Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chocolate biscotti

And right back to it. I was bored tonight and felt like creating something, and there was some cocoa powder staring me in the face. I like the lack of dairy in biscotti, and thought some nice chocolate biscotti would be lovely tomorrow morning.

I started by looking at this recipe, but didn't really follow it. And it worked out fine, so it just goes to show. Here's what I did:

Mix: - - - - - - - - - - - Mix separately:
3 eggs - - - - - - - - - - - 1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp vanilla - - - - - - - 1 tsp baking soda
2/3 c cane sugar - - - - 1/4 tsp. salt
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1/3 c cocoa
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 50 g chopped bittersweet chocolate

Mix together. Shape into flat log (see picture). Bake at 350 for 35 min. Let cool. Cut into biscotti shapes. Bake again, 10 min. twice, once on each side. Let cool. Dunk.*

* I didn't dunk these right away.** That will have to wait until tomorrow morning's coffee.

** I have now dunked. They are a little too crunchy, but very good. I think I will use a touch more sugar next time, or semi-sweet chocolate. And I could definitely go for a little more crumble. I wonder how I do that. Anyone?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black currant biscotti

I love biscotti, and it is surprisingly difficult to find good biscotti in this coffee-mad city of ours. I had some last night that was more stale than crunchy, and more often than not I am disappointed when I get it. How hard can it be to make dry cookies, I thought?
Turns out, not too hard at all. Simple ingredients, simple instructions. I think it must be the storage that ruins them at shops.

I didn't bother to look far, and quickly settled on a recipe over at Joy of Baking for cranberry-pistachio biscotti, even though I have neither cranberries nor pistachios. I do have black currants in abundance, though, and cookie recipes usually aren't bothered by substitutes.

Whisk together:
2 eggs (large, but I only have medium-large)
2/3 c white sugar (only have raw)
until thick and a bit fluffy. Add:
1 tsp. vanilla

In a separate bowl mix:
1 3/4 c flour
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder

Mix together, and add fruit/nuts. Shape into log 12 inches long and 3 1/2 inches wide. Bake for 25 min. at 350∘(can someone please tell me how to make the degree symbol more easily?). Let cool for 10 min. Cut into biscotti shapes and bake for 10 min. twice more, once on each side. Let cool. Dunk.

So, a little detour. We went to check out the anti-anti-gay protest at Havana, so I turned the oven off and left the little fellas in. When we got back I flipped them over and turned the oven on. I left them a little long, as you can see, but they look great and as soon as I'm done this veggie dog I'll let you know how they dunk....(minutes pass)...

They dunk very well. They aren't as airy as other biscotti I've had, and are still a bit chewy. The currants are perfect. I'll probably use a little less sugar next time. All in all, a wonderful and successful snack.

Le Faux Bourgeois

So I finally got around to eating out, and what a treat. Le Faux Bourgeois opened a few months ago at 15th and Fraser, not exactly a hot spot for fine dining. It's a small, warm-feeling (though cool) room, and it comes highly recommended.

The reservations are hard to get unless you want 6pm or earlier, which suited us fine. We were eating early to make it to the opera early (something about losing tickets, but I won't get into that here). A friendly host seated us at the window and didn't object when we moved to get away from the cold from the door.

The menu was limited but appetizing. A short discussion about dairy products led us to the Nicoise over puff pastry for an appetizer (sharing), and it was a good choice. The albacore tuna was gorgeously tender, the egg yolk still dark but not runny, the tomatoes crisp, the potatoes soft and scrumptious.

I tried the Fillet de Boeuf Grillé (rare), Nina the duck confit. After the two baskets of bread (which arrived very quickly) and the Nicoise, I wondered how much I would be able to eat, and upon seeing my dish I worried a bit. A generous portion, to be sure. The steak was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Tender, juicy, delicious, and beautiful. The sauce (red wine shallot jus) was rich and perfectly bitter-sweet. The potatoes gratin were good, and the accompanying vegetables were mostly very good, save for the chewy parsnips. A bite of the duck was also wonderful, if a bit bland (though that is probably in comparison to the beef).

The wine list was a good blend of regions, and the cheap by-the-glass options looked very decent. It would have been nice to have a red in the 7.5-9.5 range, but the Las Rocas (a Spanish grenache) for 7.5 was just fine.

We skipped dessert (had to replace the lost tickets), so I don't know what they offer, but I saw a créme brulée and chocolate mousse pass me during dinner.

All in all a wonderful meal. The food was amazing, the service exceptional, the setting lovely.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More bread!!!

True to form, I moved from chocolate to bread. I whipped up a two-loaf recipe yesterday morning before a visit from a friend, the standard recipe I got from my mom, who rarely ever bought bread in my childhood. The recipe is as simple as it gets, and is mostly done by feel:

2-ish cups warm water
dollop of honey
1 T yeast (a little less, actually)
dollop of oil

Let stand for a few minutes until yeast flowers. Add:

2 cups flour, then
2-ish cups flour and
1 tsp-ish salt (you add the salt at this stage so it doesn't inhibit the yeast)

Let rise 1 hour or so.
Punch down.
Let rise 1/2 hour.
Bake at 375 for 29 minutes.

There is nothing particularly special about this bread, except that it inevitably reminds me of my mom (and dad). That's special. And it's so simple to get right, so when it goes a little wonky (rose too fast in the oven and split the cap, see picture #2), it's still fantastic.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Homemade chocolate bar

Apparently this blog is about bread and chocolate, not eating out at restaurants. Who knew?

The other night Nina and I made a chocolate bar. We were desperate for a snack, and a desserty-type one, and Nina found a block of chocolate in the cupboard. A quick double-boil later and we were on our way.

It's mandarin season. At first we were thinking of dipping orange slices in chocolate and freezing them, but I wanted a bit more chocolate for my buck. We peeled and ripped up the mandarin slices, and sprinkled them with sugar and a tiny bit of salt and pepper (odd, I know, but it just came to me). We added some chili pepper flakes to the melted chocolate, as well as some cocoa powder and butter to increase the rich chocolatey flavour.

We drizzled the melted chocolate over mandarin bits in a foil-lined bread pan, and after an hour in the freezer we had a super-chocolatey homemade chocolate bar. Delicious. The salt and pepper weren't evident, and I think I would skip them next time, or at least the pepper, but the chili flavour came out a bit. Definitely going to experiment with this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

1-hour bread, take two

I just started my second try at 1-hour bread (see below). This time I used a higher proportion of whole wheat/spelt flour, because I ran out of white. I also didn't put the salt in with the yeast, as it inhibits the growth. I decided to use less yeast (1 1/4 T rather than 1 1/2 T), because I just don't need that much yeast in my diet. The yeast flowered very quickly, and I was on my way.

Then, right near the end, I realized that I had forgotten to add the salt. S-M-R-T. So I sprinkled some in with the last of the flour I was adding, and kneaded it in. I'm not sure how it will turn out, but I think it should be fine. The bread is rising right now beside the warm oven, and my stomach is already rumbling for that bread/butter combo.

Last time (see comments on above link) I left mine in for a few minutes longer than suggested (22-23 rather than 20) and was quite pleased with the outcome. At 20 the bread was barely browning; at 23 it had browned nicely and was perfectly done inside.

It's in the oven. Already the bread is bigger than last time, so it would seem that the salt/yeast thing worked. I will try reducing the yeast further next time. I've been a bit spacey this morning, and forgot to set the timer, so it will have to be an estimate. I've never been one for exactly following the recommended times of recipes, but with this one I'm trying to get it just right.

And it's out. It's beautifully brown, nice and round, and definitely bigger than last time. If I had to guess, I would say it was in for 24-25 minutes. Tastes great. Nice and dense without being gummy or too heavy, the crust is wonderfully chewy.