cannot wait to go back.

Of course, when you have a birthday party, there needs to be dessert. I had had my mind set on a cake, but then I had dinner at Plum last week. And my mind was made up. We had the fortune of sitting at the foot of the bar that evening and watched as one of the chefs assembled plate after plate of gorgeous desserts. It was definitely the best seat in the house. Since we had eaten so much, we only had room for one dessert. And we chose very wisely: a roasted chocolate parfait served with huckleberries and fennel. It was insane. It was sort of like ice cream, but lighter and silkier. It had this perfect, thin and crispy crust that kept my wheels turning; there was something very familiar about it, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. And I typically don’t care for white chocolate (it’s not real chocolate!), but this was fabulous. The secret is roasting the chocolate; who even knew there was such a thing? The whole thing was really incredible. I had to figure out how to make it.

I went home and searched the internet, with no luck. Though I was able to find the technique for roasting chocolate. And then I started looking through my cookbooks and there it was, a white chocolate parfait right under my nose all this time. Tartine to the rescue, again. I had to do a little experimenting with the crust (which was not part of the Tartine recipe), and while it’s not quite the same as the original, it definitely does not detract from the perfection of the parfait, which actually is the French word for perfect.

At the end of the night, we made our way back to Edwin’s for dessert. I managed to get the parfait on all of the plates, along with the huckleberries and fennel. It was a perfect ending to a perfect celebration. And a perfect way to begin year two. Cheers!

roasted white chocolate parfait

inspired by Plum and adapted from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

serves 6-8

for the crust (not adapted from Tartine) :

3 cups cornflakes

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°F. In the bowl of a food processor, combine cornflakes and sugar. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Pour into a a mixing bowl and add the butter. Stir until combined. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch round cake pan or spring form pan and press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

for the huckleberry syrup:

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons huckleberries

Place all ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half. Cool completely before using.

for the parfait:

8 large egg yolks

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup water

2-1/2 cups heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 ounces white chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the white chocolate on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and stir the melted chocolate. Put the chocolate back in the oven a bake for another 5 minutes. Stir the chocolate and put back in the oven for another 3 minutes. The chocolate will turn a golden color at this point. Remove from the over and stir until the chocolate is smooth and an even caramel color throughout (it will look like peanut butter). Transfer the chocolate to a heat proof bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Keep the chocolate warm until ready to use.

Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl large enough to accommodate your mixing bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment,  beat the egg yolks on high speed until they are a light yellow, about 4 minutes.

While the mixer is running, combine the sugar, salt and water in a deep, heavy saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stir gently from time to time to ensure that the sugar is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar registers 230°F on a thermometer, approximately 5 minutes.

Remove the sugar syrup from the heat. With the mixer on, slowly pour the syrup in a thin stream to the egg yolks, between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Continue to beat on high for a few minutes until the volume increases and the mixture is thick and pale yellow.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and slowly pour in the warm roasted chocolate. Gently fold the chocolate into the egg yolk mixture with a large spatula until incorporated. Place the bowl in the water bath.

In another mixing bowl, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Gently fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture. Mix until just combined. Pour the mixture into the the pan with the prepared crust. Fill to the top of the pan and smooth with an offset spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours. Pour remaining mixture into a large container or individual serving bowls. Cover and place in the freezer.

to serve:

huckleberry syrup

1/2 cup huckleberries for serving

1/2  anjou pear, peeled, cored and diced (about the same size as the huckleberries)

1/3 cup fennel fronds

Carefully run a thin metal spatula along the edge of the cake pan, making sure you reach the bottom to loosen the crust. Invert onto a flat, parchment lined surface (i.e. baking sheet), then re-invert the parfait onto your serving plate so that the crust is on the bottom. Place in the freezer until ready to serve.

In a small bowl, combine the huckleberries, pear and syrup. Toss gently to coat. Just before serving, remove the parfait from the freezer and cut into wedges. Plate each wedge with a few dollops of the huckleberry mixture and garnish with the fennel. Serve immediately.

apple upside-down cornmeal cakes

Sometimes I forget about apples. Like during the summer when there’s all sorts of peaches and plums around. And when fall arrives, I pretty much only have eyes for figs, then persimmons. But this fall, I’ve been admiring the apple tree in the neighbors yard, watching the fruit go from green to pink and thinking about how much I want to hop the fence and pick them. So… I actually sent Michael K over one afternoon to do the dirty work. Let me just say that the house has been vacant for a year now and though it might technically be trespassing, I know the old neighbors would have wanted it that way. Plus I hate the idea of good organic produce rotting away on the tree. I’m a forager at heart. Please don’t judge me.

I’ve also been admiring all of the apples in the markets, like the green Gravensteins and the Rome Beauties (pictured above) and the Pink Ladies. All of the rows of apples were just calling out to me one afternoon, I couldn’t really say no. But you can only eat so many apples.

Luckily, having all of those apples reminded me of a recipe that I had bookmarked in Gourmet forever ago – apple upside-down cornmeal cakes. I love the idea of single serving desserts – they’re easy to serve and even easier to give away. This is one of those desserts that I can imagine casually whipping up even after a long day at work, it’s that easy. I ended up making these twice because they weren’t quite right the first time; a little heavy and not quite sweet enough for me. So I added a spoonful of sugar and a little buttermilk – I have this theory that buttermilk makes everything better, which was definitely the case for this recipe.

There is something very comforting about these little cakes; the flavors are really simple, though if you’re big on spice, feel free to add some cinnamon, or a pinch of ginger, or maybe a little ground clove or cardamom. I actually really enjoyed the bright, unadulterated apple flavor, so I went spice-free. The cakes are like a lighter, cakey cornbread muffin smothered in apple goodness. I like to think of them as fall on a plate. They are the perfect ending to a hearty autumn/winter meal. I think they’re kind of great for breakfast too, or as an afternoon snack with a hot cup of tea.

apple upside-down cornmeal cakes

adapted from Gourmet

serves 6

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces, plus additional for greasing

3 Gala apples, peeled and cored

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

3/4 cup buttermilk

Put oven rack in the upper third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Butter a muffin pan with six extra-large muffin cups. Cut apples into a 1/3-inch dice.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, cook apples, brown sugar, and lemon juice, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a glaze and apples are tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

Stir in walnuts and divide apple mixture among muffin cups.

In a food processor, pulse together flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt until combined. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps ( I did this by hand with a pastry blender).

Whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Pour the liquid into the  flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center of a cake comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to over bake; my first batch were a tad on the dry side.

Run a pairing knife around edge of each cake to loosen. Invert rack over muffin cups then invert cakes onto rack. Be sure to serve warm. And with a dollop of whipped cream.

orange flower macarons

Macarons have temporarily taken over my life. I’m blaming it on my Halloween costume, which inspired the initial undertaking. A few months back, I decided that I was going to be Marie Antoinette for Halloween (again). And this Marie Antoinette needed her some fancy French confections. Hello, macarons!

I love macarons. French macarons are an almond and meringue based cookie, much more refined than their coconut-filled American counterpart, the macaroon. They are light and slightly crispy on the surface, a bit chewy in the middle and typically filled with some sort of buttercream or fruit curd. They are heavenly. Macarons are a little bit luxurious, but not overly indulgent. They are one of my favorite treats.

I also love i ♥ macarons.

i ♥ macarons is a sweet little book all about macarons. My first encounter with the book was at Kinokuniya Bookstore, one of my favorite places in San Francisco. Sadly, it was written in Japanese. While I’m not opposed to buying Japanese magazines (I think of them as picture books), I find it sort of pointless and sad for me to buy cookbooks in foreign languages, no matter how tempting. Luckily for me the book has been translated in English.

I very recently received my copy of  i ♥ macarons and since the Queen said, “let them eat… macarons!”, (or not), I knew I had to give it a go. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the idea of making macarons because I’ve heard and read so many times that they are extremely difficult to produce. But the book had great step-by-step photographs and lots of pointers, so I was feeling strangely confident. There are several different macaron flavors and filling suggestions and combinations mentioned throughout i ♥ macarons, but I was immediately drawn to the orange flower variety for both the macaron and the buttercream filling. The orange flower buttercream was really impressive; it was silky and rich and surprisingly very light – the perfect accompaniment to the delicate macarons. And in the spirit of Halloween and a certain team that just won the World Series for the first time in over fifty years (which literally caused San Francisco to explode last week), I tinted my macaron batter orange.

There is certainly an art to making macarons, one I have yet to perfect. I know that I am a long ways away from being Ladurée.  But all things considered, I was very pleased with my results, especially since it was my first attempt. I was able to achieve a pied, or the “little foot” that forms at the base of the cookie, which is an essential feature of a successful macaron. And nothing cracked or melted while baking – definitely a plus in my book. A few days after that first batch, I felt very compelled to make more macarons, which I decided to fill with an orange-flavored bitter-sweet ganache, another favorite of mine. It was such an extreme contrast to the light buttercream of the first batch, a totally different animal but equally lovely, in my opinion. More macarons, s’il vous plaît!

orange flower macarons

from i ♥ macarons by Hisako Ogita

makes about 2 dozen macarons

for the macarons:

2/3 cup (3 ounces/85 grams) almond meal

1-1/2 cups (5.25 ounces/150 grams) powdered sugar (use powdered sugar that doesn’t contain cornstarch)

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

5 tablespoons (65 grams) granulated sugar

1/2  teaspoon orange flower water

orange food coloring (optional)

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit your baking sheet. Trace 1-inch circles on the paper, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart. This will be your guide for piping your macarons. Place parchment on baking sheet (pencil/ink side face down). Set aside.

In a food processor, grind the almond meal and powdered sugar together to a fine powder. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve. Repeat. Set aside. Place the mixture in the refrigerator if it is warm in your work area.

In a stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites and continue to beat on high speed until they reach stiff, glossy peaks. Add the orange flower water and food coloring and mix lightly.

Add half of the sifted flour mixture to the meringue. Stir with a large spatula,  scooping up from the bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and mix lightly in a circular motion.

When the flour is incorporated into the meringue, press and spread the batter against the sides of the bowl. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 15 times, but no more than 20 strokes. When the batter becomes nicely firm and drips slowly as you scoop it with a spatula, the mixture is ready.

Attach a 1 centimeter round pastry tip to a pastry bag and pour the batter into the bag. Squeeze the batter onto the center of the circles traced on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Make small circles as the batter tends to spread. Rap the baking sheet firmly against a table or counter top. This helps the macarons hold their rounded shape and helps the pied (little foot) to form.

Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, until a slight crust forms on the surface, about 30 minutes to one hour. When the batter no longer sticks to your finger when touched, the drying process is complete.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Position the rack  in the center of the oven. Stack the baking sheet with the batter onto an empty baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking time. If the insides of the macarons are still soft after 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 300°F, cover the tray with aluminum foil, and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes. When the macarons are done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool on a wire rack. When the macarons are completely cooled, remove them from the baking sheet. Macarons can be kept in the refrigerator in a sealed container for about one week.

for the orange flower buttercream:

7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces/100 grams) unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons (1.4 ounces/40 milliliters) water

3 tablespoons (1.4 ounces/40 grams) granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tablepoon orange flower water

Stir the softened butter with a spatula until it becomes smooth and creamy like mayonnaise. Set aside.

Put the water and sugar in a heat-resistant container (I used a coffee mug), and stir them well. Heat this mixture in the microwave oven for 1 minute. Take the container out of the microwave and mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Heat for another 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling.

While heating the sugar syrup, lightly beat the egg with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Take the sugar mixture out of the microwave and stir with a spoon. Be sure to wear oven mitts as the container will be very hot. Drop a small amount of the sugar syrup into a small bowl of water. Scoop the syrup out of the water and make a ball with it using our fingers. If you can do this, the syrup has the right density.

When the syrup is ready, slowly pour the syrup into the bowl with the egg while beating at a high speed. Reduce the speed to medium and then to slow, and continue beating until the bottom of the bowl is no longer hot, and the mixture becomes white and heavy. Divide the prepared butter, adding it to the egg and sugar mixture in two or three batches. Beat at medium with each addition. While adding the butter, the mixture may appear to separate. Keep mixing! When the mixture appears creamy, stir in the orange flower water. When the mixture is well combined, the process is done.

for the bittersweet orange ganache:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

In a small saucepan, bring cream just to the boil. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, butter and orange zest. Let sit for three minutes and then whisk until smooth. Chill the mixture until cool, about 20-30 minutes.

to assemble your macarons:

Pour the filling in a pastry bag fitted with a 1 centimeter round tip. Pipe the filling on the flat side of the macaron puff. Cover the bottom puff with another puff, flat side facing in. Gently press the top puff into place.

A little orange and black…